Woman-Owned Business Spotlight with Desiree Pardo Morales
Desiree Pardo Morales is a food innovation executive with a background in tropical produce sourcing, partner alignments, channel marketing, and e-commerce in the U.S. grocery retail and food service industry. Traveling the country, she observed the opportunity for on-demand access to fresh tropical and exotic fruits that were not easily found locally. Desiree founded Tropical Fruit Box at a time when many were staying closer to home, bringing tropical and exotic fruits from all over the world right to customers’ doors.
During this week’s Woman-Owned Spotlight, Desiree shares her formula for empowerment and how she’s making tropical fruit more accessible for everyone.
Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.
Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to share my story! Before becoming an entrepreneur and launching Tropical Fruit Box, I worked in the agriculture industry (and produce trade specifically) since I can remember. I was exposed to the agriculture industry at a very young age because my family has been sourcing tropical and exotic produce for the U.S. grocery retail and food service industry nationwide since 1982. My father started the business, WP Produce, after immigrating to the U.S. from Cuba.
I spent my summers at the office working in the warehouse and traveling with my father to the multigenerational family farms from which we source the produce still today. Fast forward to my college years, after graduating from University of Miami, I went on to complete my International MBA through Florida International University at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Growing up around produce all my life, including our own family kitchen filled with tropical avocados, mangoes and more, it was a natural progression to continue working and growing the family business.
Today, I am involved in all aspects of both grocery retail and food service, refining strong and consistent partnerships with growers, farmers, and customers. As V.P. of WP Produce, it’s important to me to further my dad’s dream and have led the expansion of our Desbry® branded produce, overall product line diversity including the new organic line, pricing structure, and channel marketing innovation. It was very exciting when one day, I led the company to its first national distribution retail account, but I still felt there was more to be done.
How do you cultivate confidence?
Knowledge is key. We can’t stop learning because there is always more to know. Personally, this helps create confidence in my profession and in my personal life too. So, I make sure I’m always cultivating my knowledge, which yes can be from traditional books, but also experiencing everything around you as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be trips around the world, you can always learn from your immediate environment too, those around you, and for me includes my three children and how they experience the world in its simplicity.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
The best way for me to describe it is empowering. As female entrepreneurs, we can apply our natural talents to our business, similar to how we run a household. In my profession, adaptability is key because we have many external forces to consider, and I always say we need to be as spontaneous as the fruit we are selling. Also, I was lucky to be empowered by males in my circle, including my husband who was my sounding board when I was thinking about launching my direct-to-consumer business, Tropical Fruit Box.
What was your business origin story?
Traveling the country on business, I saw first-hand the opportunity for on-demand access to fresh tropical and exotic fruits that were not easily found locally. I kept hearing, “they don’t sell that fruit where we are,” and “it’s hard for me to find.” This led me to launch Tropical Fruit Box, literally out of my kitchen. We had the inventory and worked hard to get it off the ground, and then the pandemic hit and propelled the business.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to get started?
There was consumer desire. Once the idea for Tropical Fruit Box came, we spearheaded procurement enhancements, new branding and packaging, established direct-to-consumer distribution channels, an e-commerce site, social media, and customer service channels. We built the online order and delivery service one customer at a time. In addition, we really listen to our customers and introduce new boxes like our Chocolatier Apprentice Box, TropiKids, and next will be our Mixology Box.
We have been amazed by customer response since launching in the Fall of 2019. Also, Tropical Fruit Box was selected to partner with Fresh Del Monte to sell the novel Pinkglow™ pink pineapple. As a minority-owned small business, it was a big milestone to be selected by a global company as one of their exclusive online partners.
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
It’s important to build a strong network of friends and even family members. Some of our most important friendships initially come from the workplace, so maintaining and nurturing these relationships, you can be there for each other. I also cannot do everything alone, so I’ve been able to tap both family members and co-workers to ride this entrepreneurial journey with me. Their talent and experience are critical to my own knowledge base and success.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
I mentioned empowerment before, but it’s part of a broader formula.
Example + Empathy + Educate = Empowerment.
Lead by example. I have been in the business since I can remember, from partner sourcing while visiting family farmers as a child with my dad, to conceptualizing and building innovative ways to reach consumers and engage customers. I fully understand the various roles that come with the produce and agriculture business because I have done most of them myself. So, I lead by example while ensuring teams have the tools to execute which also means access to me and my firsthand experiences.
Leading with empathy. When individuals feel understood, they are better equipped to perform which benefits their own career path and that of the company they represent. This is such an important component of empowerment.
Educate. This relates to cultivating knowledge and confidence. As our own company grows, we have a fully vertically aligned education component about the industry, our products, and our clients.