Timeline: Produce Mom from birth to bang
So it’s been almost a week since I blogged. Shame on me. I honestly have been incredibly busy keeping up with my new exposure & industry contacts. And when I get home from these long days in the office I just want to spend some time with Joe & Mac and then hang out in my living room with Chip, watch reality TV, & drink merlot. Sorry. Well, not really. I needed that time with my family & wine glass after all these consecutive crazy work days.
But I WANT to bring you all up to date! As I’ve been doing interviews this week, I’ve mastered answering the popular question “How did The Produce Mom start?” ….yet I realized I never fully explained this on the blog! And it’s time to do so.
The blog was initially launched with the sentiment of “we will see how it goes.” Now, it’s a central part of our marketing platform at Indianapolis Fruit Company & a growing part of our identity.
I was hired at IFC in 2005. I formerly worked as a high school Spanish teacher & Indy Fruit was looking to start a Hispanic Sales division. It was the perfect opportunity for me to spread my wings & use my Spanish in a business setting. Upon being hired, our President Mike Mascari gave me 2 books to read: From Good to Great & The 360 Degree Leader. I was familiar with From Good to Great. While the lessons & stories in the book about customer service are inspiring, it was The 360 Degree Leader that spoke to me. Indianapolis Fruit is a family-owned business. We have 5 owners & they all have children my age. Any dummy can figure out that there is only a certain level of advancement available for non-family-members in this setting. The 360 Degree Leader talks about how to lead from the middle at your workplace.
In 2005 I was just a sales rep who had no accounts – Upon being hired I had a senior account manager, the sales director & the 5 owners as my official bosses. And of course there were the annoying peers who thought they could treat me as an inferior because they had years of experience on me… or, as sad & chauvinistic as it sounds… because they were middle aged men & I was a 24 year old female. And it’s probably worth noting that I was the only female sales rep in the office. We do have a female who runs our floral department sales, but as far as produce sales – I was the lone female in 2005 & still hold that title today.
The lessons in The 360 Degree Leader stuck with me nearly every day when I walked into Indy Fruit. I held myself to a personal standard – despite the opportunity to wear jeans & Indy Fruit polo shirts every day, I dressed in business attire. Despite the lax attitude with workplace conversation – I kept my language clean & topics of conversation rated PG. I attended the optional USDA training sessions that were ran by our warehouse managers even though it meant I had a longer work day & it wasn’t a requirement. I made sure the drivers who were delivering my customers had my cell phone number. I made a point to meet some of the laborers who were cutting the fruits for my deli accounts or picking the products for my retailers. I sent a hand-written thank you to all of my bosses every Thanksgiving telling them that my family & I were thankful for my job. I assisted the accounting department by communicating financials with my Spanish-speaking accounts. I translated documents for our HR department. I always attend & work at the Piazza Food Show, an annual culinary event hosted by our sister company Piazza Produce. I wanted every person that I worked with to know that I considered them not just my co-workers, but my teammates. And deep down I was thinking “how can I be a team captain? how can I be that 360 degree leader?” I took time to know peoples’ names & their kids’ names. And as simple as these aforementioned points may sound – I know they separated me as a leader in the middle.
In Novemeber 2011 I learned that our Marketing Manager would be leaving the company. I pounced on the opportunity & immediately told my boss, John, that I was ready for more responsibility at Indy Fruit. At that point I had 2 kids, a husband & over 6 years of experience at Indy Fruit. I had come a long way since being hired in 2005.
It wasn’t until December 2011 that the company offered me the promotion. I went from Sales Representative to Marketing Manager & the transition has changed my life and I do believe that it has changed Indianapolis Fruit, as well. My marketing predecessor was Shane Towne, an accomplished industry professional. During his time with Indy Fruit, Shane was named to the produce industry’s 40 under 40, a committee member for the 2011 Fresh Summit, and he boasted a strong industry background that I will never have. Prior to his job at Indy Fruit he worked in the retail setting with one of the largest co-ops in the country. Remember, I taught Spanish to high school teens. I knew that following Shane meant I needed to bring something ground-breaking to the table.
And so the brainstorming began… while many moms take time to decorate their home, shop online or perfect their gingerbread recipe… I was spending every night in December researching how I could best capitalize on my greatest asset to the company: the fact that I represent the target customer. I am a full-time working mom with 2 young kids & I want to feed them healthy foods. Chip & I shop for our groceries on a budget. I understand the sentiment of wanting a convenience item, but not being able to justify the expense. I am so incredibly normal – I knew I could reach a vast audience because many can relate. Yet I have this unique job that educates me on the most wholesome foods & grants me the opportunity to work with accomplished chefs. When friends & family gather at our house, they always know the food will be great. Those nights in December were spent figuring out HOW I could communicate my life happenings to best benefit my employer. HOW I could mesh my personal life with my professional life in a way that could take our marketing department to the next level.
