Melissa Kuzoian, Brooklyn Grange CFO

MELISSA KUZOIAN
Chief Financial Officer

When Melissa submitted her application for a position on the farm crew in 2012, she took a chance and suggested that she might be valuable not only growing and harvesting crops, but also tracking finances and creating budgets. Some organizations might have found this proposition presumptuous coming from a recent business school graduate whose experience in finance was largely academic. But Melissa has good instincts, and within a few weeks of starting at the farm, she had earned herself a Brooklyn Grange email, the title of bookkeeper, and the deep gratitude of the farm’s founders (who’d previously decided which of them would be charged with the task by drawing straws).

That first season cultivating crops on the roof was fun, and scratched an itch that had originated while longingly admiring the homestead farm her cousin had set up in Western Massachusetts. But Melissa’s real talent was–and is–numbers. The business wasn’t able to bring her on full time right away, so Melissa took a position working as an analyst in the finance department of Nonprofit Finance Fund, a community development financial institution that provides consulting and loans to non-profit organizations. Meanwhile, she continued to work part time keeping Brooklyn Grange’s books, even as the company’s revenue–and the work entailed in tracking it–grew exponentially.

Brooklyn Grange finally hired Melissa full time in 2014, and she was able to really dig in. The company’s revenues have grown 10x since that first season, and Melissa’s expertise along with it, earning her the title of CFO in 2015. In the early days, she calculated payroll taxes by hand, and spent half her day chasing down–then opening, logging, and depositing–checks for the farm’s twice-weekly produce deliveries to local restaurants. These days, Melissa prepares reports, budgets, and forecasts that give our directors insight into trends, and allow them to develop strategy for their departments. She has weathered two capital raises and assisted with the formation of several subsidiary LLCs and a holding company. Among her achievements, she researched and implemented the business’ benefits programs, digital payroll, and expense-tracking systems, and has created countless systems to collect information and organize it such that it’s maximally useful and valuable.

We’ve joked at times that CFO also stands for Chief Friendship Officer: from our informal birthday ritual of fêting team members with a freshly baked tray of their favorite dessert, to launching our annual tradition of filling up a whole bleacher section at a Brooklyn Cyclones Game, Melissa has been instrumental to establishing Brooklyn Grange's “farmily” values. When she isn’t at her desk crafting elegant formulas in Excel, Melissa can be found riding her bike around Bed Stuy, making playlists of deep hip hop cuts, or knitting something both practical and adorable.