I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but I stumbled across a book a few months ago and eventually got a chance to read it. And it really has changed my outlook. Here is what happened.

I was getting ready to take a long flight to London, so I was at my local bookstore, getting a guidebook, and saw this book on display, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It was on the best-seller shelf and because it was small in size, I figured, what a perfect book to read on a long flight…

tidyinup_book

…except I never read it. I slept through my flight instead. A month later, I ended up gifting it to a friend as we both joked that it would be good for her adult daughter!

And then, one day, I was looking through my Facebook feed and saw this post:

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Marie Kondo - Facebook Review

The review of the book looked so interesting and simple that I immediately went to the bookstore and purchased another copy. This time, I read it right away. It’s only a couple hundred pages, so it went fast. And Marie Kondo’s methodology was so simple.

Marie is actually a Japanese organizing consultant, who started organizing her home when she was young. She developed a unique approach to de-cluttering. In fact, two things were especially intriguing to me.

First, Marie said the first thing you must do—before you even start—is decide why you want to tidy up or de-clutter. So, I had to think hard about that one. I realized that I did not want to look at anything I didn’t like anymore.

She also claimed that if you followed her exact order of tidying up—clothes first and personal mementos and photos last—that you would never go back to your previous habits.

Two months later, this is what I have to report.

When you follow Marie’s way, you start by taking all your clothes and putting them on the floor in the middle of the room. If you have a lot of clothes, you do them by category—all tops, then all pants, and so forth. Then you pick up each piece of clothing and ask yourself, “Do I feel joy?” And if the answer is no, then you thank the piece of clothing and put it in the give-away pile.

I had to prepare myself mentally (which she coaches you on in the book) to not worry about a gift I was given by a friend or family member, clothes that didn’t fit anymore or that I didn’t feel good in but were super expensive. Once you remind yourself of why you are tidying up, it becomes super easy.

Would you like to know how I did?

I ended up giving away about 50 percent of the clothes in my closet and about 30 percent of my costume jewelry to Working Wardrobes, a local charity. I thanked each piece of clothing for its service, and now other women can benefit from it!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Marie Kondo

I realized I had 100 pairs of shoes and gave away 27 that I never wore, were not comfortable, or were worn out but I had been hanging on to “just because.” Coincidentally, once I purged my unneeded shoes, the remaining pairs fit perfectly into my shoe closet.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Marie Kondo - Karen's closet BEFORE
Before…
Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Marie Kondo - Karen's closet AFTER
…and after!

I emptied my bookshelves at home and donated more than half of the cookbooks and novels I had collected over the years. My first job ever was in our local library, so I was thrilled to drop off my books there to allow other people to enjoy. I only kept my favorite books that I know I will continue to enjoy and that will give me joy.

On to my office at Frieda’s. Years ago I learned about the Chinese art of feng shui. One of my greatest lessons was that if the area you are looking at is messy, crowded, or disorganized, you will feel messy and disorganized. With that in mind, I applied the same principles of the book at my office.

Now I’m encouraging my coworkers to do the same. In fact, everyone is getting excited and participating! For starters, we have removed all the filing cabinets in the accounting department and gone digital. After all, there were 27, most of which were empty! And then there were three spare desks outside my office which I finally had taken away. I actually found myself breathing easier and feeling more relaxed.

In the last two months, I have purchased multiple copies of Marie’s book and have been gifting them to friends and coworkers. I posted about my journey and success on Facebook and based on the comments, shares and likes, I can tell that I have inspired many others to de-clutter.

So, if you want to breathe easier, get a sense of accomplishment, and make room in your life for new opportunities and inspiration, you may want to try the KonMari method of organizing.

#tidyingisfun

Karen

I remember the first time I saw the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato. A sweet potato grower that we buy from in Northern California sent us a sample and asked us what we thought about the potatoes. He said it was a unique variety that he had been experimenting with and he wanted our opinion.

And I know why he thought about us. Ever since my mother started our company in 1962, our official color has been purple. It all started when she was ready to launch her business on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market and she needed a sign. She looked up the name of a sign painter in the Yellow Pages. When she showed up on Monday morning, the sign was painted a pale lavender. The sign painter claimed it was the only color on his truck.

