Bringing a Piece of Italy to Flint

Santiago Ochoa, Managing Editor

Life can seem quite random. The events we live through and relationships we make often seem to have no immediate impact. We stroll through down a dark tunnel, unsure of what’s ahead most of the time. It is only when we stop and turn around that we see how the minutiae of the everyday coalesces to form an ever-changing image of ourselves.

For UM-Flint Junior Giorgia Pasqui, these seemingly unrelated events have already started to take shape into something, beginning to light the path in front of her.

Pasqui has started her own company, Giosy LLC. The way she tells it, the company’s fruition came from a simple, but industrious observation: prices for authentic Italian food in the U.S. often seem needlessly high.

“When my dad and I go shopping and we see there is mozzarella cheese for seven or eight dollars we’re just like ‘This is insane. We buy these products [in Italy] for so much cheaper and our quality is higher. That’s just crazy.’”

This isn’t just true for mozzarella, however, which is why Pasqui chose to start her company by selling imported olive oil. And while any business’s goal is to make a profit, Pasqui’s reasons to get into the game go far beyond that of any conglomerate or corporation.

Pasqui, born in Bologna, Italy, first moved to the U.S. with her father at age 13 before moving back to Italy to finish her last year of high school.

During this time, her wish to have more control over her own life grew, and so, when she graduated from school with her IB Diploma (a certificate confirming qualification for most major universities around the world), Pasqui began attending UM-Flint and living in its dorms.

Although only an hour away from her dad, who still lives in Birmingham, Giorgia began making a new life for herself in Flint.

Coming from a relatively wealthy family and attending private schools for most of her life, Pasqui, by her own words, had not been exposed to the kind of dedication students show at UM-Flint.

“In the city of Flint I do see a lot of hard work and determination and I like that. Going to private school, some people weren’t that motivated because they already had their future planned out. Being around people that do work full-time and do go to school full-time, it’s inspiring.”

It was this general culture of hard work and dedication that first made Pasqui realize she didn’t want to go gently into that good night. “That’s why I opened my company, I don’t want to only be a student. I see these people that put themselves through work, school, family…I don’t want to just be a full-time student, I want to be more.”

Pasqui’s ambitiousness did not go unnoticed for long. Dr. Michael Witt, lecturer of business law and management, as well as founder of and advisor to the Entrepreneurs Society, was quick to see Pasqui’s potential. During her first semester, Pasqui took Dr. Witt’s business law class, where the two bonded over her idea to start a business.

“I always encourage students who like to create things to join the Entrepreneurs Society, and she has a business in mind…She was always a thoughtful and careful good student, she impressed me in the class so I was happy to have her in the society,” he said.

Pasqui had gone into college not sure of what she wanted to do, and in many ways, Dr. Witt’s class and advice had helped make everything much easier for her. “I thought I wanted to do criminal justice, I wanted to do medicine for a little bit, I wanted to be an engineer for the longest time, then I realized I sucked at physics and I didn’t want to put myself through any of that.”

It was during that time of indecision when Pasqui went to Dr. Witt for advice.

”I asked her what did she want to be when she grew up. And she told me,” Witt said.

Dr. Witt, along with the rest of the Entrepreneurs Society, helped shape Pasqui’s ideas into a reality, and after months of lectures, market research and experience gained through helping her peers, Pasqui founded her company in the fall of  2018.

Aside from utilizing the resources available to her at UM-Flint, Pasqui has also received support from her friends and family.

Her father Luca, a UM-Flint alumnus, played a big role in both Pasqui’s enrollment at UM-Flint and the creation of her company. Pasqui had planned on transferring to the University of Michigan after the 2018 fall semester, but despite her good grades and involvement, she was rejected.

“It was hard at first, but that was the thing that helped me jump-start the company…I realized it’s more important to have that work experience and to have something that I’m passionate about rather than graduating from Ross business school,” Pasqui said.

At the root of Giosy LLC however, something much more personal to Pasqui than rejection letters or acute business sense serve as the purpose for her business: family.

Giosy itself is the name of Pasqui’s late grandfather. The orchard the oil comes from belonged to him. Pasqui grew up using her grandfather’s homemade olive oil, which up until now, was almost a form of a consumable family heirloom.

The orchard has been owned by her family for generations and until now, used solely to keep their own decanters full.

It was for this reason that Pasqui fought for the family to keep the orchard after Giosy’s passing. Her family had been thinking about selling it, but she saw a way to give it new life and honor one of her grandfather’s biggest wishes; to provide his family with the best items he could give them.

Now, much like her grandfather years before her, Pasqui will take over the family olive orchard and sell the greatest quality olive oil she can.

“He (Giosy) liked the orchard because it let him provide the best quality olive oil for his family, and it was kind of his traditions to give them the best possible thing,” Pasqui said.