That’s exactly what my sister (and business partner) Jackie said to me yesterday. Let me give you a bit of the backstory.

Jackie and I have been business partners since we bought Frieda’s from our parents in 1990. Of course we have been sisters much longer than that.

And when Jackie became chief operating officer of the company in 2012, our business relationship was taken to a new level.

At that time, we implemented a weekly partner meeting on Wednesday mornings at 5:45 a.m. Yes, 5:45 in the morning (we both grew up used to the early morning hours of the produce industry). We meet at a local bagel shop. We sip our hot coffee and meet for an hour offsite to go over any company issues or strategic planning opportunities, and to update each other on our two sides of the business. Jackie is responsible for operations, quality, food safety, IT, and purchasing. I handle sales, marketing, HR, finance, and strategy.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_JackieFriedaKaren
Jackie, our mom Frieda, and I taping a commercial together

In January of this year, I convinced Jackie to have our meetings an hour later (starting at 6:45 a.m.).

But we still only talk about our business issues.

So, this week, because of the excessive outdoor temperatures of SoCal, we ended up meeting in our company offices in one of the conference rooms. The air conditioning made the room comfortable and for some reason, our meeting went long, without the distraction of the hustle and bustle of the bagel shop.

And our conversation evolved into a more personal, family discussion. We started to talk about our relationships, our kids…and then us. And that’s when Jackie said,

“It sucks to be sisters AND business partners.”

She was referring to the fact that we both feel an incredible responsibility in our roles as CEO and COO of Frieda’s. We feel responsible for the many dozens of families who depend on us as company employees and for our growers whom we represent. And we feel so responsible that, more often than not, we forget to make time and honor our own relationship as family members and sisters—and great friends.

I’m guessing this might be the case for you. How often do you put your work responsibilities and obligations before time with your family and friends? Do you miss a family dinner or brunch because you have a work event? Do you work late multiple nights a week, instead of prioritizing quality time with your cherished family and good friends?

Her comment was a wake-up call for me. And I think for Jackie too.

Years ago, we made a commitment to each other that our personal, family relationship would always be more important than the rat race called “work.” I think we got caught up in the rat race.

At the end of our three-hour meeting on Wednesday, we both felt reconnected to each other. To each other as people. As sisters. As friends. And the benefit is that it will ultimately continue to make us awesome business partners.

Take a look at yourself and your relationships. Is there any way you could enjoy life a little more with less time for the rat race and more time for personal connections?

Think about it,

Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Jackie and Karen
Jackie and I doing a silly skit at our national sales meeting

Last week I attended a conference in Salinas, California, which is known as “the salad bowl” of the country. More than 70 percent of all the lettuce grown in the United States is from the Salinas Valley.

Sponsored by Forbes Magazine, the AgTech Summit was the brainchild of former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and entrepreneur Bruce Taylor. Donohue is also a produce grower and marketer of vegetables, and Taylor was born and raised in Salinas by a multi-generation produce-growing family. He is also the founder and CEO of Taylor Farms, one of the most successful privately held companies in the country.

Donohue and Taylor’s vision was to find a way to connect the agriculturally rich Salinas Valley with nearby Silicon Valley, where innovation, disruption, and technology are incubated daily.

Why would they want to connect agriculture to technology? To convince the technology hub of the world to use some of its brainpower and innovation to assist the food industry with a few of its biggest challenges, namely limited water, limited labor, and changing weather patterns.

And as the story was told to me, their PR person made a random called to Forbes Media to assess their interest in being involved in an agriculture/technology conference. Turns out Forbes was not only highly interested, the company immediately agreed to take the lead role in the conference!

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You can read about the program, speakers, and field trips we took on the conference website. But I’d like to share with you what I found most interesting and what I learned during my two days in Salinas.

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The president and COO of Forbes Magazine, Mike Federle, attended the conference. It might surprise you to learn how I know him.

About six years ago, I was on an airplane flying from Charleston, South Carolina, and sat next to his daughter Allie. She is the same age as my eldest daughter. We struck up a conversation about flying, which she disliked, and I shared with her some of my experiences when I learned to fly an airplane when I was 25. At the end of the flight, I gave her my business card and we have kept in touch over the years. She connected me to her dad.

Who knew that a random meeting on an airplane would end up allowing me to be on a first name basis with the president of Forbes? That taught me that networking can happen when you least expect it. During the AgTech conference, I collected more than 30 business cards. I wonder what business opportunities will come from those new connections?

