2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Chayla Balko

Director of Sales and Business Development
Revol Greens
Austin, TX

Age: 39
Hometown: Tucson, AZ
Hobbies: Volunteering with her rescue dog, Hiking, Reading, Documentaries
Family/Community: Single
Motto in life: Leave it better than you found it.

In 2011, Balko started her produce career with Oppy’s Chicago office, as a business development representative. A year later, she transitioned to the company’s Delaware office to manage both the Northeast and Midwest regions. During that time, she worked on the relaunch of Sungold kiwi in the U.S. and the U.S. launch of Envy apples, in addition to doubling sales with the company’s British Columbia pepper program in the Northeast.

In 2015, she moved to Golden Sun Marketing (GSM), as business development manager. She introduced clients to new retail and wholesale opportunities, and also led projects, such as the launch of the Titan Farms frozen processing facility. After four years at GSM, she spent a year at Apeel Sciences leading new business development. In 2020, she joined Revol Greens in her current position and began to build a customer base for new markets, principally California and Texas.

Over the past four years at Revol Greens, she has successfully managed a challenging role as director. She has played a key part in driving a fivefold increase in output and in navigating the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA).

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I was working with a seafood distributor in Chicago in 2008, when I was laid off after the market crashed. I was terrified — I was 25, had barely enough money to cover the next month’s rent and still wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, so to speak. I saw a posting for a role with Oppy as a business development manager and thought it sounded fun. I knew right away it was for me. Most of us say you know pretty quickly whether or not produce is for you. I never doubted it.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

A good friend shared this piece of advice a few years ago: Ask yourself this, “Does this need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said by me now?” I find this applies to quite a lot of situations in life. It’s saved me many times; I definitely could have benefited from this earlier in my career.

Q: What is the one thing in your business you are most passionate about?

The people, and the passion we all have for what we do. It’s a very challenging industry, different from so many others in that we get everything right, and Mother Nature can still throw you a curveball.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

Branch out and try something new. Most of us don’t eat enough produce, especially vegetables.

Q: What are some ways we can increase produce consumption at the point of sale?

Continuing to educate consumers is key. Share sustainability metrics, growing practices, flavor profiles. Cross-merchandising can be important: I was in a New Seasons a couple of weeks ago and they had all the ingredients for an entire meal together in a beautiful display. I thought, “if I were home, this would solve dinner for me.”

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

It’s hard to pick one project or program. I would say pushing through some of the “failures,” getting back up, learning from it, and getting the desired result elsewhere based on that determination and the learnings from the things that didn’t work.