2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Caite Rought

Age: 34

Director, Business Development
Sandpoint, ID

Hometown: Stilwell, KS
Hobbies: Travel, Hiking, Fishing, Cheering on the Kansas Jayhawks and Buffalo Bills
Family/Personal/Community: Married, One daughter and a baby boy on the way.
Motto in life: The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.

Rought joined Litehouse in 2017 as a business manager, focused on project management and P&L oversight for several key value-added accounts. She quickly earned a reputation for successfully launching projects from the ground up, often spearheading programs for new category customers and strategic initiatives. Her contributions lead to 20% year-over-year sales growth within her division in 2017, 2018 and 2019, consecutively. In Winter 2021, Rought was promoted to her current position as director of business development for the value-added and away-from-home division. Rought has played a pivotal role in creating a refreshed strategy to strengthen current partnerships, mitigate supply chain constraints, and seek new industry ventures.

Her team is responsible for the launch of 100+ projects per year. She is involved in numerous continuous improvement initiatives, which serve to enhance Litehouse’s process for new product launches, along with creating a pathway for industry innovation. Rought is not afraid to challenge the status quo, often working together with cross-functional teams to collaborate on solutions that positively impact the entire organization and, in turn, Litehouse’s valued customers.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I began my career in the world of tech and apparel start-ups, and, while I found that work exciting, it was not entirely fulfilling to me. I wanted to join a company that was built upon a rock-solid foundation of values. I found a perfect fit with Litehouse. In a broader sense, brands within the produce industry are built upon reputations that are earned. To me, it is extremely motivating to work within an industry where “doing the right thing” and adhering to company values is recognized and rewarded.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?
I was intimidated by the prospect of managing people — and a large reason is that I didn’t understand that the fundamentals of successful leadership are actually quite simple: trust and communication. I have seen a multitude of different leadership styles, and I’ve also been privileged to have fantastic mentors along the way. If you are in a leadership position, it is crucial to meet people where they are and work continuously to build trust and open communication.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
I was surprised by how many stakeholders participate in the development and launch of a product — and just how critical it was to ensure thorough communication throughout the development process. Building relationships is key — along with prudent follow-up, clarity in communication and, most importantly, follow through. Do what you say you are going to do!

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Be coachable and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t need to know it all — you just have to be humble and willing to learn.

Q: What do you see as the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
Sustainability will be at the forefront of challenges that shape our industry for the next decade and well beyond. Consumers are getting educated on sustainable practices in procurement and manufacturing, and soon it will be an industry expectation because consumers will expect no less.