Finding and nurturing the best staff possible is another key to growth if you start your own produce business.
Miguel Gomez, associate professor of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics at Cornell University, who studies the produce industry, says associates don’t have to always come from the industry.
He believes bringing in people from other industries for some tasks can provide a much needed different point of view.
“I believe in having experience in the industry, but you also need to balance that with people from other sectors who might bring new ideas for marketing, distribution, finance, and other areas,” Gomez says.
Jim DiMenna, president of Red Sun Farms BB #:171100 in Kingsville, Ontario, says finding high-end talent to fill crucial roles has helped his company grow.
“The best part of being a business owner is trying to steer the company the way you think it should go and surrounding yourself with the best possible people to help you steer it.”
DiMenna goes on to stress the importance of all workers. Red Sun Farms employs 350 people, and every person in the organization, no matter the job description, is significant. Even with solid sales, a weak link in the chain of support can be devastating.
Given the competitive nature of the produce industry, Gomez believes, “Innovation is key,” when launching a new company. “There are many ways to innovate. With grapes and berries, for instance, you see new varieties. Another way to innovate is to add value to product, such as precut vegetables.”
DiMenna knows this well. Red Sun Farms has flourished in the high-tech greenhouse sector since its founding in 1990, distributing its hydroponically-grown vegetables in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. “I was in my early thirties and I saw an opportunity to strike out on my own,” he remembers. “Being a specialist in greenhouses was an opportunity.”
For Ben Johnson, founder and president of Bridges Produce, Inc., BB #:168499 in Portland, OR, it’s about capitalizing on the skills of his staff to help small businesses forge partnerships.
“We create value for our growers and help them find markets, and we help buyers find supply.”
This is a multi-part feature on starting your own produce business adapted from the October 2019 issue of Produce Blueprints.