Week 11 Blog Post for TMK Produce

This week I am wrapping up my internship and will have completed the 400 hours necessary for ABM 493. I have developed a relationship with this organization that could last a lifetime and I know I am going to miss this place. I am  exploring the possibility of taking on a part time job here for the remainder of the summer. TMK’s CEO has already notified me that they have great interest in keeping me here but in the short term, if I could finish the summer off part time that would be very much appreciated.

Like in recent weeks, this week consists of mainly tours, school work, and finishing my creation of a directory for the next intern. The directory will have contact information of roadside stand/farmers markets, and advice on how to approach the project. The directory will be organized by Counties all across New Jersey and list ones I have visited with information attaining to what I got out of each visit. There will also be an appendix with the questionnaires I created to give a starting point for the next intern.

The main goal of the next intern is to visit as many of these markets as possible and eventually acquire new business along the way. TMK would like to separate ourselves from other vendors and actually be able to say we are in the field communicating and working with our customers and partners to get a feel for what the future looks like. It will also be valuable experience for the intern to meet these store owners and see how the stores are set up, what they sell, and what opportunities can be taken advantage of. The objective is not just to acquire a customer, but to help both parties become more aware of each other and its surroundings in a quickly changing industry. Having any kind of competitive advantage in today’s food industry will increase the likelihood for success, and that’s what we want to focus this project on.

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Week 10 at TMK

As noted in past blogs, recently I have been taking charge for the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market in giving tours to groups and individuals of interest and introducing them to the suppliers in the market. Week ten’s mission was to communicate and coordinate a tour for visitors from Citizens Diplomacy International, a Philly based group who connects international business people from all over the world to relevant businesses in the Philly area.

A CDI representative, Larry, was who I was communicating with to set up the content and logistics behind giving this tour. The visitors were a group of Chinese Delegates from the Hubei Province, located in Central China. Hubei Province is one of the largest agricultural producers and investors in China and is located along major water ways. They are known for trying to modernize the local economy and use relevant methods of modern agricultural techniques to help improve efficiency and quality of agriculture in the region. They came to the Market to learn more about our supply chain and movement of product, as well as learning about food safety requirements for the facility, as well as for local docks.

I started by handing them new USDA issued guidelines on food safety requirements for all docks and importing businesses in the region. I believed this form would provide the

CDI Chinese Delegates and Me.

guests with insight into the hard work and keen thought given to ensure the safety of all commodities that make their was through the docks and this facility. I showed them around the TMK quality control area and spent a lot of time explaining the movement of the product from farm, to dock, to the market, and lastly to the consumer. They brought along a translator because none of these delegates spoke English. After showing them QC, I took them around the market and introduced them to vendors while showing them all of the high quality produce along the way.

We wrapped up the tour after about 45 minutes and before they left the surprised me with a very gracious present. It was a piece of China, a very high quality piece with a gold plated center.

Mikes gift plate

They also invited me to come to China and learn more about businesses in their region (I may take them up on this offer). Overall I was surprised on how well the tour went as I felt that I was able to communicate all the necessary information to the group with no problem between me and the translator. It was crazy how people from opposite sides of the world could have so much in common, including economic views, political views, as well  as thoughts on improving the agricultural industry. I am extremely thankful to be given this responsibility by the Market, and am looking forward to giving more tours in the future.

My Week 9 Blog at TMK

The past few weeks I have been given the opportunity to give a handful of tours to customers. partners, and suppliers of TMK and the PWPM. Every tour has been different but one thing that connects them is the reactions on the visitors faces when they walk around and hear about the facility. Many of them are shocked at the sheer size of the facility and most are mind-boggled a place like this even exist in this area and that they have never heard about it. Even if you are not a produce connoisseur this is an amazing facility to come and see from a safety and logistical perspective. Even the layout of how rooms are set up plays a part in making it more convenient for employees to navigate around the warehouse most efficiently. Right when you walk in you can tell a lot of thought went into the architecture of the facility before creating it, and that is something to be appreciated.

The pic below shows the overall PWPM facility and this link is an interactive map that gives you a better appreciation for what is in this facility:   http://www.pwpm.net/merchants/map/

Currently, my boss Tom has put me in charge of creating a directory for roadside farm markets I have visited or ones that would be worth looking into in the future. One reason this experience has been invaluable is because I have changed a companies mindset moving forward and started a trend that will carry on for years to come. Before I showed up, neither TMK nor the PWPM have had any kind of intern. CEO’s and GM’s of both entities have expressed to me their desire in continuing an internship program in the future. This is the feeling I was hoping to get when I applied for this job and so far I have fulfilled that feeling. That being said, future interns will have the responsibility of continuing the Roadside Farm Stand Marketing Project I have started and expand upon it.

