Gooder Podcast with Susie Quesada
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Running a family-owned business, no matter how big, is task enough alone. But guiding a family-owned business through cultural change for a better future can be a bit tricky. Keeping recipes and ingredients legitimate can be tough when you know that they’re not always the best for your community’s health. So, how do you care for your culture and community while running a profitable business?
In this episode, join Susie Quesada and I as we walk through the history of her third-generation family-owned business and discuss the peaks and valleys of a changing business landscape and balancing the desires of die-hard consumers and family values as she steers the brand into new territory, leveraging and honoring the strength of the family leaders before her.
In this episode we learn:
- The story of Susie’s path from teaching to running the family business. (Grandma’s are the best!)
- That consensus building is a strong leadership tool.
- How family and cultural values impact business decisions differently than traditional ones.
- How to socialize and enroll behavior change for you most die-hard consumers.
- That growth and learning come from mistakes.
About Susie Quesada:
Susie Quesada is a 3rd generation owner and President of Ramar Foods International. As the #1 Trusted Filipino Food Company, Ramar Foods manufactures authentic high-quality tropical ice cream, lumpia and sausages that brings the Flavor of the Philippines to supermarkets and restaurants. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Filipina Women’s Network supporting their mission for a Filipina leader in all industries.
Susie holds a BA in Multicultural Literature and Education from UC Berkeley and is a Harvard Business School alumni from the Owner/President Management Program (OPM51).
Susie spends her free time reading, hiking and traveling with her husband. They reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ramar Foods – #1 Filipino Food company in the United States. Founded in 1969, Ramar’s goal is to bring the flavors of the Philippines to your household. Ramar foods is committed to manufacturing your favorite frozen Filipino food products. Ramar’s success for 50 years of experience in the industry is attributed to its people, its deep relationship with the Filipino diaspora and a commitment to understanding what brings satisfaction to Filipino families.
Ramar Scholarship Foundation – A charitable organization the provides financial assistance to hard working students.
Diana Fryc: Welcome to the Gooder Podcast. I’m your host Diana Fryc. As partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency, I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry, food beverage, wellness, fitness even. As such, I’ve decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertise to help businesses all around the world become gooder. Very fun guest to introduce to you today. Her name is Susie Quesada. She’s with Ramar Foods International. She is a third generation owner and president of Ramar Foods. They are the number one trusted Filipino food company. Ramar Food manufacturers authentic high quality tropical ice cream, Lumpia one of my favorites and sausages that bring the flavor of the Philippines to supermarkets and restaurants. She also serves on the advisory board of the Filipina Women’s Network supporting their mission for Filipino leader in all industries. Welcome Susie. How’s San Francisco today?
Susie Quesada:Good morning. Thanks for having me. San Francisco today, it’s a little smoky.
Diana Fryc: You guys have smoke up there too, or down there, I should say?
Diana Fryc: Oh, well, California is kind of a mess right now. Isn’t it?
Susie Quesada:Just a bit?
Diana Fryc: Just a bit? Is there is it close by the Bay Area? Or is it past the suburbs?
Susie Quesada:It’s kind of all over. Luckily, where I am in the suburbs, we’re mostly just affected by the smoke in the sky. We had the orange sky yesterday. That was interesting. Did you guys have that?
Diana Fryc: Oh, yeah. We have a lot of that. Eastern Washington, it’s one of the worst years that we’ve had. And it’s been getting progressively worse, but this year is particularly bad because of high winds. I think you guys are having those issues as well.
Diana Fryc: Well, first of all, before we get into our interview, I want to thank our mutual friend Wilson Lau, who introduced us recently. Little did he know that I am a huge Filipino food fan. Filipino food and Korean food, I cannot get enough of both of those. So I was so excited when he introduced us. And around here in Seattle, you kind of have to chase somebody down to get some good Filipino food. So I was just excited to make that connection. And our phone call prep was so much fun. We covered a lot of topics. And I remember giving you a little bit of grief about being a third generation family owner and we’ll talk about that a little bit more.But I really liked the genesis of your company and learning about your grandmother. So maybe you can talk a little bit about Ramar Foods and its history and the journey of how you became its president.
Susie Quesada:Sure. My grandmother started our company in 1969 and she was a very busy lady. Not only did she have 11 children, but she started over 11 businesses, both in the Philippines and here when they migrated to California, and this was one of them.And I had no ideathat I was going to be part of the business when I was growing up. My dad had taken over. It was an import business when she started it. And my dad worked in the business. And when he took over, he decidedthat he would interview all of our customers, which was the growing Filipino population in Northern California. And what they really wanted were products that were a little more difficult to import from the Philippines like dairy and meat products, and so he started making them and manufacturing them and he really took the business from an import business to a manufacturing business, and that’s kind of how we grew.