Personally, I think it was because my mom was the only woman on the produce market and he wanted her sign to have a feminine touch!

Well, ever since then, we’ve adopted purple as our signature color. And, funny thing, over the last 50 years, it seems that most people in our industry associate the color purple with Frieda’s Specialty Produce. It’s kind of cool.

Frieda's Specialty Produce Stokes Purple Sweet PotatoesSo, of course when a sweet potato grower found a purple variety, he would call us to do his sales and marketing.

When we first got the Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, I wanted to get a chef’s opinion. So I called one of my friends and dropped off some samples. A few days later I went to his house and he told me that they were not very good. He cooked them several ways, but especially after he microwaved them, they turned out very dry. He didn’t recommend them.

Defeated, I went back the office and met with our team. In the back of my head, I knew these potatoes were unique and amazing. So, as we brainstormed in our office, we came up with the idea of taking the potatoes to another chef for a second opinion.

Chef Alan Greeley of The Golden Truffle in Newport Beach and I have been friends for years. We’ve worked together many times. He’s a little bit crazy and super creative, so I knew he would be able to tell us if we should invest our resources and time in marketing these purple sweet potatoes.

Thank goodness we went to Chef Alan! He told us they were the most amazing sweet potatoes he’d ever tasted. The secret is in the cooking method—low, slow, then rest.

Chef told us to wrap Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes in aluminum foil and bake them at 350 degrees for one and a half to two hours, longer than regular orange sweet potatoes. Then, he said, to let the potatoes rest for a few hours, still wrapped, before serving. He actually suggested refrigerating them overnight like that.

One of our favorite recipes is a potato salad with a chipotle vinaigrette, using those chilled potatoes. I’ve even served this one for Thanksgiving dinner and it is always a hit.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette

Even Julia della Croce, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, got in on the fun and made beautiful Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi for the holidays.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Julia della Croce - Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato season just started last week, and supermarkets and chefs across the country have been loading up their stores and restaurants, as this has become of the hottest and most popular “healthy” new foods to hit supermarket shelves in years. The potatoes’ dark purple color means they are high in anthocyanins, a special antioxidant. And unlike other vegetables, they do not lose the antioxidants’ viability when they’re cooked!

So, if you want to try Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes for yourself, just go into your local market and ask for them by name.

And, about Chef Alan, he was just named Orange County Chef of the Year by the Orange County Business Journal. We had lunch a few weeks ago to celebrate his accomplishment!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Alan Greeley and Karen Caplan

Thank you, Alan, for all you do to make food taste great!

Karen

City of Los Alamitos acknowledges produce icon’s contribution to produce industry and local community

Frieda Rapoport Caplan - City of Los Alamitos

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (September 2015) – The city of Los Alamitos, California, has proclaimed October 15, 2015, as “Frieda Rapoport Caplan Day,” to celebrate the accomplishment of its longtime resident, the founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce.

Mayor Richard Murphy presented Caplan with the proclamation at the September 21 city council meeting, noting Caplan’s “hard work and dedication to the produce industry and the city of Los Alamitos.”

“One of the nice things is that three of our clients have their stores in Los Alamitos – Ralphs, Sprouts, and Vons-Safeway,” says Caplan. “Do not forget to look for your exotic fruits and vegetables!”

To commemorate the occasion, the Los Alamitos City Council will host a free public screening of Fear No Fruit, the Frieda Caplan documentary, on Thursday, October 15, at the Los Alamitos Community Center. Caplan, along with daughters Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, Vice-president and COO, will be present for a post-screening meet and greet with the local community.

“[Caplan] is such a champion in her industry, you would not know the things she had done until you come and see the movie,” says Council Member Warren Kusumoto.

A resident of the small northern Orange County city since 1958, Caplan still lives in the same home she shared with her daughters and late husband, Al Caplan. In 1994, daughters Karen and Jackie relocated Frieda’s Specialty Produce from Los Angeles to Los Alamitos.

About Frieda’s Inc.