These were students from a local culinary school who I took on a tour and they all said they have no doubt they’ll be back in the future to satisfy their produce needs.  I hope future interns here support tour visitors and enjoy spreading the word about this great facility as much as I did.

With the little experience I have in the industry I was not able to reach my outstretched goal of getting TMK a new, large customer because I thought learning other tasks were more important than giving 100% of my time to this project. I am still working on this project and I am determine to get TMK some new business of any sort, but I am happy with my decision to put the project off for a while and leave it for another intern to fully succeed with. The knowledge I have gained in place of completing this project has exceeded the importance of what I had anticipated and I do not regret my decision at all.

The directory I am creating will act as a primary resource for the next intern and will contain contact information, names, locations, and side notes (words of advice too) to help instruct this fellow employee to complete the mission. I envision the directory being a guide you can always turn to for answering questions and leading you into new ideas about how to achieve each goal. The directory will also be added to and will be a a reference.

My week 8 blog from TMK

One of the more interesting things I did in my internship this week was give a tour of the PWPM facility to several Campbell’s Soup procurement managers. They were researching sources for ingredients of a new product being developed, a premium soup with healthier ingredients and one for which they can advertise points of being local and fresh.

WellYes3_Embedded

I have always had a desire to work at Campbell’s since they are so well known in the food industry, and their headquarters in Camden NJ is across the river from my home in Philadelphia. I am attracted to the responsibilities of a procurement manager because instead of just knowing a lot about one specific skill you have to be able to assimilate all sorts of information and communicate it to your managers so they can act on it in the best interests of the company.

Another interesting experience this past week was my participation in a meeting with the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, aka PhilaPort. Our meeting with them was to see if PWPM can join our marketing efforts with theirs due to the fact that they own the property the market sits on and one of PhilaPort’s missions is to promote local businesses that bring activity to the Philadelphia port facilities. While PWPM has a relatively modest marketing budget, PhilaPort seems well funded to help companies who operate in their properties. Everyone seemed to agree that we should all work together for our mutual benefit.

I have also been preparing for and looking forward to giving a tour to a high level food industry delegation from China next week. They are interested in warehousing logistics and advanced food safety practices, and those are areas in which PWPM is very advanced. This is the first time I am giving a tour on my own, and I believe that what I have learned about PWPM will allow me to effectively communicate this information, although this time it will be through a Chinese interpreter since the delegation is not very fluent in the English language.

My Week 7 Blog at TMK

For the past week and a half I have been sitting in on some important meetings with the Philly Wholesale Produce Market’s marketing team coming up with ways we can strategically advertise the facility without spending additional capital. The budget for the facility’s marketing efforts is limited so any ways we can come up with to inexpensively spread brand awareness and get our offerings out there is open for discussion.
The New York Produce Show is coming up in December and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for PWPM to incorporate some new marketing ideas into our display booth. Usually, our booth consists of a seating area for meetings, a large fruit display of all the prettiest and best tasting fruit, a laptop with looping videos of the market on the screen, and volunteers who love to chat about the industry. My boss Tom and I thought it would be a good idea to switch things up and instead of appealing to just produce connoisseurs, we should try to appeal to the marketers and media personnel at the show, as they make up about 30% of the people actually attending the show. These media specialist are looking for the booths of vendors who stand out the most, and with the most unique offerings in order for them to write a compelling story for their viewers. Tom and I came up with the idea of using virtual video display goggles to present the inside of the market to those interested. These goggles are cheap to rent; and a very new and unique kind of technology, perfect for not just the produce experts but the media experts as well. We figure that the goggles will display a 1:00-2:00 minute video of the entire market, from entry point to exit, making it feel like you are actually driving around the market (via golf cart). When riding around you will not just see the fruit but you will experience the traffic of the market with forklifts crossing your path, giving the viewer a more suspense filled experience leaving them hungry for more.
During one of the meetings we all came to an agreement that this idea aligns with the market quite well. Due to us being the only fully enclosed and fully refrigerated produce distribution center of such size in the country, it is fitting that we embrace and use new kinds of technology and try to influence some of our competitors to do the same. For now we will take advantage of what makes us stand out from the rest and use that to bring PWPM the most attention possible. This is just one example of what we have come up with to spread awareness of the market locally, nationally, and internationally, and we will continue to do more of the same in the near future.

My Week 6 Blog at TMK

This week has been busier than usual due to the fact that July 4th weekend is coming and it is one of the largest fruit holidays of the entire year. Fruit like watermelons, berries, apples, pineapple, and many others are at the top of the list for many customers, as they need to make sure that their customers get everything they need to satisfy their events.

