Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
United Fresh Produce Association: Washington, DC
Years in Produce:
Married; Step-mom to 3 boys
Hobbies: Cooking; sports and watching Jeopardy with family; Little League event planning committee
Motto in life: Stay Sharp
Work History: Though Coppola only has three years in the industry, she has made a career by leveraging her creative education to serve as a unique association leader. As a trained graphic designer, she holds both a BFA and MFA in graphic design. After a number of years with her own design business, she relocated to the DC Metro area in 2008 in search of career stability. She took a job as the manager of creative services for a trade association in pharmaceutical distribution. After six years, she moved to United Fresh where she has since built a highly effective marketing and communications department. She founded BrandStorm as a stand-alone, must attend event for the produce marketing community, growing the event from 130 to 240 attendees in just two years. She is the liaison between the Produce Marketing and Merchandising Council and the United Fresh Start Foundation in leading a small group of marketers who will be advocating on behalf of the Foundation brand. She reenergized United Fresh’s marketing efforts to allow more industry professionals to participate in career and business advancement opportunities. She launched United’s Instagram, grew its Facebook community from 1,800 to more than 3,500 in two years, grew its LinkedIn company page, and grew its Twitter from 4,000 to more than 8,500 followers.
Questions & Answers:
Q: How did you begin working in produce?
After my first trade association experience, I learned I wanted to work for an industry with whose mission I felt strongly connected. Healthy eating has always fit well into my lifestyle and United Fresh is as good as it gets. It was a former coworker who found the job description and brought it to me stating, “Mary, this is exactly where you need to be.”
Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?
I love the term “cusper” because it insinuates that I don’t have to be one generation or the other.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your career?
I wish I knew that looking back can be just as satisfying as looking forward. We often stay so laser focused on what’s ahead and getting to the next carrot, that we forget to look back at all we’ve accomplished.
Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your career?
BrandStorm is one of my most pride-filled accomplishments. Looking back to year one, we developed a successful event from start to conclusion in less than four months, and it was still my first year in my new job. The relationships I’ve developed through my staff liaison role for United Fresh’s Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council and now three years of developing BrandStorm have had the most impact on developing a position for myself within the industry.
Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Shake hands. Start getting to know everyone. This is one of the most friendly and open industries I’ve ever experienced. The sooner you start developing relationships, the faster you will be able to find success.
Q: What was the “aha” moment when you knew produce was the industry for you?
After my first couple of months with little member interaction, participating in my first Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council meeting was like stepping onto the field in uniform — I was surrounded by peers who were as knowledgeable or more knowledgeable than me in marketing and certainly outpaced my industry experience by a collective century plus of service. It was the first time I felt I had found my stride.