Business Lessons Gained from 15 Years of Fresh

Although I wasn’t the first hire at DMA Solutions (see Marci Allen), as one of the original employees to come on board, I’ve had the great pleasure over our company’s fifteen-year history working alongside Dan’l and other team members to develop a successful marketing agency that serves one industry: the fresh produce industry.

As you can imagine, when the company first started, our main goal was to gain traction in the industry as a recognizable and viable marketing service company.  We weren’t sure how you, the industry, would respond to positioning ourselves as an “agency” so we dubbed ourselves “a marketing boutique.” The reason we didn’t call ourselves an agency was because at that point, marketing agencies didn’t have a great reputation and we were unsure you would trust one to guide your business and brand to new heights. The great news, of course, is that you did.    

So many things regarding DMA and the business have changed since 2004, including embracing that we are indeed a marketing agency as opposed to a boutique.  In fact, when I started in 2007, Dan’l, Marci and I didn’t even have job titles! We were “Managers of Quite A Lot” and we did it fast and furious as we aimed to not only thrive as marketers, but also encourage the use of marketing as a means to increase demand (and down the road, consumption) of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Now, fifteen years later, so many business aspects that helped us launch back then are purely anecdotal and make for great happy hour stories of “the old days at DMA.”  Thinking back over the years, there have been absolute business challenges that were hard to overcome, that seemed like impossible barriers at the time. We now see how those business challenges have shaped us into the company we are today, and we are able to find gratitude in the journey and the opportunity to learn and sharpen our skillset to become better servants of this industry. Truly, these lessons we learned will keep us around for the next fifteen years—and beyond.

Take a walk down memory lane with us as we reflect on the challenges that have shaped the DMA team into who we are today.

Risky business: serving only the fresh produce industry

What we know now: You bet it’s been risky, and we’re not threatened by this reality any longer.  We’ve remained dedicated to fresh even when other businesses and opportunities have come knocking—because what we are NOT passionate about is increasing demand for soft drinks or tobacco. No, we’re in the business of increasing demand of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Period.

Because we dedicate our time and talent exclusively to fresh, we have become subject matter experts on the services that we provide, and as a result, we are able to provide an extremely high level of service, achieving measurable results for the companies that engage with us.

Giving away what we know for free

What we know now: We realized that if we were going to wait to sell our services to people in search of marketing solutions in this niche space, we might be waiting a while. To scale our own growth, and ultimately, increase demand for fresh produce, we decided to start by sharing and giving away what we know.  We are, after all, in the market of serving marketers on a budget, who often have little to no marketing support—and zero time to get it all done. 

It has been rewarding to understand that our choice to “share first”, beginning with the content and free resources that we share on our website and our blog, has been helpful to our fellow marketers in the fresh produce industry.  Over the course of a year, we publish approximately 150 blog posts and 8 educational or “how-to” eBooks that include marketing-related material specifically tailored for fresh produce professionals. Although we are a for-profit company, we are first and foremost a helpful resource for people seeking sound and actionable marketing direction in this space.

The inherent challenges that come along with serving a perishable food industry

What we know now: When Mother Nature is in charge, even the most well-laid marketing plans can easily end up in flux in the fresh produce space. From rapidly changing weather patterns and conditions to food recalls, we’ve been through it all, and we admit that these unforeseen events can be challenging for the professionals charged with navigating them. That’s part of why we are so dedicated to developing a family-oriented business culture for the people who choose to dedicate their careers to the future of fresh—because truthfully, we’ve learned that this work ain’t for the faint of heart, and it isn’t for everyone.

The consumer is in control

What we know now: From a digital marketing perspective, people are becoming increasingly vocal about their complaints, compliments and questions (note: these are categories that we consistently track) on social media and through company websites.  When they reach out to company or brand, they expect a timely response.  As the marketers on the front line of this engagement opportunity with consumers, our work as marketers never sleeps.  Successful team members at DMA appreciate the uniqueness of this industry and choose to “lean in” to its benefits versus focusing on the possibility of a tragedy.  That said, we also understand that we must always be at the ready, just in case.

Marketing dollars are earned

What we know now: We’ve never quite known of a produce company with a limitless budget, and we’ve learned how to serve companies with just about any budget in mind. Over the years, we’ve viewed this as a huge opportunity to start with a smaller spend and make a big impact. When this happens, history dictates that more money becomes available for the next project. This limitation has simply made our team stronger over the years, forcing us to be resourceful, thoughtful, smarter marketers.


Recruiting for this industry isn’t difficult, but finding the right fit for the industry is

What we know now: We are dedicated to finding and shaping the next generation of fresh produce industry talent.  While “fresh” is certainly attractive to the upcoming generations, the reality of career here requires a unique perspective and one that is most often rare.  Whether we are recruiting locally in our hometown of Dallas, TX, participating in industry-wide recruiting efforts or through the Almy family’s foundation at Texas A&M University (see Aggies for Fresh), identifying the people who will continue our work and mission to increase demand of fresh fruits and vegetables to tomorrow’s consumer is perhaps the most important work we will do in our career. At the end of the day, this is the legacy that we hope to build as an organization.

Along the way, we’ve slowly but surely adapted our business practices and mindsets to better serve the industry, our clients and our team.  As we look ahead, we see more opportunity for growth as we continue to recruit talent and educate our own industry professionals as well as consumers about the game-changing benefits fresh fruits and vegetables can bring to people and communities. It is an absolute pleasure to serve you, fresh produce. We look forward to many more years to come!