I finally decided that a blog platform was the ideal way to bring this vision of mine to fruition. So my next step of research began in mid-December 2011. I dove into the world of blogs. Made notes of what I thought worked & didn’t work. Available domain names. My likes & dislikes. I read about blogging in the business world. Study after study. I interviewed my friends about blogs and got a feel for what people were willing to read, their preferred length for blogs, and even collected data about the device people use to access their online literature. Keep in mind this was all being done without any prompting from my bosses. It’s that 360 Degree Leader mentality & tenacity.
Sure enough – the day came where my bosses asked me about my plans with the new position. As a matter of fact, it was January 5, 2012. And I was prepared. We were in the President’s office & 2 owners were present, the Sales Director, the company consultant & myself. The consultant looked at me & asked me, “Lori what direction do you see this department going? What ideas do you think we should consider?” Ahhhhh. Finally. My opportunity to shine. I simply started with a “Well, Joe… “ and ended with, “…I think we should call it The Produce Mom.“
The smiles on their faces were inspiring. They asked me write a pilot blog – we wrapped up the meeting, I returned to my desk, and in less than 20 minutes, I typed out my dream & I titled it “Who Is The Produce Mom?“ Today that pilot is published as my very 1st blog.
January 19, 2012 - www.theproducemom.com goes live
January 23, 2012 – The Produce Mom joins Pinterest.
January 26, 2012 – The Produce Mom pens a response to sports writer Jon Bois’ slam on Indianapolis. The Produce Mom blog goes viral in comparison to anything else Indy Fruit has published online – the blog was shared online by countless Indy natives, quoted by an ABC sports affiliate in Salt Lake City Utah, retweeted by Jon Bois, InStyle Magazine, and countless others.
January 28, 2012 – The Produce Mom has more social media followers than Indianapolis Fruit, Garden Cut & Piazza Produce…. combined.
February 1, 2012 – The Produce Mom gets a logo.
February 10, 2012 – The Produce Mom is invited to tour & blog about the Dole Pineapple Plantation in O’ahu, Hawaii – coming this fall!
February 14, 2012 – IF&P Foods begins the Trademarking process for The Produce Mom
February 22, 2012 – The Produce Mom is invited to join “The Real Farmwives of America & Friends”
February 24. 2012 – Jazz Apple contacts The Produce Mom expressing interest to partner in a marketing campaign
February 27, 2012 – The Produce Mom gets over 30 submissions for her 1st social media fan contest: “Where is the Produce Mom?”
March 2, 2012 – The Produce Mom orders her 1st promotional items: yellow lunch sacks & the famed red reusable totes.
March 6, 2012 – Fan Valerie Edwards is named the winner of The Produce Mom’s 1st fan contest – her submission to “Where is the Produce Mom?” tallied nearly 50 votes.
March 8, 2012 – The Produce Mom represents Indianapolis Fruit & Piazza Produce at the city’s National Ag Day celebration, From Tractor to Truck.
March 9, 2012 – The Produce Mom speaks during career week at St Mark Catholic School about the produce industry. That evening, The Produce Mom serves as a panelist for the National Co-Op Start-Up Conference.
March 13, 2012 – The Produce Mom partners with Jazz Apple for an international marketing campaign “Jazz Up Your Life.”
March 14, 2012 – Indianapolis Fruit Company composes a press release to introduce The Produce Mom to the local & industry media.
March 15, 2012 – The Produce Mom & “Jazz Up Your Life” are the headline story in industry journal, The Packer. Later that day, local social event giant Ladies Evening Out invites The Produce Mom to serve as the celebrity cook & presenter for their 2012 gala.
March 20, 2012 – FreshPlaza, Europe’s leading produce industry journal, introduces The Produce Mom to Europe as the headline story for United States news. Later that day, local news station Fox 59 names The Produce Mom a Female Focus & schedules on-site interviews for Wednesday, March 28th.
March 22, 2012 – The Produce Mom films her 1st cooking demo from the Garden Cut Test Kitchen.
And here I am today. March 24, 2012. I am so humbled by what has happened & how quickly everything has developed. But I’m honestly not surprised. I tried to put into words how very hard I have worked to better myself & better my workplace. But what’s missing from this timeline & history snapshot is the fact that I still managed to tuck my boys into bed at night and get them off to school every morning. Or how my husband & I have managed to stay married and true to one another despite this commotion and new responsibilities. Or how I made time to call a friend on the anniversary of her loved one’s death when I had 5 back-to-back meetings and a conference call. You know what… I’m proud of The Produce Mom & my role at Indianapolis Fruit. But I’m more proud to be Joe & Mac’s mom, Chip’s wife, Kelly & Joe’s sister, Charlie & Diane’s daughter & a real friend to many. No matter what happens in your life…. don’t lose sight of its true essence. Love yourself & take time to enjoy those who really matter. Even if it means your blog goes without an update for an entire week.
xoxo Produce Mom