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Monday, March 8, 2010

Opportunities from EARTH

I’ve learned that I don’t always know how things will turn out. And it’s often well worth my time to spend a few minutes for a phone call, a meeting or to exchange business cards. A simple phone call recently turned into a wonderful opportunity for me and for Frieda’s.

Two years ago, I got a call from EARTH University in Costa Rica. One of their graduates, Aldo Bettoni, had been interning in Los Angeles and had 6 months left on his visa. They wanted to know if I knew of any company that might be interested in an intern. (Instead of approaching me directly, they used the “do you know of anyone” approach. Clever.)

Well, let me step back a bit. About 15 years ago, a longtime friend of my mother’s, Panfilo Tabora, who helped us import the first Fresh Hearts of Palm, took a position at EARTH University in Costa Rica. Panfilo, a professor in Tropical Crops, introduced us to EARTH and their mission:

“EARTH University is dedicated to education in agricultural sciences and natural resource management in order to contribute to sustainable development in the humid tropics with an emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean. In an effort to achieve a more prosperous and just society, EARTH offers educational opportunities to young people from the most marginalized regions of the tropics.”

EARTH asked us to help sponsor a student’s education by making an annual donation for 4 years. (More than 75 percent of EARTH’S students receive financial assistance). Frieda’s started that donation program in 2002.

Another opportunity to work with EARTH surfaced with this Los Angeles-based intern. Well, my initial response was “No, we do not need an intern.” Which turned into, “Well, have him come down and I’ll see if I can refer him to another company.”

So, Aldo came to visit the office. He gave me a PowerPoint presentation on his college marketing project, and I was hooked! I had to find a place for him at Frieda’s.

Aldo started his internship at Frieda’s in February 2008 and worked with us for about 6 months. He began helping with data in our marketing department, but his biggest project was to help organize and execute Frieda’s Fresh Marketplace, an open-air produce market that we tested out for the summer. Every Saturday for two months, we held an amazing farmers-market style event in our parking lot. In August 2008, Aldo returned to Costa Rica to get his MBA at INCAE Business School (started by Harvard University).

Recently, Aldo and I met up in Washington, D.C. I asked him what his next adventures would be after graduating with his MBA this May. He said he would love to have an opportunity to work at Frieda’s. To make a long story short – Aldo will be starting his professional career at Frieda’s in July! I’m excited because Aldo’s education is grounded in true sustainability, in both agricultural and supply chain practices.

Had I not taken the phone call from EARTH University that day, Aldo and Frieda’s may have missed a great opportunity. I’ve always felt that my business life has been a combination of good timing, destiny and a little bit of luck.

And, in case you are interested, several years ago, EARTH University entered into an exclusive marketing agreement to export their organically-grown bananas to Whole Foods Markets across the United States. Like Frieda’s, Whole Foods has been “giving back” to EARTH University for many years.

So, if you want to support true sustainability and EARTH University, try their organic bananas at Whole Foods!

Karen

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