It’s been a busy two weeks for me since I published my last blog. Actually, it’s been a busy 12 months behind the scenes. You probably read in the industry publications or on LinkedIn or Facebook that my sister, Jackie and I sold our 61-year-old family business to another produce company! It was definitely a bittersweet decision, but as our mom always said, “Success came to me because I never saw obstacles.”
When my eldest daughter Alex returned from maternity leave two years ago, she came into my office. She told me that she loved the business, and wanted to work in the business, but did not want to own the business. Some would have seen that as an obstacle to the succession plan that we had, but we saw it as an opportunity.
We had many discussions with our business advisor/coach and realized there were ways to continue the legacy of our business without transitioning the ownership to the third generation.
So, we began the process of investigating options. Ultimately, we decided to retain the services of an investment banking firm. Because we recognized the value of our own company culture, we chose an investment banking firm whose culture we felt fit with our style.
The same was true when we had to select an attorney for the actual transaction portion of our journey. We interviewed several. Our final decision was to work with someone who “felt like family.”
Starting with more than 100 firms (which could have seemed like an overwhelming obstacle) that showed an interest in our company, we were thrilled that one company stood above the rest. What was most appealing about Frieda’s to them? Our strong brand and reputation, and our culture. Bingo!
So last Friday, January 20, at 7:15 am PST, we had a zoom call. All parties were on the call from both sides (the buyer and seller) plus attorneys, accountants, etc. As we started the call, I held up the photo I have on my desk so my mother, Frieda “was present.”Framed photo of my mom, which sits on my desk
To lighten the mood, I told a produce joke! I mean, don’t you think that’s a fun way to break the ice … with a produce joke?!Screen shot of our zoom closing call with bankers, lawyers, and us
The call lasted two minutes, and our transaction was complete! Then we began the most important part of things, and that was meeting personally with everyone in our company. Thinking about those meetings and personally telling everyone that we had recapitalized the business could have seemed like an obstacle.
My sister Jackie, my daughter Alex, and our new CEO Dan Madsen joined me in meeting with small groups of our team members. We had between 10-15 people in a group so that we could tell them personally our exciting news!
And then our chef prepared a fabulous lunch for everyone to enjoy together and we toasted with (non-alcoholic) apple cider.
Two of my work teammates commented during our meetings, saying they had been through more than one “sale of a company” in their careers and they were so grateful for the way Jackie and I handled it. We were patient, anticipated most everyone’s questions, and were so kind to everyone. That sure made us feel good. And, we turned an obstacle into an opportunity.
So, you might be wondering how we celebrated? Friday evening, both Jackie and I went home and had private dinners with our spouses.
And here’s the fun coincidence … more than five months prior, I had set up a dinner at my home for Saturday night January 21. I invited two produce icons and their spouses to dinner: Rob and Pamela Robson visiting from Brisbane, Australia (they founded ONEHARVEST produce company), and Dennis and Susi Gertmenian (Dennis founded Ready Pac Produce more than 30 years ago). So, you can imagine the texts I sent both of them on Friday about what we would be celebrating on Saturday … not just more than 30 years of friendship with all of them, but our company transaction!(L to R) Jack Daly, Dennis and Susi Gertmenian, Doug Wiggins, me, Pamela and Rob Robson, and Jackie Wiggins.
You can only imagine how much champagne flowed and all the beautiful flowers and cards we enjoyed.(L to R) Dennis Gertmenian, me and Rob Robson, lifelong produce friends
Many thanks to the team who helped us get to the finish line in record time, and we are so excited about what fantastic opportunities are in front of us with our new owners, Legacy Produce LLC. Our team here at Frieda’s is already buzzing with ideas and excitement! Success will come to us because we never saw this as an obstacle.
To our industry friends,
Today is a very exciting one for our company. Our 61-year-old family business has been acquired by another fantastic, thriving produce company and we will now be growing together.
After more than a year of discussions, Legacy Farms LLC, based in Anaheim, California has acquired the assets of Frieda’s, Inc. We will now be known as Frieda’s LLC and our new CEO is Dan Madsen. Dan has been a friend for many years and has been leading Legacy Farms since 2019.