And as I was growing up, always worked in the business, ever since I was eight years old, helping with labels for the ice cream or filing or I love scooping ice cream at the many community Filipino festivals that we would be a part of, and always thought, “Okay, well, this is great, but I’m probably going to pursuea different route in my career.” And that was education for me really wanted to make an impact on the community and help people, especially other Filipino American kids growing up in the Bay Area.And so I had no idea that I would be ending up here actually. As I pursued my career in education, it kind of just happened.
Diana Fryc: Well, tell me, you mentioned your dad’s generals or your dad said something about generals or something. And I just thought that was so curious, was that the little kid perspective? Or is that also the grownup perspective?
Susie Quesada: I think it’s a little kid. I would come into the office and my dad would always say, “If you’re working here, you have to be on time and work harder than everybody else because everyone’s going to think you’re just here because you’re my daughter.” And so I would always go in and I was very aware of that and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t rock the boat and listen to my elders. It’s a very important value in the Filipino culture because even though we weren’t always blood related, I still called everyone by aunt and uncle. That was just kind of the culture that my dad had created this big family culture. And so yes, his leadership style was, let’s work really hard and put in as many hours as possible and show them that we’re all equal and that wecan contribute in the same way, no matter what. So, his leadership style, I learned a lot from it as far as the way he led.
And I think I took a lot of my, what I learned as a teacher, which is, in the education world, there’s a lot of consensus building, just becauseyou work with so many other teachers on your same level, and then you work with kids, and you work with parents. And so when I started working in the company, I took more of a team approach.And so that was kind of the difference in styles that we’ve had that I’ve learned over the years.
Diana Fryc: So we talked a little bit about you coming from education, I guess the first question is, what was the opportunity that was presented to you for you to make it? Is the change going from education to Ramar, was that because something that you wanted to do? Or was there a need for leadership and you were the natural best fit? Talk a little bit about that a little bit?
Susie Quesada:Sure. You know what Diana, I loved teaching. It is still a passion of mine. And I see how the teachers are struggling right now. And it was one of the hardest job I’ve ever had, and that was outside of a pandemic. So I can imagine the stress levels that they have right now. But it’s so rewarding to teach and fulfilling.And I probably would still be a teacher, if I didn’t have this other opportunity.
One thing that reallyis a passion of mine is just watching people grow and develop. And when I had the opportunity to come to Ramar, which again was unexpected, my dad, heasked me to dinner one night, and this was a couple of weeks after my uncle had passed away. And my uncle, he didn’t work in the business, but he was kind of this larger than life guy who, we thought was just going to be there forever, and he passed away unexpectedly. And my dad invited me to dinner.And I was like, “Great, we’re going to dinner.” That’s what we normally do. Go to the little taqueria down the street, and he brought me to this really nice white tablecloth, seafood restaurant in town, and I’m thinking, “Why are we here? This is so strange.”
So he had an agenda in mind. And he basically asked me at dinner, “What if something happens to me and nobody knows our family business?” And as the eldest daughter, and knowing that my dad has worked so hardto build this business, by the end of dinner, I had agreed to take a two year leave of absence so that I wouldn’t lose my tenure as a teacher and just learn the business. And from there I just kept on staying I guess.I just kept on going, I really realizedthatI could make a really big impact to at the company, that there were other ways that I could help grow develop people. I mean, first of all, food. I love food, I love to eat, I love to cook, and I love my Filipino culture. So that was exciting to be a part of even though I felt like I didn’t have a background in business, it was a regular transition because of the growth and development piece.
And so when I approach anything, I really approach it from, how can our teams contribute everybody’s voice being heard? And that’s one of the values that we’ve really instilled in the company, which is that continuous improvement mentality and making our product the best, our processes the best and of course, the most important thing our people the best.
Diana Fryc: Nice. Well, my next question was, or actually is around your education experience and whatkind of impact that your education experience brings into your leadership style that’s different than say, a classical business degree? I think you’re kind of answering that by just going, you’re talking about people development; it’s just not a big giant checklist to have things to get done, but that humans are part of the process. Am I getting that right? Am I hearing that?
Susie Quesada:Yeah, I mean,our people are our biggest asset. And I learned that early from my dad. And we weren’t very intentional about our values and our purpose until I did take over and really made an intentional thing. But it wasn’t anything that I had to search far or wide for because it’s something that my dad had already created this amazing culture. It just wasn’t intentional. And so we kind of sat down, I sat down with my brothers who work in the business as well, and a few of the other leaders who had been at the company for a long time and we thought, “Okay, how can we write down what our values are, and so that we can amplify them so that people can really relate to them?” And it was very similar when I was in teaching. Same thing, my mentor teacher, she actuallytaught me how to do classroom management using Stephen Covey’s seven effective habits. Those were actually my classroom rules.