With over 50 years of fresh produce innovation, Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to change the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, Frieda’s was the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman, and is still a family- and women-owned business today. Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 specialty items to U.S. produce departments, including Kiwifruit, Spaghetti Squash, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria and Fiore Viola Artichokes, and many more. Frieda’s featured program is “Eat One Fruit a Day That Scares You,” which encourages everyone to #FearNoFruit. Connect with Frieda’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and at Friedas.com.

With so many mergers and acquisitions these days, it’s really hard to keep up. Well, thank goodness my holistic naturopath keeps up.

For those who are not familiar, naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine using natural treatments like homeopathy, herbalism, and acupuncture, as well as nutrition and lifestyle counseling.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let me tell you what happened to me.

About three months ago, I suddenly developed this dry cough. It was like my mouth was suddenly drying out, all day long. It was so annoying, especially to my coworkers who told me “go to the doctor, something is wrong with you.”

Because I don’t really have a regular doctor, I made an appointment with my naturopath, Lisa.

She was testing me for various things, checking my blood work, etc. And then she asked me what seemed like a random question.

“Do you take Armour Thyroid?”

Like many people, I developed an underactive thyroid quite a few years ago. And like my mother and one of my daughters, I take thyroid medicine daily.

Well, I do take Armour Thyroid. And, as it turns out, the company that had manufactured the Armour for years (Forest Laboratories) was sold to another drug company (Activis) in July 2014. According to its website, the company continues to “operate in a usual manner.”

But according to Lisa, many of her patients had become intolerant (aka allergic) to Armour since the change in ownership. So, she tested me and sure enough, it appears as if the formula had been changed, as I now was allergic to it. We suspect that they changed the inactive ingredients.

So, how many times do you think that has happened to you? You get your prescription refilled and they offer you the “generic” version. Or you notice that the manufacturer name has changed on your bottle? Have you ever thought of why a generic version of a drug might be cheaper to purchase? Since the FDA does not require generic drugs to contain the same inactive ingredients as the brand name product—only the active ingredients—my guess is that they use cheaper (and possibly inferior) inactive ingredients.

That’s why I have stopped allowing my pharmacy to give me any generics. I want the real thing.

And, by the way, the day I stopped taking Armour Thyroid and switched to Nature-Throid, my cough stopped. As quickly as the coughing started, that’s how fast it stopped. And my skin, which had also become very dry, went back to normal.

Maybe we all need to start reading those labels and those inserts (with the small type) they give us when we pick up our prescriptions more carefully.

And now you know!

Karen

Shoppers’ favorite purple tubers are back in time for fall promotions

Frieda's Specialty Produce Stokes Purple Sweet PotatoesLOS ALAMITOS, CA (September 2015) – The popular Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes season has begun and they will be in good supply through spring. They are exclusively available from Frieda’s Specialty Produce. Frieda’s offers both Organic and Conventional Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes. This is the second year that the organic variety will be available both in a 12/3 lb. bag and bulk packs (15 lb. and 40 lb. cartons). Conventional product is only available in bulk. All product is labeled to reduce front-end checker error.

The California-grown Stokes Purple® Sweet Potato has a unique purple skin and deep purple flesh that is unusually high in antioxidants—such as those found in super foods like açai, blueberries, and purple potatoes. Shoppers—especially fitness enthusiasts and those on clean-eating diets—seek out these sweet potatoes for the high nutrient density, well-balanced sweetness and firm texture. Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes have a low glycemic index and are non-GMO.

Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes sell well all year round, so retailers and food service distributors are encouraged to contact Frieda’s now to place their orders. Frieda’s has product information and high resolution images available.

About Frieda’s Inc.

With over 50 years of fresh produce innovation, Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to change the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, Frieda’s was the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman, and is still a family- and women-owned business today. Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 specialty items to U.S. produce departments, including Kiwifruit, Spaghetti Squash, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria and Fiore Viola Artichokes, and many more. Frieda’s featured program is “Eat One Fruit a Day That Scares You,” which encourages everyone to #FearNoFruit. Connect with Frieda’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and at Friedas.com.

