Member Profile – Therese Ferrara
Preferred Sales, LLC.
Working Hard, Playing Hard
Therese Ferrara credits her father for all that she has achieved in her business life. He even was the inspiration for the name of her sales marketing company.
“He was the biggest influencer in my life,” she said, noting that she still bears the weight of his passing five years ago. “He taught me a lot of great lessons in life including to make sure the thought goes through your brain before coming out of your mouth.”
Therese grew up in Orange County near the Carbon Canyon area of Brea and went to local Catholic schools for 12 years including graduating from Mater Dei High School in the early 1980s. Then she took a year off and started college at Cal Poly Pomona before transferring to Chapman University and graduating at the end of that decade, majoring in Communications with a minor in Business. Both educational paths have served her well over the past few decades. She honed those skills during college internships at ad agencies and the Orange County Register, and has made it a life-long commitment to excel in the communications arena.
Therese’s first job out of college was with Nutrisystem as she started in sales and eventually moved into management. “Helping people lose weight was a natural for me as I grew up as a chunky Italian girl and had experience with that,” she said, adding that she gained valuable sales and management experience during her five-year tenure with the company.
Following that experience, she sold a line of direct mail franchises for a couple of years, which indirectly led her to the food industry and the business sector she has pursued since the mid-1990s. Therese’s first stop was Prepco where she represented a line of croutons and snacks. Next up was a position with a potato chip company. This experience eventually pushed her from center store to the perimeter.
Therese explained that she was representing Poore Brothers potato chips while the Cape Cod brand was being represented by Tim Stejskal. Their paths would often cross in the waiting room of one retailer or another. Therese saw the two as not-so-friendly competitors, but Tim obviously appreciated Therese’s work ethic. When he left Cape Cod and joined Dole Vegetables, he recommended Therese for his old job. She took it and stayed for a few years until Tim further influenced her career by offering her a regional sales position with Dole Vegetables in 2004.
In 2008, she was on the move again, reuniting with another old boss to start a company featuring a high-end soda. As the recession in the late aughts hit, high-end anything was a bit of a struggle.
It was in 2011 that Therese took stock of her career and did a deep assessment of which direction to take. “I had an epiphany that I wanted to get back into produce. I felt at home in the produce industry and felt a sense of community.”
She also had a very close working knowledge of the food broker business and believed there was a niche play for an independent representative to take on just a few fledgling accounts and do them justice. “The large brokers don’t have time to pioneer a line,” she said, noting that they just can’t spend the time necessary to develop a small company when they have 40 other clients.
Therese determined to handle only three or four lines at a time when she launched Preferred Sales in 2011. The company name is a tribute to her father who owned the real estate company Preferred Escrow when she was growing up. “I felt privileged to be able to honor my dad in the naming of my company,” she said.
She created a business proposal, developed a PowerPoint presentation and sent her concept to everyone she could think of. Ironically, her first customer was the The Laura Scudder’s Company, which had developed a line of a bagged spices to make your own salsa or guacamole by adding the appropriate produce items. It was a good company to launch her firm, but the product line did not take off.
Fortunately, Preferred Sales secured two other clients early on that have proven to be winners. Zola and its signature coconut water signed with Therese during her first year in business, and the Little Potato Company came aboard within two years. Both are still being represented by the one-woman band called Preferred Sales. Therese remembers prominent produce retailers arguing that they would never sell coconut water in a can in the produce department. History belies that belief. And she recalls that the Little Potato Company sold 43,000 pounds of potatoes in her territory when she signed on. “This current fiscal year, they will sell 6.2 million pounds in my territory,” she proclaims proudly.
Her eclectic mix of clients include Setton Farms Pistachios and Wildbrine, which is a fermented, vegan kimchi and kraut brand.
Therese’s involvement with the FPFC began in earnest with her employment by Dole. She has been a regular attendee ever since at luncheons, and many other FPFC events. She has also served the council as a member of many committees including the Expo Committee and the Dinner-Dance Committee, of which she is a current member. She is also involved in other volunteer efforts, including as an active member of the produce committee that works closely with the City of Hope.
In describing her time away from her business life, Therese says “I work hard and I play hard. I am one of those people who live for Friday night.”
She unabashedly admits that cocktail hour on Fridays begins at 4:30 pm as she fires up the barbecue for her regular Friday night routine. “I have a family, including three brothers and my mother, but I also have a family by choice, which consists of nine very close friends.”
Therese revealed that most of these friends have been in her life for many, many years and every Friday night is open house at her place. “I love to barbecue. I can cook, but what I have really mastered is the barbecue. Everyone is invited every week.”
She also utilizes the weekend for a little outdoor therapy on the links. “I love to get out on a golf course and just enjoy the day. It is very peaceful.”
Snow skiing is another passion that Therese enjoys including frequent winter jaunts to Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.
She added that hanging with her 91-year-old mother is another very important and fulfilling aspect of her life. “We just moved her from Brea to Laguna Woods near me. She is still super sharp and I make sure I spend time with her as often as I can.”
Though retirement is still down the road, Therese calls herself a “saver of money” (another trait she inherited from her father) and said she is looking forward to a time in her early 60s when she can cut back a bit and enjoy the fruits of her labor. “Working for myself, I have not taken off more than five days in a row – with two of them being the weekend – since I started my company. I have not had the luxury of spending two weeks in Europe or anywhere else. I am looking forward to that.”