Diana Fryc: Oh, you’re kidding.
Susie Quesada:And it was interesting how she had done the opposite. She came from the business world and became a teacher, and here I was learning from her, book I’d never heard of. And, I read the one for teenagers, I read the one for adults, and it became my classroom management system. And so when I transitioned over into kind of the business world, I was like, “Oh, it makes so much sense.” So, again, it’s that growth and development of people and giving people the tools they need to feel successful and, at the same time, encompasses that purpose because I think all of us, when we find that passion that we love, we tend to be more engaged. And food is one of those things is really easy to kind of be passionate about because it brings so many people together.
And whenwe talked about what our purpose was as a company, we said, “Well, what do we do with our food?” We bring families together; we nourish them with our ingredients and the high quality of our product, but at the same time, we nourish our community, just by being together and learning from each other. So that was kind of like our rally cry. And we kind of established that five or six years ago now. And so our whole purpose really is to nourish our community and that means all of our employees and their families, the communities that we do business with, our suppliers, our partners, our customers and everything we do, it’s like, are we nourishing right now? And it became especially apparent through this difficult time that we’re having in the pandemic.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, it becomes kind of a compass. As long as you’re pointed in that direction, because sometimes you have to make challenging choices that maybe aren’t 100% in alignment, but there’s little sometimes it’s a little way, but as long as you’re going towards that direction, that’s awesome. So you talked a little bit about your brothers and I mentioned this earlier. So third generation is the magic transitional generation, it’s the make or break generation that sounds like you are swimming ahead of that game. So congratulations on that.What can you share about succession planning that was developed or maybe is even developing now to kind of mitigate some of those traditional obstacles and like I said, you mentioned your brothers, how are they involved? How are other family members involved? How are you guys handling that?
Susie Quesada:Sure. So my brothers are both involved right now, one of them is in charge of our operations.So production, logistics and all the IT technical stuff. And then my other brother’s in charge of our marketing, our branding, our messaging and also we have some scoop shops, ice cream scoop shops.
Diana Fryc: Really? All in San Francisco or?
Susie Quesada:There’s one in San Francisco, one in Nevada, in Las Vegas and then we’ve got four in Hawaii.
Diana Fryc: Of course, I’m going to advocate for Seattle.
Susie Quesada:Seattle. Yes, that would be awesome. So they’re both doing that, they also are on the leadership team with a few other of our executive leaders and so we together talk about strategy for the company. Again, we have that same purpose that we’re looking at are everything that we do. Are we nourishing our community? Are we celebrating families, and the legacy of family that this company was built on?
And so it’s been really great to work with them, my dad did not have a formal succession plan that he shared with us although I think he had one. When you read all the business books about succession planning, I think the one thing that I would say that was missing, was he just wasn’t as transparent and communicative as far as what his succession plan was. But it did play out to the point where, when I first started working at the company after that dinner, I just started filling in for people who were on maternity leave. Working in accounting, and then I was in the warehouse office. And it’s so fun too when I see these kids who are now 16, 17, 18 years old. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you’re the kid that I filled in for when your parent was on maternity leave.” So it’sreally interesting to work in so many different parts of the business. Andpretty much all three of us did that.
And I think that’s a good learning experience. So for any of you out there who are thinking about succession planning or bringing a family member in,I think communication is key, asking them, is that something that they want to do and then having them really immerse themselves in different parts of the business? And I think from there, that was when my dad said, okay, he has to make this decision on whether or not any of us have any leadership skills, because not everybody does or wants tomanage people and it ended up that through his mentoring that we all had some leadership skills that we could utilize that could help the company and one day he just stopped. He kind of stopped showing up at the office. He was doing a lot of traveling, he was in Hawaii a lot. He was in the Philippines a lot, golfing a lot. And I one day he came in said, “I’m not really using my office anymore, so you should just move in.” And that was my succession plan into leading the company.
Diana Fryc: Okay, well, I think family succession planning is so much different than corporate succession planning. So when you look back at it, it sounds legitimate, like, okay, you got to try everything, you got to see how you guys did. He kind of helped you guys build trust.That trust that he could have trusting you. And that he felt like he was making a good move and his golfing trips were kind of like, okay, let’s see if they crush the bus while I’m gone for a couple weeks. I mean, it’s pretty brilliant rather than just kind of giving you the keys and wishing you luck. I mean, eventually he did that. It sounds like butvery interesting. How long was that? Was that a year? Was it six months?
