Frieda Rapoport Caplan
50 years ago, Frieda started her produce company on the L.A. wholesale market. Back then, it was unusual to see a woman at the market, let alone have a woman operating a business there. But Frieda didn’t seem to notice – she worked hard and managed to sell many of the more unusual produce items that the other marketers didn’t want to bother with. One such item was the Chinese Gooseberry, later renamed the Kiwifruit. In the 1960s, nobody had ever heard of this strange fuzzy fruit. Today, Kiwifruit is a hot commodity found in just about every supermarket. Frieda was instrumental in getting Kiwifruit, and many other specialty fruits and veggies, into U.S. produce departments. In 2012, Frieda received the Legacy Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners – Los Angeles, for establishing a legacy of entrepreneurial excellence.
In 1977, Frieda’s eldest daughter, Karen Caplan, joined the company. She began as the publicist, and quickly worked her way into sales. In 1986, Frieda named 30-year-old Karen President of Frieda’s Inc. In 1990, Karen and her sister, Jackie Caplan Wiggins, purchased the company from their mother. That same year, Karen became the first-ever female chairman of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council in Los Angeles, and was re-elected to a second term in 1991. Karen’s vision and leadership propelled Frieda’s, Inc. to the forefront of the produce industry as a leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce. In 2003, Karen also served as the first female chairman of the board of United Fresh Produce Association, a national produce trade organization. Karen continues to serve as a role model in various industry and women business groups. She has also authored Frieda’s Purple Kiwi Cookbook, and writes a weekly blog, “What’s on Karen’s Plate,” where she covers topics from produce to business to family and beyond.
Jackie Caplan Wiggins
Frieda’s second daughter, Jackie, joined the company at the age of 25. Beginning in sales, Jackie worked with both supermarket and wholesale market produce buyers. She was soon conducting sales for the majority of Frieda’s key accounts. In 1995, Jackie became a member of the inaugural class of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Produce Industry Leadership Program. Today, Jackie is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Frieda’s.
After graduating from George Mason University in 2011, Karen’s eldest daughter, Alex, joined the company, making Frieda’s a three-generation family business success story. She currently serves as the company’s publicist and communications coordinator – the very same role her mother had when she joined the company in the 1970s. Grandma Frieda is very proud indeed!
As Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012, this women- and family-owned company continues to challenge the status quo in the produce department — from Kiwifruit to Kiwano to Spaghetti Squash to Sapote.