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Mentors in the Making

If passion were an object, what would it look like?

When I picture passion, I see a small piece of citrus—a lemon growing toward the sun. It is a fresh, new beginning full of curiosity about what is yet to come.

And now, after speaking with Jason Sadoian, I also picture Bee Sweet Citrus’s Sales Representative when I think of passion. Not only is this a quality he holds close as he looks to his own leaders as examples, but it is a word I hear each of his mentors use to describe him.

“I had tremendous coaches growing up in Fresno, California, and in college, so my passion was to someday give back to others what they had so freely given me,” says Jason. “When I graduated in 2008 and moved home to evaluate my next steps, a mutual friend called and introduced me to Jim Marderosian, the Founder of Bee Sweet. Coming from Fresno, I grew up around families that were involved in produce, so the thought of getting into the industry someday never escaped my mind.”

Beyond the citrus category, the passion it takes to be a leader in fresh produce as a whole has long been embedded in Jason’s very core. From his baseball coaches to industry leaders like Julie Olivarria, Vice President of Produce at Sysco, Jason has surrounded himself with a team of strong-willed mentors whose enthusiasm he continues to replicate.

Jason’s excitement for building relationships is what makes him such a standout in the produce industry.

It’s not every day that growers have a chance to seal the deal with big-name distributors like Sysco, but Jason and Julie’s union was symbiotic as they sat down to discuss Sysco’s collaboration with Bee Sweet. The next year, the two were doing business and a trailblazing mentorship was born.

“Julie has shown me that hard work does pay off, having watched her start out as a merchandiser and rise to Vice President of Produce,” Jason tells me. “It’s every person’s dream to achieve that status when they work for a corporation, especially a large one like Sysco.”

Bringing new meaning to the concept of “walking before running,” Jason then built upon his formative relationship with Julie as he continued to expand the citrus category portfolio at Bee Sweet. This included further digging into the fresh produce supply chain and cultivating new connections. As he did so, Jason’s proverbial lemon tree of mentors sprouted new branches and helped him transform into a full-fledged citrus savant.

When I ask how he envisions his career evolving, Jason tells me that his heart is firmly rooted in sales as his greatest passions include problem-solving, people, and relationships.

Joe Cimino, Vice President of Procurement at PRO*ACT, a veteran of the supply chain and another of Jason’s major influences on his career, was a sturdy extension of that lemon tree as Jason solidified his understanding of all supply chain operations. The two industry stalwarts came together to form new opportunities for each of their companies, first shaking hands at the PRO*ACT Sales and Procurement Conference in 2018.

Passion is a tenacious trait, dominating the playing field, and, in this case, fueling Bee Sweet Citrus and Jason Sadoian with a zest quintessential to the citrus category.

“Joe has shown me that energy and passion in our business set people apart—I’ve never been around someone who has that much passion for selling produce,” Jason says of his distinguished peer and mentor.

Jason’s excitement for building relationships is what makes him such a standout in the produce industry. His passion is driven primarily by the people he works with and learns from, and growing his career at Bee Sweet gave him the confidence to go head to head with our industry’s biggest players.

These mentors are kindred spirits of Jason, each committed to a fast-paced, passionate work ethic. The unexpected nature of this business is what drives many and, for these three, it is exactly what brought them together.

If passion were a fruit, it would be a popular one. Such a quality attracts like-mindedness and has the power to raise its victors above the rest.

Passion is a tenacious trait, dominating the playing field, and, in this case, fueling Bee Sweet Citrus and Jason Sadoian with a zest quintessential to the citrus category. So much so that when consumers bite into these bright varieties, they’ll liken citrus to passion, too.

The Mentors

Here is what they have to say about Jason...

Julie Olivarria, Vice President of Produce, Sysco

You will be hard-pressed to meet someone in our industry with as much passion as Jason Sadoian. I’ve had the pleasure of doing business with Jason since 2010, when he was still fairly new to the industry. Early on, the passion he presented wasn’t always a positive experience for the customer. In fact, it might better have been described as outright stubbornness. However, Jason has always been open to feedback. Over the years, he has worked diligently to build up his knowledge and harness his passion to be more productive and aligned with the needs of his customers. These last 10 years, I’ve had a front-row seat in witnessing Jason develop both personally and professionally into an incredible business partner. Both Sysco and Bee Sweet have benefited from this young man’s presence on the desk, and I truly look forward to his continuing contributions to our industry for many years to come.

Joe Cimino, Vice President of Procurement, PRO*ACT

Jason has an uncanny ability to intently listen to a customer’s needs and either find or create a viable solution that benefits all parties involved throughout the supply chain. He truly takes a win-win approach. Jason’s knowledge, passion, and drive are easily recognizable and are things he should be proud of. He’s also one of the last true gentlemen in the business. Jason reminds me of an old-school produce guy from my grandfather’s generation—not only a man of his word willing to agree on multi-million-dollar deals with a ‘handshake’ over the phone, but also one who operates with integrity and follows through.