The Pundit was just a boy when the family business was negotiating with a lady in California to set ourselves up — we were in New York and she in Los Angeles — as a kind of forward-distribution and sales center for her then-amazingly exotic product line — things like fresh herbs!
Alas the negotiations were never concluded successfully and so this Pundit didn’t have an exceedingly interesting and fun business selling specialty produce to take over and build upon and thus had to fall to punditry.
Karen Caplan was more fortunate. As the eldest daughter of Frieda Rapoport Caplan, the founder of Frieda’s, Inc., Karen came to assume the position of President and CEO of Frieda’s, Inc. and has served the industry in a wide range of capacities, including the first woman to be President of United Fresh.
Now Karen has launched a blog, called What’s on Karen’s Plate, a sort of hybrid half-business, half-consumer effort.
In her first post, So, what is on my plate? — Karen credits the movie Julie and Julia with sparking an obsession with becoming a blogger and points to an Inc. magazine story, Strange Fruits, published way back in 1989 that credited her family business with changing the way America eats. The author of the article, Erik Larson, was assisted to that conclusion by many industry notables who he quoted in the piece: Ralph M. Pinkerton, Harold Alston, Dick Gladden, Dick Spezzano, and a very young incipient Pundit now writing this column:
Says James Prevor, publisher of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine, “She recognized early on that as a small company she could not compete with the media budgets of the Doles and Chiquitas, but that because of the nature of the items she had, she did have the potential to generate excitement and news coverage.”
PRODUCE BUSINESS’s James Prevor says her gender had a certain PR value as well. “Just the fact that she’s a woman in a man’s business made her different,” he says. “It made her stand out from the beginning.”
And this blog is another way for Karen Caplan and Frieda’s to generate excitement and news coverage and, generally, stand out.
Karen has tried to tie together sports and business in The Business of the Super Bowl, and talked about her visit to a trade show in Europe with Berlin: Fruit Logistica trade show, a trip we made a few years ago and wrote about here.
Karen talked about bartering for “Ugli” Fruit, an item we have mentioned here. She also wrote about her company’s Healthy Living Initiative, as an attempt to deal with rising healthcare costs, an issue we have written about here, here and here.
Karen’s salute to Frieda, My Mother is Always Right, pointed to Frieda’s knack for identifying people, issues, new products, etc. Specifically Karen pointed out that her mother was a longtime admirer of Norman Borlaug, the father of the green revolution and, arguably, responsible for saving more lives then anyone who ever lived. The Pundit wrote a cover story titled Feeding the World in 2050 for AMERICAN FOOD AND AG EXPORTER magazine that was principally a homage to Dr. Borlaug.
Karen also wrote in praise of a vegetable in her piece, Arugula: Spice of Life, and although we’ve never had the pleasure of sampling “Karen’s famous grilled vegetables”, it made us yearn for a dinner invitation on our next trip to Los Angeles.
Running a produce business and writing a good blog is not easy. Much of what she might like to say, she won’t be able to, and good writing is time-consuming and hard work.
Yet one thing we have always admired about the Caplans — Frieda, Karen and Karen’s sister Jackie — is that they know how to get the most out of what resources they have. That’s an important entrepreneurial skill, so we are sure Karen will do great with this new venture and we wish her all the best.