It All Starts With Purpose
Michelle Weech fell in love with fresh produce marketing when she was an adolescent growing up on a farm in the San Joaquin Valley of California. “My dad told me that I could grow any crop that I wanted. So, I grew and harvested cantaloupes, placed ads in the local paper, created roadside signage, and hired my two drop-dead gorgeous older sisters to boost sales” she said with a laugh. “It worked, and I was hooked.”
Michelle graduated from USC, and began her career in marketing and PR on the agency side with clients like the Rose Bowl, Proctor & Gamble, Kraft, Pepsi, and Quaker Oats, before moving to the client-side working in the energy sector, and Chiquita / Fresh Express.
Her move to Texas brought her to Hardie’s Fresh Foods, where she built an in-house ad agency for DACA business in 33 commissaries in 9 states to sell more produce in a retail environment. “The challenge soon became selling in a B2B (business to business) environment as Hardies sells to food service establishments. But I feel as if my background led me here in many ways, and it all starts with purpose. ”
“When Hardies was replacing our 150 trucks, no one came to me to redo the graphics – I did it not because I wanted our trucks to look cooler, or prettier, but because these are moving billboards in front of our customers and prospects every day.”
Now, as the VP of Marketing for Hardie’s, Michelle affects more than the tactical aspects of marketing but is an executive who is leaned on for strategic expertise. “Over the course of the years, I would be asked to create a sales sheet to sell a new product. Now, I am asked at the onset about the efficacy of a product, how it solves a problem for a customer, and how do we talk to them about it.”
Michelle has taught marketing as a panelist and featured speaker at industry events, and is a strong believer in the power of mentorship – working with interns, and leaders during on-site visits to Hardie’s headquarters.
“I was privileged to hear Michelle speak about leveraging data to calibrate future results during my first year as a marketing coordinator in the fresh produce industry. I was struck by her knowledge, enthusiasm, and precise communication” shared PRO*ACT Marketing Manager Mackenzie Lovelace. “She works to make those around her better and has way more humility than she deserves!”
When asked about the future of women in fresh produce, Michelle responded: “our industry is constantly changing – and there has been an acceleration of the desire to do things smarter, faster, better. Having a more diversified workforce is a major part of that. Finding and nurturing the right talent is critical. We have significant challenges. It takes a diversified workforce, diversified leadership, fresh opinions, and perspectives. There are so many more women that are starting at the same place as their male counterparts. Their enthusiasm and hunger to learn is exciting. It makes our industry better.”
Thanks, Michelle, for the example of leadership in our industry!