Susie Quesada:That was a good five or six years.It was a long time where we were working really closely. And then maybe after three years, he started the whole traveling thing. And then, years after that, he said, “Okay, it’s official.” There’s not a whole lot of fanfare and it kind of took me a while to go, “Oh, I’m in charge now.
Diana Fryc: Does everybody know this?
That’s so funny. As you have been building this brand with your brothers and your family, your company, family, your personal family, have you crashed into any hurdles or sacred cows that are family owned that are kind of, it’s not like they’re breaking anything but they don’t really work. I don’t know how to ask it because sacred cows sometimes are not visible. And sometimes they’re also sensitive topics. But I wonder if there’s anything where you’re like, yeah, we keep running into Dad wants shrimp flavored ice cream, and we’re just going to have to keep that like, is there any of those things that kind of continue as part of the business that you can share?
Susie Quesada: Sure. I mean, we run into challenges daily. And whether it’s something is lit, I remember the first big mistake I made when I was in the marketing department. I was so excited to launch thisnew product, it was thesemilk bars. So it’s kind of like a Popsicle. And I was going to launch this new size that we could sell like at the big box stores or maybe convenience stores. I thought it was going to expand our market. AndI made the mistake of notreally proofreading the art very well. So we printed a bunch of art with the wrong UPC on it. So the UPC was a six pack, and I was launching a 12 pack. And it got to the stores it rung up as a six pack. So something that should have been more expensive was being sold for way less. It was such a big eye opening experience to me, and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to get fired. This is horrible.” And that was a big lesson for me because what I learned was my dad said, “Well, we have to learn from our mistake. And what do we do to fix it?” And I think that’s another value. Again, a part of continuous improvement isit’s okay to make a mistake. Just own up to it. Find the solution. Try not to do it again. But it makes us more resilient and stronger.
Along those lines, we’ve launched a lot of products over the years. And some of them just were total duds. It’s difficult to know exactly what your market is looking for. Sometimes we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to our market. And we think, oh, they want a healthier version of this. And then we put it out there and it’s like, no, they’re really not quite ready for that. So, it’s interesting. I think those have been big learning experiences for us. And then of course, there’s the dynamic of the family that comes in sometimes where you, you have a disagreement about something at work and you’re like, I feel like I’m back at my house where I grew up. And we’re having an argument about who gets to eat the last cookie. And so sometimes we just have to remind ourselves, like, oh, yeah, this is a business discussion and we’re all going to get the cookie in the end.
So that’s a really fun dynamic. And I think one thing that’s been really important too, is seeing our leadership team grow. I remember one of my leaders saying, “I didn’t know that I could be a leader at the company and not be a part of the family.” And that was so eye opening to me becausesometimes there’s that dynamic that, “Oh, it’s a family business and only the family members.” But it made us amplify even more how important it was for our people to hear how important they were, and how important their contributions were,across the board to making things better. And so that was a huge learning for me.
Diana Fryc: So when you say, amplify, are you talking about it more frequently? Are you putting it in employee engagement? What do you mean by amplify in this particular situation?
Susie Quesada: A little bit of both because sometimes you think it, and you relive it and you lead with it. But when you’re in a larger organization, where we’ve got almost 300 families or 300 employees and families that we support, the communication gets lost in translation. And so when we amplify it, it’s just more of we talk about it more. It’s in our engagement discussions.
We teach our leaders to talk about it even more, again, how important it is to speak up, share your idea and even if you don’t have a solution, we know that the team will come up with something, but if nobody speaks up then it’ll just be that annoying thing that continues to happen that you end up resenting. So that’s a big part of our value system, it’s a little part of lean manufacturing which we got into about four years ago now, where people need to justvoice their opinion because then that’s how we can affect change.
Diana Fryc: I am a huge fan of certifications. Well, certification can be cumbersome, but certifications also kind of help you with a map, kind of like okay, these are our values and these are the steps that we can take, having some external influence or guidelines is really awesome.So along that note, along that line now, you’ve got this brand, it’s again, third generation, we’re modernizing it, you’re modernizing it, you’ve been modernizing it, how do you modernize the brand and keep true to those family and cultural values? Or maybe how are you guiding Ramar using these purpose and values and make sure that there’s some modernization of it?