Something new that I began this week was assisting PWPM Marketing Coordinator Christine Hofmann in giving tours of the facility to interested groups and individuals. The way this process works is you call the main office or sign up online and request a date and time for the tour, and Christine sets it up, notifies vendors, and prepares handouts for the tours. This week a group from JNA Institute of Culinary Arts in Philadelphia came in to learn more about where future chefs like them might source their foods, and how this operation as a whole works.  Here are some of the students examining our produce samples.  They were very interested and asked lots of questions.

I have never given a tour so I was a bit nervous but as I eased into the conversations and noticed my great ability to answer the students’ questions, I realized how much I have been learning. They were most curious about the volume of produce PWPM takes in on a daily basis and how an operation of this scale works so effectively. It was a beautiful thing to see people who enjoy produce as much as I do appreciate the logistical art that goes on behind the scenes here.  After showing them up and down the market they were able to stop and try any produce items they’d like to. We stopped at John Vena, Inc. for about 25 minutes because they were so interested with his unique tropical fruit selection and his one of a kind organic selections. We tried produce that I have never seen before and frankly cannot remember the names of most, but we all tried raw jack fruit for the first time which everyone thought was a good experience.

Photo below is a couple of new customers, Sang and Bing, looking at pineapples at TMK.  That’s Mike Watson of TMK in the back, me in the middle, and Mr. TMK Tom M. Kovacevich on the right.

I believe that doing things like giving tours really allows me to be in my comfort zone because I love talking to people, especially those who can converse on the topic as well as I can. Over the past week, Christine and I have been organizing ways to set up larger and more meaningful tours for Colleges and Universities and soon we will start a program focused on recruiting interns at local Universities and large agricultural schools. I feel some personal satisfaction from this because I am the first intern PWPM has ever hired. I hope I at least leave them with an appreciation for how an intern can not only help develop their businesses, but also how supporting interns will build a better future for new talent entering this field. I am extremely thankful that TMK and Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market blessed me with this great opportunity and that I am able to have a significant impact so early in my career.

My 5th week blog from TMK

This week and the next couple weeks I am continuing to work on my marketing project that I described previously. During the last couple of weeks I had been surveying existing customers, but this week I started to work on potential new customers. Two markets I worked with are Delicious Orchards and Red Top Market, both in New Jersey and not current TMK customers.

Delicious Orchards front blog week 5

Red Top Market blog week 5

With these farm market and roadside stand owners, I learned that I had to take a more conservative approach when first trying to break the ice. I designed my survey so the wording was not too aggressive by first emphasizing that I wasn’t trying to persuade them to buy from us. Rather, I asked them to consider if they feel that they are maximizing their current opportunities with their present suppliers. Their responses showed that these markets put the greatest emphasis on high quality produce, and less so on price. What I also observed in these markets is that most of them were carrying lower grade produce than TMK could supply them with.

Next, I asked them if they have ever been down to the PWPM or if they currently buy off of a vendor within the market. If they answered yes, then I kindly urged them to stop by TMK next time they are there and check out our selection of produce. If they answered no, I invited them into TMK at any time of their convenience and gave them a free entry pass and brochure of the market showing what gives us a competitive advantage over everyone else.

Many of these owners answered that they have not been down to the PWPM in years, and some not ever. Red Top Farms owner, Mary, said that she has not been down to the market in over 6 years. When she opened the brochure I saw her eyes light up as she began to blush and said “this looks nothing like the market I remember.” I told her that a new facility got built and opened in June 2011 and that it is fully enclosed and refrigerated.  Here’s a photo down the main hallway of PWPM showing the impressive facility:

PWPM for blog 5

Redtop currently buys from one of TMK’s main competitors and she said that he does “everything” for her including the buying, storing, and transporting of the produce. Her relationship with him dates back more than 30 years so I did not want to be too pushy when telling her that her produce was not worth what she was buying it for. My goal was to get her to come into the market because if she did, there was no way to avoid going into TMK due to it being located near multiple entry points and also carrying the largest variety of fruit in the market. Once she saw our offerings she would surely realize the opportunities she has been missing out on.

TMK for blog 5

The main thing I have learned during the early stages of this project is that the roadside stands and farm market owners are too content with their current situation. If they took the initiative to reach out to new suppliers or make the drive down to the PWPM they would surely realize the great opportunities they are missing out on. Some goals of this project are for me to learn about customer behavior and for me to engage with current and potential customers, but if I could acquire a new customer along the way that would surely boost my value and meaningfulness to TMK. If Redtop and other farms are unresponsive then I will make my way back there with a more aggressive mindset and a carload of free samples to help sway their minds.

