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Bee Sweet Citrus' Jim Marderosian: A Family Man

Down in the lush, green and sprawling orchards that span the San Joaquin Valley, hundreds of bustling workers are assembling together in the early morning to prepare for another busy citrus season. If you ask Jim Marderosian, Founder and Owner of Fowler, California-based Bee Sweet Citrus, to sum up this broad mix of personalities and demographics, the answer is a lot simpler than you may think. They’re a family.  

 

There’s hardly a better word to describe it.

 

“It’s an honor and privilege to work with the men and women that make up our company every day,” Jim tells me. “Everyone here is like family to me. I want our employees to feel comfortable coming to me and I enjoy introducing myself to everyone that works at Bee Sweet. Knowing what we do for our community and the work we put in to grow, pack, and ship great citrus year-round, you can’t help but feel like we’re all family here. That’s just who we are. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

 

At the heart of this close-knit team is a unique, forward-thinking work culture that keeps the local community top of mind with initiatives that support not just the employees, but their friends and families as well. If you were to crack open the honeycomb that composes the company’s DNA, you will find that Bee Sweet is built upon three core concepts – family, philanthropy, and of course, citrus.


“When I come into work every morning, there’s no better feeling than knowing that we’re setting a great example for our community,” he says. “ Whether we’re donating, or providing healthy, great-tasting products; what could be a better motivator than that?”

 

When you take everything that Bee Sweet has done for the burgeoning Fowler community into consideration, you quickly realize just how much of an investment the company has put into all of its altruistic initiatives.

 

One of the largest contributions of them all was Bee Sweet’s one million dollar donation to Valley Children’s Healthcare this past April. Inspired to provide better access to high quality care for families living in rural areas, such as Fowler, Jim presented the million dollar check to Valley Children’s Healthcare during a special employee celebration at the company’s headquarters. The donation will be used to support Valley Children’s new outpatient specialty care center in 2016, which is to be named in honor of Bee Sweet Citrus.

“We want to give back to the students and let them know they have an opportunity here at our company. There are a lot of different areas they can get involved with, from sales all the way to our IT department.” - Jim Marderosian

“Jim loves treating everyone like family,” Monique Bienvenue, Bee Sweet’s Director of Communications, tells me. “When the idea of building a new pediatric center in Fowler came up, he immediately jumped on the opportunity. He is very big on giving back to the local community, especially when you consider that most of our employees are from the area.”

 

 

With so many employees working together in the same community, it’s no wonder they are inclined to treat each other as family as well. This cultural principle is further preserved because of Jim’s willingness to provide young students in the area with various internships and employment opportunities. Bee Sweet works closely with local universities like California State University, Fresno and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to provide undergraduate students throughout the Central Valley a chance to show they have the skills necessary to take the company to the next level.

  

“We want to give back to the students and let them know they have an opportunity here at our company,” Jim said. “There are a lot of different areas they can get involved with, from sales all the way to our IT department.”

 

Monique explained, “In addition to helping the career services department at California State University, Fresno, we also give presentations to the students enlisted in the agricultural industrial technology department at the university’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology and often host facility tours for them to explore.”

 

These community initiatives go a long way to ensure Bee Sweet’s future remains as bright as ever. With young, enthusiastic minds just a stone’s throw away, Jim ensures that Bee Sweet stays ahead of the times all while contributing a large portion of the company’s energy back into the community.  

Driven by his tenacious will to succeed and his determination to prove that he had what it takes to be successful in the agriculture industry, Jim took it upon himself to plant the seeds of what would become one of the premier growers, packers, and shippers of fresh California citrus... 

“Social and corporate responsibility is a top priority for us because we want to do our part by giving back to everyone that works at Bee Sweet, as well as our neighbors like Valley Children’s Healthcare,” said Jim. “We know what our employees’ housing and family situations are like, and we want to do what we can to help them not only in the work atmosphere, but outside as well.”