Susie Quesada:I think it’s really important to listen to our customers,and at the same time, be on top of what is happening in the industry and innovations. So one thing we will always stay true to is the authentic flavors and that idea of bringing people together through those flavors, or even meeting new people and introducing them to the new flavors. Sometimes we do get ahead of ourselves because we think, oh, here’s the new trend. The new trend is organic. And so we’ll try and say, “Okay, we’ll put out an organic dumpling and see how it lands on our core market.” And we find that it actually hit a different market. So same taste, same quality, but with that certificationthat we can put on the label and it actually broadened our market a little bit. But then when we listen to our customers, we heard that, at that time, this was five or six years ago now, that organic wasn’t that important at that moment in time, whereas now it’s really important. So sometimes we get a little bit ahead of ourselves with the trends. So again, it’s just connecting with your customer, hearing what they are looking for.
And it’s hard because there’s the b2b customer and there’s your actual consumer. And sometimes those don’t jive necessarily. But after being in the business for a long time, and having that gut feel, sometimes you just have to rely on that gut feel. There’s all this research out there and there’s so many things you can do to spend on R&D, but a lot of times, your gut isproven to be in the works.I always read a book about gut feel.
Diana Fryc: That’s so funny because I really believe business programs and MBA programs.Try to kind of pound the gut out of you and if that makes any sense, like, we rely so heavily on charts and graphs and trends and all of these things, and those are all important, but at the end of the day, you can look at all of those things and say, “Hmm, I still want to go this way.” And you’re going to probably be right. We have found that even when we’re doing our work here, and we’re working on brand positioning and brand strategy, our strategists will look at the numbers and go something’s not right here, something’s not fitting right, and then we go and do a little bit more work and how we find having made a little bit of a different type of discovery process. We’ll go, “Yeah, that’s right.” And gut is kind of a weird thing. It’s not magical. It’s really some information that you have in the back of your brain that you aren’t able to kind of bring forth. And I think it’s so powerful, especially with entrepreneurial brands, but I recently interviewed somebody from PepsiCo who works in kind of emerging brands, and she said the same thing.
It’s like your gut has a lot of history and education and data that’s going on back here and it’s telling you something’s not right. You don’t have the right information and that you should go this way. So I love that you’re sharing that, again, super important, gut is as important in business as itis understanding how to run a P&L in my personal opinion.
So you consistently talked about kind of the values of your organization, they’re founded on your dad, you’re really kind of advocating for that some more. I want to say that that’s not just because you’re a family company, but it also comes from your education background. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about how these values of yourself personally and Ramar kind of extends out into the community beyond the boundaries of your brand. You’ve got this scholarship for your employees or your employee’s children. Maybe you could talk about what that program is, how it came to be and how it fits in with your vision as well as Ramar’s.
Susie Quesada: Yes, so that’s our Ramar’s scholarship foundation. And it’s something that my dad started in the Philippines. He started in the Philippines, and it was like, okay, so we’ve put about 50 students through school in the Philippines. And then we were talking as a family and we were thinking, well, how can we also do that here? Andthe idea came up that we would do scholarships in the community for our employeesor our employees kids, and then also with other communities. So in our plant is actually in Pittsburg, California. And so we also do scholarships within the community, in that city. So it’s a really cool program. So this week, I’m actually awarding four of our employee’s children with scholarships, they’re partial scholarships.
It’s amazing how expensive university and college is these days. Oh, my goodness. But so happy to help and not just from a monetary standpoint, but I got an email from one of them yesterday. And he’s like, “Can you help me with my resume? I’m trying to get an internship.” So it’s also a way for us to kind of mentorthese kidsand help them with their dream. And so we’ve put, Ithink we’re up to like eight kids, and a few employees who have actually wanted to go back to school as well. And soI’m really excited about the program. Andit’s one of those things where we can give back. And so again, we nourish our community by giving back to our employees, and helping them achieve or helping their kids achieve what they want to achieve in life.
Diana Fryc: I love that. And I think education is just really so important. And that’s where I find it interesting thatyour dad started it, but you’re in education. So clearly education has been foundational part of your family kind of dynamics outside of work, must have been very important for your dad.
Susie Quesada: Definitely. Did I mention my grandmother who started the company, she was a teacher prior as well.
Diana Fryc: Well, she was doing everything. She’s a teacher, did she build railroads. I mean, like, it sounds like she just knows everywhere.
Susie Quesada: She was a true visionary, for sure.
Diana Fryc: Oh, my goodness. Sounds like a Spitfire, maybe even.
Susie Quesada: Yeah, when I met her in her later years, she was always just very humble, very reserved and very spiritual. And so when I hear all these stories now, and I was eight when she passed, I wish that I could have that conversation with her. So you know how everyone says, if you could go to dinner with anyone, I would love to go to dinner with my grandmother and just hear the stories of how she started all these businesses. And even though some of them didn’t make it, she would just keep going that same resilience that we were talking about where you learn from your failures and your mistakes and your challenges and you just keep on going.
