Episode 209: Jill Overdorf

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Jill Overdorf is one of the first women who had the “boss lady” mentality and reputation in the produce industry and rightfully so! She’s strong, powerful, unapologetic and a key stakeholder in the empowerment of women across the board. She’s technically been in the industry since “starting her own culinary business” at the age of 13! From pushing hand carts, picking produce, driving box trucks and working 20 years as an executive chef, Jill has done it all without letting anything get in the way of her confident drive.

Now the Director of Business Development at Naturipe, Jill never expected to dive into the produce industry. After graduating with a major in film and communication, she went to the Culinary Institute of America and was offered two jobs directly after graduating – one in New Zealand and one opening a restaurant in Manhattan. Jill recalls, “I was terrified of Manhattan. I grew up in Boston and Manhattan scared the bejeezus out of me, so that’s the job that I chose.”

From there, Jill has worked as an executive chef at exciting locations like Dreamwork Studios and the Getty Museum, while living on every single continent as a way to embrace all of our different cultures and the way they utilize food to come together in harmony. Jill eventually came aboard Naturipe to join the already strong roster of powerful women and was wowed by Naturipe’s focus on “our ability as individuals – our strengths, our intellect and our capabilities as a person,” not gender.

Naturipe does an incredible job at giving everyone the ability to be as autonomous as they need to be, while also supporting one another to elevate each other and the entire industry. There’s plenty of women who reach out to one another for help and support, which Jill appreciates because it shows her/your voice has been understood and appreciated. It’s incredibly important to have that reciprocal support, especially when elevating women, and a safe environment to ask for help.

Even though COVID was challenging for Jill especially because of the lack of connectivity we all had, she loves that Naturipe made it a point to have regular team calls and a transparent line of communication. It takes a team to be successful and Naturipe is a great example of valuing everyone as an individual for their capabilities and strengths, regardless of their gender. 

Lori and Jill both recall the days of attending produce industry conferences just 20 years ago where there were hardly any women there. Cat calling was prominent, cursory glances and getting “looked up and down” on the market floor by men. Now, there’s a long line to wait for the women’s restroom at these conferences and certainly less of a fight to “prove yourself” as a woman. It’s no surprise Jill has received comments of, “who do you think you are!?” because she’s never been afraid to walk in a room and ask questions without qualifying who she is or why she deserves to be there.

“Confidence is disarming. Confidence in men and strong women is disarming.” Jill Overdorf (23:56-24:10)

Whether you’re a woman just entering the produce industry looking towards the future, or one who’s been experiencing the same transformation for years, Jill reminds all women that “it’s okay to be smart, it’s okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to push the boundaries if you’re doing it in a way that’s sincere.” 

We all want to better the system regardless of race, religion, creed or gender. Bringing your voice to the table to be heard (with confidence) is a must in the produce industry, and using your intelligence with apology. Your ideas, questions, observations and thoughts are needed to keep the industry evolving for the greater good. If you’re a woman who’s been in the industry for years, when you see a “rising star” or “new kid on the block”, help them out! Introduce them to their next potential job or boss, help them understand the “unwritten rules”, lift them up, empower them, and ask them for support on things you might not know too! 

Jill’s last remarks are a must-listen. She shares with us that “it’s my personal mission to have all of my interactions be positive and impact that person’s life in a way that is memorable and important. Whether it’s the checkout woman at the grocery store or someone who’s harvesting for us in the fields, we have a responsibility as individuals to acknowledge other sentient individuals as human living beings. Be kind, be respectful, acknowledge their presence and hope that it’ll impact that person’s day in a way that’s positive.”

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
  • Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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