The 4th week of my internship at TMK

During this week of my internship at TMK, I started working on my market research project. The purpose of this project is to visit existing roadside stands and farm market customers in the general geographic area around Philadelphia, and survey them with a list of questions that I composed. The questions probe the customer’s satisfaction with TMK produce and customer service, and also explore the customer’s buying and selling habits, as well as the buying habits of the farm markets’ customers. This will help TMK get a better understanding of current and new market trends. The survey also invites the customers to visit the Philadelphia Wholesale Product Market so they can better appreciate what the Market can offer and how that can help these markets to expand their product offerings and build their businesses. While they are at PWPM these farm market customers will also see the TMK operation and learn how it is the largest, most significant produce distributor at PWPM. With TMK’s vast range of high quality fruit and vegetable produce, we believe that seeing what we offer will help build our business with these existing customers.

Another part of this project is to visit roadside produce stands and farm markets that are not current customers. One of the main questions I ask is if they have ever visited PWPM. I encourage them to visit by giving them a free entry pass so they can see the great variety of produce offered by PWPM and TMK. Other questions in the survey explore their satisfaction with their current product offerings; if they have interest in expanding the types of produce they offer; if they are satisfied with their current suppliers; or would like to add TMK or one of the other PWPM companies to their preferred supplier list.

The first area that I visited was in central and south New Jersey. One of the typical TMK customers that I visited was Grasso Girls Farm Market in Mullica Hill, NJ. This is a family operation that has been in business since 1924. Over the years they expanded their offerings from just the small amounts of produce they grew on their farm, and added produce from other distributors, as well as other products that would be attractive to their customers.

Another business I visited was Russo’s Fruit and Vegetable Farm in Tabernacle, New Jersey. Russo also has an operation at the Trenton Farmers’ Market. Fresh, homemade pies, cakes, and various fruit juices are other popular products also offered by this market.

In the next couple of weeks I will continue to visit existing customers, and also start to visit some potential new customers. So far I am finding this project to be very rewarding, not only because it can help TMK and PWPM to expand their business, but also because the places I am visiting and people I am interviewing are potential contacts that I can use in the future.

My 3rd week at TMK internship

One of the more interesting experiences I had this week was participating in a marketing meeting. In addition to me and my boss Tom from TMK, the meeting included the wholesale produce market’s general manager, Dan Kane, and the director of marketing, Christine Hofmann, as well as representatives from several other companies who operate in the market. Topics included a new billboard advertising campaign with Clear Channel Outdoor Advertising and the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market’s participation in a large produce market convention in New York City later this year. Clear Channel Outdoor presented several billboard designs that were discussed at the meeting and we developed feedback to work toward a finalized billboard design as well as an expanded advertising campaign. For the NYC tradeshow, we discussed the design and content of a new video presentation that would best highlight the PWPM’s benefits to customers.  For example, here is an existing TMK ad:

Another interesting and challenging project that I started this week was a plan to visit many local roadside produce stands and farm markets. The goal of this project is to measure the level of satisfaction these customers have with us as suppliers. I am now doing some research to identify new and existing customers and what questions to ask that will help us better serve them and possibly expand our business.

Week 2 at TMK

Over the past week, my work at TMK has continued to expand into new areas and I was able to get more involved in important business activities. I had several interesting experiences that I think are also great learning experiences. My boss, Tom Kovacevich, asked me to accompany him on a visit to Long Island, NY to meet with a company called William H. Kopke, Jr., Inc. This company is a major importer and exporter of produce and has been in the business for over 70 years importing the finest fruits and vegetables from around the world and distributing throughout the U.S. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce a Chinese distributor of chestnuts and apples to Mr. Kopke to help expand the Chinese company’s contacts in the United States. Mr. Kovacevich was already a good customer and was able to connect the two business men. One of the important lessons I learned was how important it is in this business to network with your contacts. Another valuable observation I made was how important a company’s or person’s good business reputation is for growing the business. Because TMK and Tom Kovacevich have such an outstanding reputation, even new contacts and businesses have a deep trust that facilitates business agreements with less concern about being taken advantage of or making a bad deal.

Back at TMK, I was able to discuss work-related issues with my fellow employees to get their experienced comments. In this produce business it is important to keep in perspective that we are selling perishable products that must be properly cared for and sold while still in optimum condition. In some cases it is better to sell remaining inventory of a fruit or vegetable at lower price to make sure it does not degrade to an undesirable level. It is a fine balancing act to know how high to start the selling price for a top quality product and when and how much to lower it, and to what customers, in order to meet shelf life limitations while still satisfying the customer’s needs.

I’m glad that my responsibilities at TMK are really starting to pick up and I am being put into roles that show a growing trust and interest in my input.