We are so excited that his first order of business was to name my eldest daughter, Alex Jackson as Vice President, Sales & Procurement! As you know, Alex is the third generation of our family business, founded by our mother, Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan in 1962. Alex has been a significant part of our company’s success during the last 12 years and she is very excited about this new, expanded opportunity.
Legacy Farms really values Frieda’s strong culture and branding and is excited to be the new steward of the first and best-selling brand of specialty produce in the US. We can’t help but brag that Frieda’s brand has a 30% faster velocity than the next leading brand.
My sister, Jackie Caplan Wiggins and I will continue working in an advisory capacity to Dan and the Frieda’s team and are beyond thrilled at the opportunities for our company to expand. Our company color will still be purple, our branded packaging will continue to be eye-catching and our team members will continue to service you with our well known passion and attention to detail. For you it will be business as usual – please continue to work with our current sales and purchasing team as normal in the course of business.
We thank you for your many years of support and produce love and look forward to a bright and growing future. Please feel free to reach out to any of us with any questions you may have.
Karen Caplan, Karen.email@example.com
Jackie Wiggins, Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Jackson, Alex.email@example.com
Dan Madsen, firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter, Alex, and my 2-year-old grandson, Eli (pictured above), visited me at my house a few weeks ago. Eli was sitting in his highchair for dinner and started to get fussy about the food. You probably know what that’s like. Kids at any age want to choose what they eat and may throw a tantrum or two if they don’t get their way. He was VERY fussy, pushing away the food and shaking his head indicating he didn’t want it.
Well, then the most interesting thing happened.
Alex calmly said the following words: “Eli, I know you are frustrated right now. But my job as your parent is to decide what food is offered, where it is offered and when it is offered. Your job is to decide whether and how much to eat of what’s offered. I will stay here with you right now until you are ready to eat. I love you!” (By the way, this is the pioneering work of dietician, psychotherapist and author Ellyn Satter, who created what’s known as the “Division of Responsibility” in feeding.)
Then the craziest thing happened. He immediately calmed down and started eating. Frankly, I was a little shocked to hear Alex talk to her 2-year-old in such an adult manner, but it seemed like he understood what she said, and her cadence was slow and calming to him.
Later, after he went to bed, I commented to Alex that what I had witnessed was amazing.Alex Jackson and Dr. Becky Kennedy (author)
She then told me about a parenting book she had read titled Good Inside by Dr. Becky Kennedy. Alex said the book and her podcast were recommended to her by another parent of a toddler. Alex had gifted me a copy of the book a few months earlier after she met Dr. Becky in person at a book signing!“Good Inside” by Dr. Becky Kennedy
I put the book aside and it quickly got buried on my desk.
Well, a few weeks later I was having some personal challenges and Alex and I were talking about them. She said, “You know, mom, that Dr. Becky book might be really helpful—it’s not just for parents of young kids. I think everyone would benefit from reading it!” Challenge accepted. So, I immediately downloaded it on Audible and invested a few hours listening to Dr. Becky herself. (I just love it when the author does the recording of their own book!)
I learned soooo much from listening to that book. I actually used some of her phraseology when dealing with some tense situations on the golf course, and it worked like magic! The other person immediately calmed down and felt acknowledged.
I’ve actually found myself using Dr. Becky’s techniques during my work interactions as well, and her tactics have smoothed out some tensions.
And last time my grandson, Eli, was over, I tried Dr. Becky’s technique with him. He was in the kitchen opening and closing my non-child-proofed drawers and cabinets, and I was afraid he was going to get hurt. In a calm cadence, I said, “Eli I know it’s fun to open and shut the drawers and make loud noises, but I don’t want anything to fall out and hurt you. So, let’s close the drawer and go into the other room and we can play together.”
And like magic, he turned and walked with me to the family room to play!
Later, my daughter Alex commented on how great I did! She said I was a good learner! (Talk about turning the tables.)