Diana Fryc: Well, my grandmother apparently, I inherited a lot of her personality. She’s a bigger personality than I am. I never got to meet her but she’s definitely somebody I wish I could go back and go, “Okay.” For me it’d be like, let me see where the crazy comes from, or you just kind of want to get a sense for who she was. I love, kind of going back to your grandmother and the genesis of your brand. Is always kind of leaning towards authentic Filipino food, but you’re going through change. You mentioned the organic move that you made a while ago, it sounds like maybe you might be moving more towards that. We also talked a little bit about how the products that you guys have and you’ve produced have always been so authentic to the brand but you’re also noticing that you’re wanting to modernize it and make them more healthier. Increasing the quality of the product kind of moving it into a particular direction and there has been some tension a little bit with some of the people who really want just the authentic productversus maybe a more healthier version. And we talked a little bit about health, health disparities with some of the older generation of Filipinos and having eaten really unhealthy food, talk a little bit about the hurdles that you are running into, around kind of moving the products in the direction that you think is better for your community, but all while kind of balancing it, what the community wants?
Susie Quesada: One of the things we’ve really stayed true to is we don’t use fillers in our sausages and it’s one of my personal things as far as we don’t want to make our community sick by putting things in that are hard for people to digest while they might bring costs down. Although I’ve heard that there are healthier versions of fillers nowadays but really, when you bite into our sausage, it’s like its meat.And our core market especially, we love fat and a lot of flavor. And in fact, what I kept on hearing from our core market, which is mostly Philippines, we’ve been here for a long time. I’ve just come over, they look at the package, they want to see the product and they want to see how much fat there is in there; which is such a difference between the low fat generation, especially for me growing up in like the 80s and 90s.
But as the trend started to continue, to me is really more about real food and food that you know you can digest. And so one thing we just launchedwas an uncured version of our sausages and they have found that in order for us to say natural, it has to have that natural curing agent and so we just launched it. We’ve had a lot of good feedback from our market. But we’ve also had to do a lot of education, and try to explain like, this is what it is. And so I think this one, we’re actually on point as far as timeline and when people are willing to have an open mind about a new call out. Whereas five or six years ago, when we had like our organic show power button that came out, it was kind of like, well why would I pay more for this when this is just as good and there was that connotation too in the early days of organic. Organic meant more expensive, and possibly doesn’t taste as good. Whereas I think now, it’s definitely still more expensive but that willingness to pay, it’s not such of a gap. Now I understand why it’s good for me because in the greater industry, there has been more discussion about its benefits and so these are things that we will continue to look at. We had gluten free Lumpia that came out and it was actually really good. And our core market was like; “I don’t know what that is.” And so perhaps people who were celiac were like, “Thank you so much for coming out with this Lumpia because I have missed it for so long.” But it wasn’t a big enough market for people to be like, “I’d rathereat gluten free Lumpia over the gluten Lumpia.”
It’s always interesting again listening to our customers, understanding the markets that we’re going after and that product end up doing better with our target market, which is more someone like me who was born and raised here rather than in Philippines.
Diana Fryc: Yeah there’s so much to be said there. The natural’s community has been doing a really good job of just being consistent about organics and then food technology has certainly allowed us to really kind of push the flavor into a different direction. But I really think that it’s been that consistent messaging, the technology, but without the partnership of like, General Mills and the PepsiCo’ of the world who have unusual amplified. They’ve kind of taken organics and natural and created variations and have been able to educate the masses in a way that a lot of the smaller brands haven’t been able to make. And that’s only really happened in the last few years and I think, thankfully, because of all of that work, now, the education for brands like yours for — I’m going to use an immigrant population or even first generation population, sometimes; it’s not as scary because my parents are immigrants too and they wouldn’t pay extra for anything, even if it was better for them, because that’s just not the way we rolled and everything had to be really authentic. And I see like my mother who’s still living, her openness to organic is completely different now. Now, she’s been in the United States for 50 plus years. But it’s very interesting that the education when people come to the United States is a little bit different because we’re educating differently, there’s a cultural thing rather than just simply education. Don’t touch my Lumpia, I needed to touch. It tastes exactly like this. And so there’s more, I think there’s just that extra layer of hurdle there, when you’re working with the audience versus like you and I, growing up in modern society and watching the organic movement change and then of course, we’re in the food industry, too. So then we have that too. But we’re open to the education we’re open to better.
Susie Quesada: So true.