Always networking,

Karen

See and taste the future of food at booth #426

Frieda's Specialty Produce - PMA Foodservice - Yellow Pitahaya

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (July 2016) – Frieda’s Specialty Produce will be exhibiting at the PMA Foodservice Conference this year, showcasing its newest arrival, yellow pitahaya (aka yellow dragon fruit) from Israel. The company’s fan-favorite Purple Power Breakfast Bowl recipe, featuring its exclusive Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, is also a Sensory Experience Contest finalist.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Yellow Pitahaya Dragon Fruit“Most people think of Frieda’s solely as a retail-focused brand, but we also do significant business with foodservice distributors and chefs across the country,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s. “So we thought it was time to participate at the foodservice conference.

“The specialty produce category is where it’s at and our knowledgeable team can hardly wait to share and sample the latest trends in fresh produce.”

Frieda’s Purple Power Breakfast Bowl, featuring Frieda’s exclusive Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and pomegranate arils, was selected as one of 10 Sensory Experience Contest finalists based on four criteria—appearance, ease of replication, produce centricity, and innovation. Frieda’s will be sampling this unique recipe during all show hours.

“As the team leader for our foodservice business, I’m excited to invite everyone to stop by our booth 426,” said Jeff Kelly, Frieda’s sales manager. “Attendees will be impressed with what Frieda’s has to offer in the areas of ideation, innovation, and inspiration.”

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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Take advantage of great Champagne and Thomcord grape supply

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Champagne Grapes - Thomcord Grapes

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (July 2016) – Champagne and Thomcord grapes from California are now in season with good supply from Frieda’s Specialty Produce.

Champagne grapes are available from Frieda’s through early August in 16/1-lb. clamshells. Juicy Thomcord grapes are available through the end of August in 10/1-lb. clamshells.

Frieda’s recommends retailers display specialty grapes with other grape varieties or cross-merchandise with cheese and wine for summer entertainment ideas. Champagne grapes are an especially sweet deal for foodservice’s special summer menus as they are the perfect accompaniment on cheese or charcuterie platters and in picnic boxes.

Sweet California grape season continues through the fall with Yellow Sweetie grapes, starting in mid-August and available from Frieda’s in 16/1-lb. clamshells.

Interested retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice distributors can contact Frieda’s account managers to take advantage of specialty grapes and other favorite summer fruits like lychee and rambutan.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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I like to think I coined the term “meeting-ectomy” when I wrote a blog about it in 2011. As you can imagine, it means “getting rid of your meetings.” I got the idea of a meeting-ectomy when I had so many meetings during my workday that I actually couldn’t get any real work done.

So last week when I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “So Busy at Work, No Time to Do the Job,” it really caught my attention. The article featured Hugh Welsh, the executive/general counsel at Royal DSM, a global health and nutrition company. He has more than 100 direct and indirect reports, and often works Saturdays and after hours to barely keep up.

Do you feel that way at work? Do you find that your calendar is filled with so many meetings that you cannot get your regular work done? The article called it “collaborative overload.” In an effort to make everyone on the team feel included (and not excluded) and to get everyone’s input, many organizations have turned to inviting everyone to a meeting to discuss and collaborate. What happened to trust? What would happen if we all stopped having standing committees and only invited the fewest number of people possible, thus speeding up the meeting and the decision process?

The article made me think about a change I announced at my company just a few days earlier.

Meetings were definitely getting out of control at Frieda’s. One day, in our morning management huddle, each manager talked about how many meetings they had on their calendar for the day. “Seven meetings today.” “Six meetings.” “Four meetings.” It seemed as if we were having one giant marathon meeting all day with just a few players changing every hour or so. Every meeting was scheduled for a full hour.

So the next afternoon, I drafted an email to my senior team:

As a follow-up to our discussion yesterday regarding the proliferation of meetings (large and long), I want to ask each of you to evaluate the group meetings you are in and not be afraid to:

 

– Change the mix of people.

 

– Disinvite people who are not contributing or are just there to observe (but copy them on the notes).

 

– Send out a recap instead of having a group meeting.

 

– When you send out notes, list action items, with due dates and the person responsible, instead of creating a blow-by-blow report.

 

– Cancel unnecessary meetings or recurring meetings if there is nothing to discuss; oftentimes an email update will suffice.

 

– Make your meetings standing (vs. sitting at a table); that usually shortens meetings.

 

– Don’t go to a meeting if it is too much for your daily schedule and the recap notes will suffice (just let the chair know ahead of time).

 

Conversely, you do need to make sure your teams are engaged with each other and that people don’t skip meetings as a cop-out.

