2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Jacob Serck

Age: 30

Sales and Buying
J.A.B. Produce
Chicago, IL

Hometown: Deerfield, IL
Hobbies: Hockey, Golf, Concerts, Traveling
Family/Community: Temple Beth-El, Tourettes Association of America board member, Rory David Deutsch Foundation board member, College Bound Opportunities, Jewish United Fund
Motto in life: Any day above ground is a good day, no matter what gets thrown your way! We can handle it head on and are properly prepared whether we realize it or not in the moment.

As a third generation family businessman, Serck grew up with the industry all around him. Serck began his career working at J.A.B. every summer during college. Upon graduation from Michigan State University in 2016, he came on full-time, starting at the bottom of the company. He spent his first two years learning the ins and outs of how the company operates on the floor level, picking orders, checking orders, unloading trucks and repacking boxes. In 2018, he was promoted to the buying and sales team and given an opportunity to learn how to do short buying for big chain stores. Serck spent the next year or so walking the Chicago terminal market, learning what to look for when determining the quality of a product and how to negotiate pricing by establishing his own relationships with each salesman he encountered. During this time, he received the honor of being a recipient of the Caplan Family Business Scholarship.

As he progressed from a short buyer to a salesman in 2019, he used his prior experiences, established effective relationships with customers and helped with sales for some of the company’s biggest customers. For the past three years, he has become a pivotal part of the sales team at J.A.B. He is in charge of purchasing products out of California, Arizona and Mexico and helps promote those products to customers. In 2022, Serck joined the IFPA Wholesaler and Distributor board where he is actively involved in trying to encourage growth and change within the industry.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I grew up getting dragged to work with my dad on Saturday mornings. I loved being a part of something my family had created. There was always a lot of action and it was such a high-paced environment. It was a dream of mine replicate what I spent years watching my dad do.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
I knew that I was going to have to make a name for myself independent of my father or great-grandfather. While our employees obviously knew I was the boss’s son, I knew I had to earn their respect on my own. I needed to put my head down and get to work, to show everyone that I wasn’t just waiting for the company to be handed to me. This came with many failures, but each failure led to more learning. I knew I had to prove to everyone else that I was up for the challenge and cared deeply about every aspect of our business.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
The most important concept I have learned is the idea of actively listening instead of talking. Our industry is so large, I’ve found that the best way to learn is to close your lips and open your ears to the world around you. There will be plenty of opportunities for questions later, but the more you start talking, the less you will hear and ultimately comprehend.

Q: How have the past years changed your life and your future outlook?
I feel we must always work on growing and adapting with the times, while not forgetting how we got here. It can be easy to only look ahead and leave the past behind us. But one idea that has always stuck with me, especially this last year, is that the only way forward is to learn from and continuously reflect on the past.