Diana Fryc: And so do you feel like these changes that are happening this kind of, are you able to start doing more of this better for you innovation then, are you feeling more confident about being able to make some of those or more of those changes? Or more additions maybe is really what it is?
Susie Quesada: Yes, and again, just as you said, because it’s more accepted now in the industry, then these pockets and niche markets are accepting it even more saying like, “Oh, it’s actually at my market that I go to now. I don’t have to go to a special market to find it; therefore, the price point is actually, I might pay a little bit more, but maybe not as much as it was in the past few years.” And so it’s starting to kind of normalize and people realize that our health is our health, and we only have one body and let’s take care of it.SoI think moving forward as we innovate with the different things that we’re working on, it’s going to be more accepted for our current core market and of course, our target markets that we’re working on who are just they’re ready for it yesterday.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. I wish I know so many people that have never had Filipino food. I feel like it’s always been so concentrated into the family and the community and it’s okay if you’re listening and you’ve never had Filipino food I’m just going to go tell you right now, Lumpia Pancet, Adobo; start there and then explore on because it is amazing food is amazing food.
Susie Quesada: I love it.
Diana Fryc: Of course you do. So when you’re looking back, you already talked about kind of a big mistake that you made when you were in marketing and kind of like a big learning for you. Everybody has kind of these big haws at some point and sometimes it’s a marketing and proofreading error that makes you go, oh my Gosh, I need to be diligent about everything. Is there anything that when you look back in time, you could have said if I would have understood this or if I would have done this differently it would have been easier I would be I don’t know how to look at it. Do you have a learning that you could share with us that may be specific to either you as a woman in this industry or just kind of somebody from a family generational standpoint?
Susie Quesada: There are a lot of those. I’m trying to find one that I think would be pertinent for the audience. So one thing that has really resonated with me is, as we innovate as we find efficiencies and we reduce as much waste as possible, the naturalway that the company is going is a lot of changes happening. And when whether we, the change comes from something that like, oh, I have this thing that I learned at a conference and I want to bring it to the company, or it’s something that somebody read a book about in the company and wants to bring it in.That in order to have that open mindedness, we really have to communicate really well and get buy in; whether it’s a new piece of software that you’re bringing into the company that’s going to make things more efficient, or if it’s a whole system, like continuous improvement or Kaizen. I think having that buy in and taking the time to say it seven times in seven different ways, people need to hear it all the time and they need to understand why; why are we doing it? Because in some cases, it does make your life more difficult in the beginning because of that learning curve so I would say, there’s times where we brought in a piece of software and it just didn’t work. And what did we learn from that? Again, it’s how did we communicate it to everyone? Did we really have everyone’s buy in? Are we continuing to push? Or are we actually gathering more information and making it better so that we can actually adapt to the change? And change is hard. Change is hard for anyone, people like routine and when you’re doing that with 300 people at a company, it can be really daunting and the hard part is just to keep pushing through. Because it’s easy to just go, “Oh, well, that didn’t work. Let’s just try something else.”
But if you just kind of get into that uncomfortable space and push through and keep reminding everybody why we’re doing it, then that resistance starts to break down and then they go, “Okay, now I get it. Now I see.” And this is going to make life easier for me, for the company, and it’s just going to be better all around. So, how do we affect change when there’s so much resistance to change?
Diana Fryc: Yeah. The whole concept of how– I’m writing down here in my notes and I’ve heard this before get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think that’s an entrepreneur. I think entrepreneurs tend to thrive off of that, that the energy of the discomfort is kind of like being on a roller coaster a little bit you just have to go okay, in order to get down, I’ve got to go up and yeah, at least set us up for me.
Susie Quesada: One of my favorite exercise gurus says that all the time, Jillian Michaels. So when we’re like pushing through some crazy move that she’s doing in her workout, she says, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Diana Fryc: Yeah, especially with Jillian Michaels. I’m sure she’s — I’ve not done any of her workouts, but I can imagine from what I’ve seen that they’d be some butt kickers right there. So speaking of working out and Jillian Michaels, right now what are you doing right now to keep yourself positive and focused? Do you have any rituals in place? Are there just some things that you do for yourself on as needed basis?
Susie Quesada: Well, so I’ve been doing Jillian Michaels for over 10 years. I have her app and I follow her entrepreneurial letter books. So definitely love her workouts.Now that I’ve been at home a lot, I have been hiking. So this morning, my hike, I did have to wear my mask because of the air quality, but just being outside, listening to my podcast and my books has been really helpful and then I started yoga about three years ago and I’m pretty much addicted. So I do a virtual yoga now, although my studio has outside classes now, where I go to, which will be great as long as the weather holds up. And then my newest thing is meditation;
I have failed at meditation for years and years and years. And I finally found a technique that worked for me. So it’s been almost a year now and I found that that has really helped me in grounding me so that I can just breathe through anything that comes my way. And there are a lot of things and a lot of challenges this year and so with that and staying connected to people I think has been what kind of balances me.
