Cheyenne Barcelona

Manager, Strategic Services
CH Robinson/Robinson Fresh: Eden Prairie, MN

Years in Produce:

Age: 40

Personal Information:

Married; Two boys

Hobbies: Horseback riding; camping; active in local 4-H club; competes in ranch sorting and team penning year round; volunteers with Sweet Nectar Society.

Motto in life: If we can’t do it today, we will find a way to do it tomorrow.

Work History: Barcelona started at CH Robinson (CHR) as an intern in 1999, working on supporting national foodservice accounts. After finishing college and working briefly for Dole and Sunkist, she returned to CHR in a role supporting the accounting functions of its import business. Finding enjoyment in interacting with customers, she took on a role as an account manager with several national foodservice accounts where she was able to grow business and expand her role into managing all of the sourcing accounts as the produce manager for the Visalia branch. When the company merged with FoodSource, she took on the role of strategic account manager working with many national foodservice accounts. As the region expanded, she accepted the role of manager of the company’s foodservice division for the West. During this time, she led account teams that received multiple customer recognition awards including Vendor of the Year, Outstanding Customer Service and Groundbreaker Award.

Questions & Answers:

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

Good news travels fast, bad news faster. I was so focused on customer service early in my career that I tried not to share issues that were happening. In produce especially, there is so much that is out of your control, growing conditions, yields, market swings, weather events. We work in an industry where it is common to have an “Act of God” clause in a contract. I’m fairly certain the folks at Google or Amazon don’t run in to that language often. Showing a customer how you helped them out of an issue, sharing it and utilizing all of your resources is far more impactful than fixing the problem behind the scenes.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?

I would love to see the industry solve the challenges on traceability. I’m passionate about this topic and how it will shape the public’s consumption rates and attitude toward produce during times of outbreaks or recalls. There has been a tremendous investment on the supply side in technology and infrastructure to support this but we have not seen that same level of investment or commitment to supporting traceability further in the supply chain. As a result, grower/shippers often are unfairly punished when an outbreak occurs. We’ve seen customers pull all lettuce items from a menu when it’s been isolated down to the lot level when potential product has been affected. Restaurants throw out everything, it’s the equivalent of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew produce was the industry for you?

My first year of college, I was invited to attend a ceremony where Karen Caplan from Frieda’s was recognized alongside Debbie Allen (the actress/choreographer who is best known as a teacher in the TV series Fame) as a successful Woman in Business in the LA Area. I remember watching Fame and seeing Debbie Allen wield that cane and tell her students “to dream big — that if you want fame it costs you and right here is where you start paying.” I then heard Karen talk about her mom and the big dream she had to bring something to the States that was different. She talked about what it feels like to be the underdog, to be different than your peers but not to let it stop you.

To see the level of passion that Karen exhibited rival that of Debbie Allen and to see her command the stage, talk about kiwi, draw me into the story, and be inspired by it, is when I knew produce was the best choice for me.