More than 15 varieties are coming into season to satisfy shoppers’ demand

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Organic Heirloom Apples

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (September 2015) – Over 15 varieties of Organic Heirloom Apples are available in short bursts throughout the season from Frieda’s Specialty Produce, starting now with Ribston Pippin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Cortland.

Due to the short season and limited availability, most retailers and distributors pre-book theirs months in advance.

“The appeal of Organic Heirloom Apples is the variety of color, texture, and flavor profile,” said Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s. “Not only are they a big hit with shoppers, these apples add color break and attractive variety to your fall display.”

Among the varieties available from Frieda’s are Matsu, Orleans Reinette, Winesap, Northern Spy, and Arkansas Black. Most varieties are also available in baby size. Call Frieda’s today as availability on varieties varies week by week throughout the season.

About Frieda’s Inc.

With over 50 years of fresh produce innovation, Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to change the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, Frieda’s was the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman, and is still a family- and women-owned business today. Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 specialty items to U.S. produce departments, including Kiwifruit, Spaghetti Squash, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria and Fiore Viola Artichokes, and many more. Frieda’s featured program is “Eat One Fruit a Day That Scares You,” which encourages everyone to #FearNoFruit. Connect with Frieda’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and at Friedas.com.

Today I had lunch with a woman whom I have admired for more than 20 years: Caroline Cotten. Caroline founded Mass Connections, a shopper marketing firm she built from an idea she had in college and turned into a $100 million business.

Her business provides people to do in-store demonstrations for vendors in the grocery business at grocery stores. You know who I mean: those stereotypical, mostly older ladies in black pants and white shirts who hand you samples while you walk around the grocery store.

Back when I started in the produce business, the “demo person” would bring a card table and maybe a tablecloth and “set up shop” at the end of an aisle. Then she would hand out samples—and maybe coupons—in hopes of selling more of the products being sampled.

Caroline told me she originally started the business while she was in college in Arizona as a way to make money to support herself as she is one of six children. When she moved back to California, she parlayed this idea and grew it into what I would call an all-American success story.

In the past 30 years, she not only continued to grow and run her company, but she had four children too. And like many of us, Caroline also has had her share of mid-life crises—divorce, and key employees getting ill and buying partners out.

Meanwhile, the business world around her was changing. The cost to provide her personnel and services was getting expensive from the manufacturer point of view. More and more manufacturers were evaluating the ROI (return on investment) on in-store demonstrations. If these demo people could not generate enough incremental sales, then they would stop doing the sampling in stores.

By this time, Caroline’s eldest daughter Taylor was managing event personnel for Mass Connections and ended up being the top regional manager in the company. Caroline laughed when she told me that Taylor was 20 years old when she handled the entire East Coast territory! She said, “Do you know how hard it is to rent a car when you’re not yet 25?” (Thank goodness for Enterprise Rent-a-Car!)

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Caroline Cotten & Taylor
Here’s Caroline and Taylor

Caroline watches Taylor engaging with her friends via social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. And a new business idea was born.

Enter Social Sampling Inc., Taylor’s new company (with mom, Caroline as an official advisor).

And here is where the brilliance got my attention.

When Social Sampling interviews candidates to do in-store sampling, guess what they bring along with their resume? They bring their smart phones, and they must have a minimum number of social media followers. The more people they can reach, engage with, and sell product to, the more money they can make per project.

So when these candidates are hired to do in-store events, part of their job is to post to social media before the event to let people know where they will be and what they will be sampling, during the event to entice people to show up, and afterward to lead into the next event.

I mean, really, who do you listen to: a newspaper or radio advertisement, or a recommendation from a friend? You guessed it—a friend!

From what Caroline shared with me, with this new approach, the actual number of people who come into the stores to try samples has only grown about 10 percent. But guess what? Product sales have increased 1,000 percent. Yes, that is 10 times!

Talk about an effective vehicle to get people to try new things.

So, hats off to Caroline and Taylor with this new business!

If you have any millennials working for you, maybe you should ask them what would make your baby boomer-designed business appeal to them and their friends.

Or maybe you will just post this question on your Facebook page.

#changeiscoming

Karen