Jim Marderosian, Founder & Owner of Bee Sweet Citrus

Over the past 28 years that Bee Sweet has been in business, Jim has discovered that if you invest in the community, the community will invest in you. Looking back from where the company first got its bearings, it’s easy to see why he’s so proud of Bee Sweet today.

 

Before it had matured into a “one-stop-shop” for all things citrus, Bee Sweet found its humble beginnings in 1987 as a small independent packer and shipper of California oranges. Driven by his tenacious will to succeed and his determination to prove that he had what it takes to be successful in the agriculture industry, Jim took it upon himself to plant the seeds of what would become one of the premier growers, packers, and shippers of fresh California citrus in the fertile soil of Fowler.

 

 

 

“When I got my start in this business, one of the first things I realized is just how quickly the agriculture industry changes,” he said. “Not only do policies change, but consumer wants and needs, technology, and climate never stay stagnant. I learned early on that if I wanted to stay ahead of the game, I needed to do a lot of research and keep up-to-date on things going on in the industry. Complacency was not an option.”

 

Input from employees over the years has not gone unheard. One character trait you’ll often hear about Jim is that he’s very progressive. It’s not uncommon to see him talk with new employees about any fresh ideas they have that may one day revolutionize the company.

 

It was because of Jim’s persistent, open-minded mentality that he was able to make the right connections and begin cultivating a company culture built on giving back to the community that helped grow the business into the industry giant it is today.

 

 

Having evolved into a successful, year-round “one-stop-shop” for all kinds of citrus items, including navel and Valencia oranges, lemons, grapefruit, mandarins, and specialty varieties, such as minneolas and pummelos, it is comforting to see that the company still offers a hands-on approach to growing, packing, marketing, and shipping. Though Bee Sweet has grown into a worldwide operation, shipping throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and several Pacific Rim countries, including Japan, the company still functions like the small, independent business it was over two decades ago.

As we march into 2016 and beyond, Bee Sweet has its eyes on expanding further into organics and continuing its community-driven initiatives. 

It’s clear that Bee Sweet cares about its community, but even more so, the company has been able to retain its “mom and pop” appeal because most of its initiatives have a personal touch to them. Take for example Bee Sweet’s recent donations to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Now in their second year of partnership, Bee Sweet has raised a total of $100,000 for the organization’s efforts to find a cure for breast cancer. Each Sweetheart Mandarins pack carries the BCRF’s logo to further promote this cause. It’s a program that any retailer or consumer can get behind.

 

“Sweetheart Mandarins are a huge category for us right now,” Monique tells me. “Not only do they help raise awareness for a serious issue in our society, but consumers also enjoy them because they’re the perfect on-the-go or back-to-school snack. They’re small and sweet, easy-to-peel, seedless, and they taste great.”

 

Another larger initiative Bee Sweet looks to become an industry leader in is sustainability. Not only is it their goal to provide the world with fresh, delicious citrus, but they strive to be an environmental steward as well.

 

 

Having recently completed work on a 2.4 Megawatt solar system as well as a newly-installed water pump designed to collect water in a facility cold storage defroster for landscaping purposes, Bee Sweet is taking every measure to reduce its environmental footprint. This also means incorporating the use of electric forklifts and utilizing recyclable packaging materials.

 

“We are absolutely committed to going green. Reducing our carbon footprint and water usage is just one more way we can help the community and the industry at large,” Jim tells me.

 

As we march into 2016 and beyond, Bee Sweet has its eyes on expanding further into organics and continuing its community-driven initiatives.

 

“There are still a lot of things we want to make happen,” Jim tells me. “We may be over twenty years old, but we’re still a developing company. I know we can’t change the world overnight, but I couldn’t be more proud of the team that we have here. I feel so privileged knowing that we’re doing great things for our community and for our industry.”

  

Looking back over the past three decades, it’s hard to say that Bee Sweet’s evolution has been anything but astounding. It’s a history that’s backed by a strong connection to the community, family-values, and an extensive line of fresh citrus. You can bet there will be even more to come from Bee Sweet as it looks to enhance its core values and expand its citrus program. The future can’t look any sweeter than that.