This is not a new idea. In fact, author Patrick Lencioni wrote an article for Inc. magazine last year about why smaller groups are more productive: “How to Unleash the Creative Power of Small Groups.”

And Fast Company magazine featured 11 business gurus and their secrets to great meetings: “11 Simple Tips for Having Great Meetings.” 

So, ladies and gentleman, I suspect it might be time for you to give yourself and your organization a meeting-ectomy. I’m certain you will enjoy the results!

“Meeting-less” in California,

Karen

A few weeks ago, I turned on my computer and saw this email from one of our newest sales department employees, Matthew.

My sister teaches 4th grade at a local elementary school, and they are currently working on nutrition. When the students were asked what their favorite fruits/vegetables were, they all responded they have tried every fruit there is. My sister knows I work at Frieda’s, so she mentioned a few of our unique items, and the kids had no idea what they were. So, I worked with our warehouse and took her class several items from our sample area, and the kids loved our products. The parents came by later that week to let my sister know how excited their kids were trying new things and how they now wanted their parents to buy them dragon fruit and kumquats!

Attached to the email was this photo:

Frieda's Specialty Produce_students_fruit

There are so many lessons here.

  1. Kids are open-minded to trying new foods. They don’t seem to have the paradigms adults do about experimenting with new shapes, flavors, and textures. Make sure if you have kids, grandkids, or friends with kids to let them try new foods…and if they are healthy and flavorful—even better!
  2. A teacher took a regular lesson plan and made it fun and interactive for her students. We should make sure all teachers have that opportunity.
  3. I love how Matthew showed initiative inside my company. He didn’t ask permission. He was excited to share his personal enthusiasm about his career with his family and did something different, all on his own!

Does this happen where you work? When someone has an idea, even if it’s outside the box, are they encouraged or discouraged to try it? What’s your culture like? Is it one of compliance (follow the rules) or disruption (try things out of left field).

I’m a big believer in disruption, trying new ideas, and encouraging out-of-the-box thinking.

And of course, I get personally excited when I see that our country’s youngest shoppers are sampling exotic fruits and veggies, and loving them!

So, next time you see a fruit or veggie you have not yet tried, I hope you will be like these 4th graders and give it a try. Here’s a fun idea: next time you have a few friends over, instead of doing a wine tasting, do a fruit and veggie tasting. And you can do a scoring system like the kids did!

Frieda's Specialty Produce fruit_scoring
The 4th graders scored their tasting experience with each new fruit.

Enjoy!

Karen

The company adds Director of Business Development to its roster

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Kevin Leap

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (July 2016) – Frieda’s Specialty Produce welcomes long-time produce industry professional Kevin Leap to the family as Director of Business Development.

“We are so delighted to have Kevin on board,” said Karen Caplan, President and CEO of Frieda’s. “Kevin has a fantastic reputation and a lot of experience building programs and introducing products to both retailers and foodservice operators across the country. Our sales and business development teams are thrilled to work with him in creating more excitement in the specialty category,” she added.

“I have long admired Frieda’s and the Caplan family, and am happy to be able to work with them as they continue to grow the company and extend the reach of their brand,” Leap said.

Leap was most recently with West Pak Avocado, developing new business programs in both retail and foodservice. Previously, he was the director of sales at Dulcinea Farms and sales manager at Ready Pac Specialties.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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Happy 4th of July weekend! Do you have a potato salad recipe for your holiday grilling yet? Pick from our favorites!

Red, White & Blue Potato Salad with Peppery Radish Dressing

Recipe Renovator - Red, white, and blue potato salad with peppery radish dressing
Recipe Renovator – recipe here

Roasted Potato Salad with Prosciutto and Lemon Caper Dressing

Hungry Goddess - Roasted Potato Salad with Prosciutto and Lemon Caper Dressing
The Hungry Goddess – recipe here

Bacon and Potato Salad

Fresh Food in a Flash - Bacon and Potato Salad
Fresh Food in a Flash – recipe here

Red, White & Blue Potato Salad with Blue Cheese

Frieda's Specialty Produce -Red White and Blue Potato Salad

(Or try our Star Spangled Spuds potatoes with chipotle aioli, shallot vinaigrette, or fennel and dill.)

BONUS: More ways to serve Red, White & Blue Potatoes!

Red, White and Blue Herbed Potato Tagine

Cookistry - Red White & Blue Herbed Potato Tagine
Cookistry – recipe here

Smashed Potatoes

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Smashed Potatoes
Recipe here

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

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