This year marks the first anniversary of operation of Terra Fresh Foods. As it so happens, the greatest stories are often told by a third party in order to appreciate the true value of their protagonists. This is the case.
Terra Fresh Foods was born out of courage, hope and the vision of one person, Maria Alejandra. Mari, as she is known by her associates, has spent her professional life linked to the foreign food trade, particularly to fruits and vegetables. As is often the case, starting from the bottom and growing slowly was what made Mari become recognized for her work, as well as her kindness. Furthermore, her interest in traveling and experiencing other cultures has led her to become more approachable, open, and able to empathize with others.
-How did your professional life begin in the sector?
I started in a family company that is now devoted to the production of fruit wines. I began working in the industry at 17 years old to pay for my university studies while I was studying. Having the example of my mother and my aunt as entrepreneurs, they had set the bar so high, where there had only been room for a job well done. I learned a lot from them and the best of both of them stayed with me. However, the person who inspired me the most in my professional career was my grandfather. He was a very hardworking and demanding man who believed so much in me that to him, nothing was impossible for me to achieve.
I have always been near tropical and exotic fruits because I lived in Colombia and south of the United States. I remember as a child, in my school lunchbox, there was always blackberry juice and a passion fruit or a tangerine. Also, in Colombia (where I was born) it is very common that breakfast, lunch and dinner come accompanied with fruit juice. Later on life, after having lived in the United States and Spain, I learned that what is common for some may be completely unknown to others. Variations of consumption from country to country, depending on their culture, is what inspired me to show a small slice of the world through fruits and vegetables in each country where we work.
Due to her enthusiasm and determination, Mari’s personal and professional development continues to grow. She has been able to get companies with which she has worked to improve their performance due to the amount of involvement and knowledge they have of their customers and the market. Even if this includes becoming both participant and creator, together with other colleagues, in a company that promised high expectations, possibilities, and a lot of hope.
When we hear big business schools or big gurus speaking about leadership, at this point in time we can think of Mari. She is someone who leads by example, work, achieving goals, believing in people and, above all, has the great ability to convey kindness, sincerity, and trust in others.
And then, in this situation, Mari finds herself one day with something unexpected, something that no one would have seen coming: she gets fired from her own company. A company that she watched begin, grow, and succeed. Overnight her life takes an unexpected turn, a complicated change. But if there is anything that leaders have, it is their ability to adapt to hostile environments, to overcome and to prove to those who have broken their trust wrong.
-How was it in those moments leaving the company?
It was a surprising moment that had changed all of the plans that I had. I was in another country, on another continent, without work. What worried me was having to leave Seville, a place where I love to live. It was clear where and how I wanted to be, but knew it was not going to be easy to get. On the one hand, Spain was going through one of the largest economic crisis and the most devastating unemployment rates. On the other hand, emotionally, I was disappointed after helping build a company from scratch, and in the blink of an eye go from having something of yours to having nothing at all. What was also uncertain was how the customers and suppliers would react. I kept pessimism in my pocket, and understood that results would have to depend on my efforts to get them. Without expecting anything from anyone I started working on the idea of starting my own company. To my surprise, I received so much support from colleagues, suppliers and customers, all with whom I have shared many years. I will always be infinitely grateful to them and especially to my family and friends for encouraging me.
It certainly was a difficult time then, but I eventually realized that everyone has to live their life their way. I can not demand that the priorities in my life be the same for others and vice versa. Apart from being a partner, or being in charge of a sales department of a company, I have to be in charge of the most important project for me: my life. Many times we need to sway a bit, we stagger, we are taken out of our comfort zone and we have no choice but to fight for what we want. After all, everything is impossible until it is done.
What was seen as a problem, Mari saw as a great opportunity. It is during these difficult times, when pride and common sense must shine brightest, and as a result, Terra Fresh Foods was born almost a year ago, as a different kind of company.
Terra Fresh Foods is more than a foreign trade company specialized in fruit and vegetable specialties. It is a company characterized by solidarity, commitment, and believing in its team with an open, flexible, and multicultural business model. Anyone who knows its founder will know Terra because her soul is the essence of the company.
-What parts of you do you think Terra has? How do you see Terra in 5 years?
Terra has every part of me. It is a different company. A company with a lot of heart that is guided by the needs and opportunities that arise in the environment in which it operates. It is a multi-cultural company. I am lucky to work with people I admire and respect very much as people and professionals. We are a company with a lot of passion for what we do. We work hard, but we enjoy the moment. Terra holds my dream and my desire to make it happen, but the rest has a little of everyone who works in the company. Terra is not only me. Terra is us all.
In five years I hope to continue working with the team of people with whom I work with now and still enjoy our job. I hope to have many projects, new challenges, a strong foundation, and be able to inspire the world with our work.
Equally important to the company is its social work: “Hands of Terra” is an ambitious cooperation project for spreading the most supportive and participatory values, trying to do its part to improve this unjust society.
As you can see, the whole venture comes from an origin, a seed that turned into a whole story born from the heart.
You can learn more about Terra and its evolution on the web at www.terrafreshfoods.com