Each month, the Fresh Produce & Floral Council profiles a different member and a different retailer. Check back to learn more about the professionals in the produce and floral industry and the members of the FPFC.
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Emily Fragoso, Senior Recruiter
Combining an energetic, outgoing and positive attitude along with a drive to always improve, the MIXTEC Group’s Emily Fragoso has made her mark in the produce industry at a relatively young age. All of those traits might very well have been inherited from her parents.
“My mom was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. My dad grew up in Thailand,” Emily said. “My mother was an artist at an early age, and in her late 20s, she started to lose her eyesight, and over the years became totally blind.”
Showing a positive attitude, that fact did not deter Emily’s mother from receiving an advanced degree in California, becoming a rehabilitation counselor. As for her exuberant personality, Emily traces that that to her father’s outgoing style.
As for her success in the produce industry, that can be attributed to her tenacious desire to always search for new avenues that can better enhance her career.
After attending La Serna High School in Whittier, Emily enrolled at Cal State Fullerton. Always “communication oriented,” she majored in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations.
One day, a note on the college bulletin board would send Emily into the produce industry. The Fresh Produce & Floral Council had a job opening.
While in college, she worked in a non-profit certification program through Cal Sate Fullerton. “When I came to the interview at the FPFC, I was able to show them a portfolio of projects I had worked on in Brea in conjunction with that program. I had participated with mommy groups, helped on coordinating mayoral breakfasts, worked with committees and knew how to take minutes at those meetings.”
That experience paid off. She was interviewed by FPFC president Linda Stine, and later that afternoon Emily was offered a job with what she thought was “one of the longest job titles ever: Director Of Member Relations and Event Coordinator.”
While working for six years at the FPFC, Emily returned to Cal State Fullerton and received her masters. “I wanted to prepare myself for the future.” That wasn’t all she was doing in her spare time.
Calling herself a “music junkie” and “NPR nerd,” Emily was an avid listener to KCRW’s music. However, she felt the station needed a void filled when it came to talk shows, so she asked the manager if she could host a talk show dealing with local issues. Emily interviewed community leaders and delved into stories about places of interest to her audience--sort of the Huell Howser of local public radio. She also tried her hand at improvisational comedy at the South Coast Repertory, and has been a member of Toastmasters for years, to continue her quest for self-improvement.
Emily said her six years at the FPFC “afforded me so many opportunities and the chance to meet many friends and mentors who have guided my career.”
Determined to “expand her skill set,” Emily moved on to be the marketing director for Coast Produce Company. “It was a fantastic chance for me to work with a premier wholesaler in Los Angeles that helped increase consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
It was here that her motto of “Yes, I can” further developed. “If I was asked to do something, I was always willing to say ‘yes’.”
She developed a friendship with the Coast president at the time, Jin Ju Wilder, and when Wilder opened her own consulting firm, Status-Gr0, Fragoso went to work with her. “I have always admired Jin Ju as a leader,” Emily said, “and it was a great experience working with her for those three years.”
In 2013, the MIXTEC Group, an executive recruiting firm that specializes in produce, hired Fragoso. She said this job has further expanded her knowledge of the produce industry.
Somehow, in between work and all those extra-curricular activities, Emily found time to marry Damian, a lawyer who specializes in working for those with special education needs.
Emily and Damian have a little girl, Hazel, who recently turned three, and in April the Fragoso family will have another addition. Of course, with her busy schedule, Emily will have to fit in time for the birth between MIXTEC, Toastmasters and a 5K run.
Vice President, Latin Department, Vision Produce Company
Whether applying for a job, looking out for her neighbors, trying out some new dance steps, learning a foreign language or even fighting a traffic ticket, the Vision Produce Latin Department manager, is “always up for a challenge.”
Betancourt, who is also one of Vision’s vice presidents, said that being in the produce industry for nearly 30 years has “taught me to be more vocal and has made me a stronger person. I am a very passionate person, almost to a fault, but when something interests me a lot, my eyes get as big as saucers.”
