2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Jeffrey Weisman

Age: 34
Senior Vice President
The Ruby Company
Buffalo Grove, IL

Weisman left screenwriting in Los Angeles and entered the world of produce nearly 10 years ago. He started as an entry level sales rep and has worked his way up the ranks all while demonstrating outstanding leadership qualities. He has helped to build and maintain decade-long relationships by practicing fair, honest, and ethical business. He began by assisting one of the company’s previous owners in streamlining his book of business and process. Weisman was able to take those relationships and exponentially grow them through putting together new potato and onion contracts with great growing partners. Not long after, he began handling his own book of business including some of the largest customers in the company. By gradually taking on more responsibility and embodying a whatever-it-takes mentality to grow the supplier as well as customer base, he soon advanced into the head of onion sales and contracting for Ruby Robinson and Produce Alliance. He remains at the helm of this category.

When Ruby Robinson and Produce Alliance split, Weisman was able to take an equity stance in Ruby Robinson and the title of senior vice president. He remains very active in both the procurement and sales roles, but has also taken on a business development and sales training role for new hires as well. Under his direction, the company has turned its focus to new ventures within the company – including logistics, private label branding, and growing and maintaining the company’s core values.

Hobbies: Running, Weightlifting, Cooking, Craft Beer, Podcasts

Personal/Community: Married; three Children; support for Epilepsy Foundation

Motto in life: “You create your own luck through hard work.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
My best friend, and our company president, David Cohen, exposed me to the industry. He and I have always been business partners dating back to selling baseball cards, Beanie Babies, and CDs and ultimately pagers and cell phones in the mall. We have always worked well together, and fed off of each other’s energy. I knew I wanted to make a difference in an industry, and produce was the perfect intersection between old school face to face business relationships and the new school of using technology to leverage data.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
I would like to see service and quality supersede price more than they currently do. We all know the importance of controlling cost of goods. However, trusting a track record of performance and reliability will be a less expensive option than making decisions strictly on price alone.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew the produce industry was the best choice for you?
The moment I knew the industry was the best choice for me was when I visited some of our onion and potato growers in Idaho. I saw how hard our growers worked to support their families and the tremendous sacrifice they would make to do it.

Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of a career in the produce industry today?
Differentiation. Nobody wants to be the low price leader on a consistent basis. Convincing customers to treat products and brands we sell as more product based rather than as straight commodities is a challenge. We try to make that difference up in our commitment to elite service and marketing. We differentiate ourselves by being available 24/7 and taking care of inevitable issues that will arise.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
With the current COVID-19 crisis going on, I think we are going to see diversification and food safety as the two most important issues.