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Mentors in the Making

They say nothing ventured, nothing gained, and though that may be one of life’s toughest lessons, it’s one that breeds immeasurable determination. Learning this lesson means pushing aside doubt and taking a leap of faith, welcoming criticism, and coming out stronger on the other side, wading through a long list of “nos” until finding that vindicating “yes.” It’s a lesson that Lori Taylor, champion, Founder, and Chief Executive Officer of The Produce Moms® (TPM), has come to know well.

Lori’s path began when she was studying Spanish in college, which was where her love for fresh produce took root. She reached out to Indianapolis Fruit Company in 2005, emphasizing her passion for the Spanish language, as well as fruit and veg alike. Lori was hired to start the Hispanic Market Sales Division and worked for 10 years in wholesale distribution, focusing on sales and marketing. There, she met Danny Corsaro, the mentor who first put her on a path toward becoming an industry leader.

“Every morning started with a procurement meeting where Danny often said, ‘I’m not looking for more problems, I am looking for solutions.’ Danny was in the room in 2012 when I pitched the original blog, ‘The Produce Mom,’” Lori says of her now wildly successful platform. “Thereafter, he became my direct boss and taught me so much about profit, loss, accountability, and the best business lesson: how to find and execute solutions. No one knows the battles I fought to keep ‘TPM’ alive better than Danny.”

When I ask Lori what she loves most about this industry, she is quick to sing high praises for the people—our industry’s passion and purpose, she says, are unrivaled.

With that first job opportunity, Lori was just getting started in the produce industry. While her dream of running ‘The Produce Mom’ blog began with Indianapolis Fruit, she continued taking that dream to new heights by building her network. Sarah Frey, Founding Farmer of Frey Farms, became part of Lori’s circle in 2013 when Indianapolis Fruit partnered with Frey to launch the Tsamma juice line. The two found their way to each other and quickly formed an unshakeable bond.

“To know Sarah Frey is to be in awe of Sarah Frey. There is no better rock and role model for me than Sarah. She built an empire from what most considered a failing business. She works with vision, passion, and has an enviable level of comfort in taking risks. Sarah is an innovator; the type of gal that keeps the world wondering ‘What will she do next?’ What I love the most about my relationship with Sarah is how I can lean on her for my mental health in this entrepreneurial journey and the work-family balance,” Lori reflects.

Lori’s mentors have true grit. As she puts it, honest feedback made her work on TPM more valuable and sustainable. When I ask Lori what she loves most about this industry, she is quick to sing high praises for the people—our industry’s passion and purpose, she says, are unrivaled. These are attributes that her mentor CarrieAnn Arias, Vice President of Marketing at Naturipe Farms, holds near and dear. Lori and CarrieAnn are kindred spirits, first linking up at a United Fresh Produce Association Marketing and Merchandising Council Meeting in 2017.

“CarrieAnn is usually the smartest person in the room. When I met her, I was absolutely intimidated by her knowledge and confidence,” Lori says. “A mutual friend, Elena Hernandez, told me, ‘You can learn a lot from CarrieAnn.’ I leaned into that advice and asked CarrieAnn to be one of my mentors. CarrieAnn has helped me understand the value that my business brings to growers and our industry. We work hand-in-hand on the Naturipe and TPM brand partnership. She has been a catalyst for TPM’s evolution and the heightened value we deliver to our grower partners. No one has lifted me up more in my professional life than CarrieAnn Arias.”

Through the help of her mentors and her own determination, Lori has sustained and grown TPM since she purchased it from Indianapolis Fruit in 2015. Lori Taylor plans to continue partnering with some of the biggest names in produce to bring fact-based stories about specialty crop agriculture to the forefront of consumer media. When an opportunity crosses her desk that serves this mission of inspiring people to eat more fresh produce, Lori evaluates it. Because, as she knows, if there is something to be gained, there is plenty to be ventured.

 


The Mentors

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


Danny Corsaro, Retired Owner, Indianapolis Fruit Company

"The thing that stands out to me the most about Lori Taylor is that she has an insatiable desire to learn and grow personally and she takes incredible joy from sharing her knowledge with others. Lori came to Indianapolis Fruit Company from a job as a Spanish teacher and became an inside salesperson focused on the Hispanic grocery market. She is fluent in Spanish and did a great job immersing herself in the produce industry and learning all about the products. We frequently talked about the importance of growing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and how to reach everyone in the family. This really captured Lori’s passion and she ran with the idea of becoming the authority or the ‘go-to person’ who could bring the enthusiasm, the energy, and the knowledge to educate and inspire people about produce. Lori built the persona of ‘The Produce Mom’ initially at Indianapolis Fruit Company and then launched it as her own business and brand. Lori proved that she could be a great networker, an inspirational figure, and a solution provider in the produce industry."

 

Sarah Frey, Founding Farmer, Frey Farms

"Lori Taylor is a dear friend and someone I am so proud of because of the impact her life has made on others. Having watched her career grow and knowing how hard she works to achieve a work-life balance, I have seen how Lori’s life is committed to helping all families make better eating choices and lead healthier lives. Having worked in almost all aspects of the fresh produce industry, Lori is enthusiastically committed to helping everyone eat more fruits and vegetables. As a working mom herself, she knows the day-to-day challenges of families and why it is important to make sure fruits and vegetables are a part of all daily eating choices. As an advocate for families, she also helps consumers develop relationships with producers directly. This helps all producers and holds them accountable to the highest of ‘mom’ standards. Personally, she emulates the best of all moms and women. Committed to others, supportive, loving, and respectful, she is an exceptional role model for others. I’m proud to have played a role in Lori’s life through sisterhood and mentoring."

 

CarrieAnn Arias, Vice President of Marketing, Naturipe Farms

"When Lori and I met, it was immediately clear that her vision of what ‘could be’ was so close to being realized. Her belief in The Produce Moms platform has never wavered even when it would have been easier to give up and let Hollywood tell our industry’s story. We have many ambassadors in produce, but none connect with consumers on such an authentic level. Lori is a mom who has worked in our industry, knows our growers, and challenges us all to try something new, right alongside her. Her inspiring vision knows no bounds, and I always tell her that one day I know I will say, ‘I knew you when…’ Lori’s passion for our industry and its mission is truly infectious and she won’t stop until she’s made a produce lover out of everyone."