The produce industry is a far cry from what Betancourt believed her career path would take as a student at Cal State Los Angeles. “I majored and graduated with a degree in sociology. I wanted to help poor people and improve the lives of the less fortunate.”
Not able to secure a job right after college, Betancourt worked at a credit union where she helped people get high-end loans for cars and home mortgages.
“One day, a man driving a big red Mercedes came into the office to get his car financed,” Betancourt said. She impressed him, and he said, “You’d be good in the produce business.”
Betancourt recalled thinking, “The produce business…what’s that?” She would quickly find out.
The person she had helped was Fernando Vargas, then working at Cal Fruit. Cal Fruit’s owner, Norman Gilfenbain, asked whether she could work the Teletype machine. Although she had “only typed term papers,” Betancourt was up for the challenge. She took a month-long course, and soon she was working at Cal Fruit.
After half a year, Betancourt wanted to do more and right before she was about to resign, she received a call from Paul Schumaucher, who she had worked with at Cal Fruit. “He had recently gone to Del Monte and wanted me to join him. I was there the following Monday.
“From the moment I started at Del Monte I learned, learned, learned!” Up for the new challenge and finding sales to be intriguing, Betancourt wanted to be a salesperson, and soon that’s what she became. She credits Schumaucher and others for her success. “I have been very fortunate to have lots of good mentors,” she said. “Working at Del Monte for all those years opened many doors for me.”
After a stint at Maui Land and Pineapple, she landed a job at Vision Produce, where she has worked for the past nine years. And then faced another challenge; this time in the language field.
“Even though I had taken four years of Spanish in high school and one in college, I never thought I would have to use it in my career, so I let it slide.” But then Vision’s President Bill Vogel put her in charge of the Latin Department.
“I knew the basics of Spanish, but I basically had to start from scratch,” Betancourt said. “I started reading Spanish books and people with knowledge of the language helped me on my new journey. When my husband and I were down in Cabo on vacation, the owner of the hotel said for me to only speak Spanish.” Through the help of people like that and her co-workers, her Spanish is now mucho bueno and she can lead a meeting entirely in Spanish.
In her personal life, Betancourt also likes a good challenge. A few years ago, she and her husband, Peter, signed up for a dance class in Arcadia. “I had two left feet,” she said.
Although Betancourt said there were a few arguments during the class (“we’d always blame the other for mistakes”), they survived. “We would practice four nights a week at home, and it was very fun.” Now, the couple is quite adept at dancing everything from a waltz to cha-cha to swing.
Betancourt has demonstrated her will to take on a challenge on both sides of the law, as well. “One afternoon while on the freeway I received a speeding ticket from the Highway Patrol. I decided to fight it.”
Nancy returned to that same freeway and made a VHS tape (remember them) of the flow of traffic at the same time she received the ticket earlier in the week. “I took that tape to court, showed it to the judge and he dismissed the ticket. I think he was impressed that I took the time to make the video.” Don’t mess with Nancy!
Betancourt’s ability to “be vocal” has also resulted in her being a concerned citizen. “I spoke about watching our for things in our neighborhood and even went as far as calling the sheriff’s office about it.” That impressed neighbors enough that she was quickly voted Block Captain of her North Duarte street.
Her two “left feet,” her traffic ticket and Betancourt becoming Block Captain illustrates one of her favorite phrases, “Take a negative and turn it into a positive.”
One positive with no negative connotations is her recent addition to the Fresh Produce and Floral Council Board of Directors. “I am so honored to be in the company of all these icons of the produce business. I’m able to give my point of view and listen to all these people that I have admired in our business for so long.”
A passion that Betancourt has had for years is running. Whether at home or on one of the tropical vacations that Nancy and Peter like to take, running helps her “feel young and healthy.”
Nancy and Peter have two children: Christopher, 33 and Steven, 23. Christopher and his wife, Nicole, are expecting their first child very soon. “I’m going to be a grandmother,” Betancourt said. “Do you believe it?”
Now that will keep her running!