2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Shannon Mikulskis

Age: 32
Relationship and Project Lead, Produce Distribution
Chick-fil-A, Inc.
Atlanta, GA

Mikulskis has been serving in the produce and distribution industries for 15 years. She is known for her ability to look out for the best solutions for industry partners across the supply chain and focus on building cohesive and mutually beneficial partnerships. Her first six years at Chick-fil-A were spent in a restaurant in her hometown of Newnan, GA. After that, she began in a part-time position for the Chick-fil-A Inc. supply chain department, meeting with restaurant operators and discussing the benefits of a Managed Produce Program. She worked in sourcing and distribution, with most of her time spent in the distribution. She was eventually promoted to her current position of relationship and project lead in produce distribution. Her main function has been to build out Chick-fil-A’s Produce Program, setting the strategy and building relationships with its partners and distributors. Another impactful project within her scope is implementing end-to-end traceabilty. She has served on several produce industry committees including as the former chairman of the United Fresh Retail-Foodservice Board, and as a United Fresh Board of Directors Executive Committee Member.

Hobbies: Photography, Gardening, Keeping chickens

Personal/Community: Married, two children, Calvary Chapel Newnan Children’s Ministry Director, World Vision

Motto in life: “Trust your instincts, face reality, assume the good in people, and always care for each other and yourself.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I began as a temporary, part-time staff member since at the current time Supply Chain needed someone who could travel to all of Chick-fil-A’s Restaurant markets, meeting with our restaurant operators. My restaurant experience was crucial, along with a crash course in the produce industry.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Deciding where to plug in first! There is so much learning opportunity and people are so very willing to share and bring newcomers along, but it was a bit overwhelming at first. Additionally, learning how certain products’ growing seasons and regions vary was a lot of information to take in at one time.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
That’s an easy one – the adoption of traceability and an easier process for contingent/immigrant worker paperwork.

Q: What do you think the industry can do to promote more produce consumption?
I think we have to continue to make buying produce easy and affordable for consumers. The work United Fresh is doing to influence programs such as SNAP and WIC is amazing. I love what Kroger is doing to promote healthy food (produce) as a supplement or replace certain medications in certain situations, along with promoting clean ingredients and production / harvesting processes with its Simple Truth brand. Additionally, where restaurants can continue to pursue healthy options across their menus – including meals for kids – only promotes kids to ask for and make those choices when they are at school and at home.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew the produce industry was the best choice for you?
When I realized the “hustle” and the busyness of produce was actually really fun and exciting – not that I’m a fan of weather issues or shelf life challenges. I am always humbled by and grateful for the way the industry pulls together in these situations to serve everyone; direct competitors even work together. I also love the talent, knowledge, and history of the families in growing and distribution operations – especially those that are three, four, or even five generations in sometimes.