So, whether or not you have young children, chances are you have frustrating situations. Instead of raising your voice or getting upset with these situations, I hope you’ll gift yourself Dr. Becky’s book Good Inside. The title of the book embodies her philosophy and serves to remind you that your child/spouse/coworker/sibling/friend is good inside and to repeat that mantra to yourself over and over as a way to be more calm.
I can’t wait to meet Dr. Becky sometime soon, so I can share my stories with her. When you get the book, let me know how it’s helped you, too.
My sister and I have always been active in our industry; we are not known for sitting on the sidelines. So, when our industry trade association, the United Fresh Produce Association, created and hosted the first Washington Public Policy Conference in 1995 in America’s capital, we were among the first to sign up to attend.
I remember that first conference. We were a relatively small group, maybe 200 attendees. Besides the expected speaker presentations and receptions, the best part was when we walked to Capitol Hill and met with our elected Congresspeople and Senators! Over the years, industry interest and participation in the conference have grown, and now (more than 20 years later), there are close to 500 industry members who convene in September each year.
After that first conference, we came home and could not get out of our heads how invigorating it was to be in Washington, D.C. To be active citizens.
And that’s when we hatched our big idea. How could we spread “the feeling” to other people in our industry?
A few days later, we went to our mom, Frieda, and told her we were going to invest some of the profits from the company that year to establish the “Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship.” The scholarship would annually fund up to four members of our industry to attend the Washington conference each year. The only two requirements would be: 1) they had to work in a family business and 2) they could not have already attended the conference.
People asked us why we did it since it would not benefit our company directly. Our answer was that our mom was always active politically. She ran campaigns in college and our parents always took us with them to the polling places when they cast their votes in every election. We wanted a way to honor our mom while she was alive, and we also wanted people in our industry who were members of other family businesses to understand why it is critical to be active politically.
So, over the last 21 years, we have funded between two to four members of a U.S. family business to attend the Washington conference each year. Jackie, my daughter Alex, or I always connect with the scholarship winners and spend time with them at the conference. Afterward, we oftentimes get a personal note from them about how they were personally impacted by their attendance.
Last month, I received a personal letter from one of our 2022 scholarship winners. Her name is Mayra Vasquez and her company is Latin Specialties, LLC from Houston. Interestingly, her company and Frieda’s are considered to be competitors in the Texas market.
Here is an excerpt from her letter:
I write you a little over a month after a life-changing experience you offered my family, our team and me here at Latin Specialties. As you may already know, our family business is small and second-generation. We were born and raised in Mexico City, therefore the impact of visiting Washington for the first time as an immigrant in this country was more impactful than I ever expected. Not only was I able to absorb the feel of America while visiting but had the honor and opportunity to represent my father’s legacy in front of lawmakers. He passed away in late 1998 and left the business to my two brothers and me.
My experiences in D.C. taught me invaluable lessons that I hope to pass on to colleagues in our industry. The most impactful lesson out of this journey for me was to learn how people are so unaware of the struggles our industry goes through, which can result in food insecurity for all if we don’t work together. I see that laws are passed by lawmakers who are not really well-versed on how mother nature works as well as how the supply chain system functions.
I’m excited to say that this experience encouraged me to not only advocate for the food industry in Washington, but to bring it back home and implement the educational piece in our daily practices so others can follow.
I cannot put all that I got from this experience into words. This was a surreal experience for me especially, and I have you and Jackie to thank for this opportunity.”
Wow!—was all I could say when I received this letter from Mayra. We accomplished what we set out to do … to change people’s lives. To encourage them to be active citizens. To promote the future of our industry.
And it did not matter that this attendee is considered to be my competitor by some. She and her company are truly my produce colleagues, and I am so happy we are working together for our mutual benefit.
KarenMy sister Jackie stands with the 2022 Frieda Rapoport Caplan Family Business Scholarship winners (L to R): Jesse Wiggins (no relation), Wiggins Farms, LLC; Bianca Kaprielian, Fruit World Company, Inc.; Frieda’s own Jackie Caplan Wiggins; and Mayra Vasquez, Latin Specialties, LLC.