Episode 74: Becoming a Leader in the Produce Industry with Coastal Sunbelt’s Stacy Ward

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The Produce Moms Podcast

“Coastal Sunbelt is really focused on three things: food, people, and relationships. When we hire people, we want to make sure that people fit that culture.” –Stacy Ward (14:13-14:21)

Stacy Ward is on the executive board of Coastal Sunbelt Produce. With decades of experience under her belt, Stacy is a super-focused and disciplined professional and  mom, and she loves produce. 

After working for Sysco, Stacy met a salesperson for Coastal Sunbelt who thought she would be a good fit for their company. 

She knew it would be something different and a new challenge for her. At the time, Coastal Sunbelt was a small company, and Stacy was hired to manage a contract for a hotel division—something the company had never done before. 

“I didn’t ever dream that I wanted to be in the produce industry. But this is a great industry. There are so many different things that one person can do in this industry.” – Stacy Ward  (9:58-10:13)

Stacy’s Path to Leadership in the Produce Industry 

Within the first three to five years of managing that division, it was tremendously successful. The company was soon taking over 60% of the market in their area. They started hiring more people and expanding. The hotel division is now well over $25 million in annual sales. Stacy has worked her way up to having a seat in the boardroom and becoming a partner. 

In 2008, Stacy had the opportunity to manage more contract business in their multi-unit chain business. She had no idea what she was doing. but she was willing to learn and work hard every day to figure it all out. 

In 2010, Stacy was awarded a position on the board. She worked closely with the CEO and the partners on that board. She  showed them that she wanted to learn, and she quickly realized she’d found the right place and wanted to continue to grow. 

Taking Care of the Coastal Sunbelt Team 

Coastal Sunbelt takes care of its team members as well as it takes care of its customers. The company has an on-site nurse practitioner who employees can turn to for healthcare needs at no cost. 

They provide a produce store where employees can grab some milk, eggs, or healthy produce. 

The company’s traditional flag-raising ceremony recognizes the diversity of its team. It allows every employee’s home country to be represented at work. This is a source of pride for everyone whose flag is displayed. 

The company has an open-door policy that allows everyone to have access to every executive, including the CEOs and company presidents. 

At Coastal Sunbelt, everyone is treated equally and with respect. If you’re just starting your career in produce, or you’re considering getting started, Stacy reminds everyone of the importance of taking chances. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved. The more you learn, the bigger the impact you can make in the industry and the world. 

How To Get Involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week! 
  • Learn more about Coastal Sunbelt Produce here.

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Episode 74: Coastal Sunbelt

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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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