Diana Fryc: When I first started practicing yoga, I found a studio that actually was — and this was in the 90s. In the 90s, I started yoga, and thenI was in a yoga studio. Typical for yoga at thetime where you would attend to yoga, but meditation was part of the yoga practice since then Yoga is kind of turned into this, like there’s the athletic, or the workout component of it. And most studios, not all studios, but most studios just kind of focus on the strength and then isyour studio kind of a little bit in the middle there or is it more athletic?
Susie Quesada: I would say it’s more in the middle.I get a nice workout. But the mental piece is the one and they always say if you can’t do the pose, just getting a child’s pose. The mental piece for me is probably what I’m more addicted to than the athletic piece. And yeah, when you have a great studio and a great teacher, it just opens your mind to different things and that’s kind of what’s really helped me and I think of her quotes all the time when I’m going through some challenges in work. I think just breathe. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s going to be okay.
Diana Fryc: Well our time is almost up here. But I have a couple of questions I always like to ask. First of all, well the big question I always like to ask is, what interesting thing about both the Filipino culture and its relationship with food or just Filipino food in general? Something that people may not know. This is my sort of like water cooler coffee like I’m hanging out with my friends tonight and I just heard this podcast and I heard this interesting length. Do you have something that you like to share with people like did you know?
Susie Quesada: Actually one of the things that I really like about Filipino food is because of where the Philippines is situated and how many peopleactually came to the Philippines through trade or through colonization. I kind of think of it as the original Asian fusion because we have a lot of Chinese influence, we have a lot of Malaysian and Indonesian influence and Spanish influence and then Japanese and American influence, just from what happened there in the history in the Philippines. And so the flavors, there’s a lot of sour notes with vinegar, and then there’sa lot of healthy Filipino food as well. A lot of soup bases where you use bone broth to make the product and it’s a good balance of protein and vegetables. Sometimes a little too much rice but that’s the comfort part of it.
Diana Fryc: I love me some good rice. Well in the Philippines are kind of spread out over such a wide area. Do the islands still maintain a little bit of flavor differences in their recipes?
Susie Quesada: Yes, just like there’s a stir fry in almost every type of cuisine, there are different notes in different parts. So there are over 7000 islands in the Philippines and so each region is known for certain type of food.Well, there are some regions that are more spicy than others and some regions are more known for having a certain kind of sausage and if you haven’t had the chance, I would highly recommend that you visit the Philippines because those islands are absolutely gorgeous and in some cases, untouched.So it’s just a beautiful place with beautiful people and amazing food.
Diana Fryc: I have not been. It’s on my bucket list with Vietnam, Vietnam; I’ve wanted to go to Vietnam forever.
Susie Quesada: Me too. I have not been either.
Diana Fryc: And so then do you have a favorite dish? Do you have a favorite family dish or maybe one that you prepare that is your favorite?
Susie Quesada: So my favorite dish my aunt makes-auntie Jenney; it’s called Curry-Curry and it’s abeef stew usually made extra with oxtail and it’s made with a peanut sauce, with lots of vegetables. Served over rice with my favorite part is a little side of shrimp paste. And it’s one of those dishes that I think I could probably cook it if I wanted to, but because I love her so much, I just kind of like keep it as that special dish that when I go to a restaurant I’ll order or when she makes it, it’s amazing. As far as something that I make, I love Sinigang which is a tamarind based soup with spinach and my husband loves it. It’s one of his favorites. So it’s after you try the different– there’s so many different kinds of adobo as you mentioned, there is coconut bass with some onion or some without. So after you try all the adobo Sinigang is the next flavor that I really like.
Diana Fryc: Oh spell that.
Susie Quesada: S-I-N-I-G-A-N-G.
Diana Fryc: Okay, great, because the first thing I’m going to do is see if I can find it on door dash and I got to go hunt down some friends of mine. I need to write it down though because I won’t remember it. So thank you for spelling that.
Susie Quesada: Oh, no problem.
Diana Fryc: Well, thank you so much for your time today for joining me and sharing with us about your journey and your brand and your family’s journey, love being able to talk about one of my favorite cuisines, and I hope you had a good time too and more comfortable and really want to thank Wilson again for making the connection.
Susie Quesada: It’s been so great talking to you and getting to know you and talking about our love for food together which brings everyone together. So I love it. Thank you.
Diana Fryc: I think so too. Thank you.