From an early age, Marie Gosselin knew she had what it takes to be a leader.

“I always knew I could do it and I wanted to do it,” said Gosselin, president of Les Serres du St-Laurent based in Portneuf, QC, which grows and markets greenhouse tomatoes year-round under the Savoura brand.

“Everything I’ve done has led me here.”

Gosselin, 49, outgoing president of the Quebec Produce Marketing Association, was fascinated by the produce industry at a young age while working in the office in one of her father’s potato plants.

“He was strict and asked a lot of people,” she said, “but I remember employees coming up to him at company parties and touching him like he was a hero. They loved him.”

At the age of 14, he put her and her siblings in charge of selling the family’s strawberries.

Gosselin was studying agri-business at Laval University when her father sold his potato business and decided to invest in a greenhouse to grow tasty Quebec tomatoes in winter.

She offered to take care of sales and marketing, a job she’s still involved with today.

“It was 1989 and we had no greenhouse and no name,” she said, “so we had to build everything from scratch.”

The fledgling company built three hectares under glass in Portneuf with lights for year-round production. Today, Savoura has 250 employees spread over three sites.

“I’m passionate, tenacious, creative and I work hard,” said Gosselin. “At the same time I see myself as the conductor of a symphony. I can’t succeed on my own, but by putting a lot of confidence in the men and women around me we can accomplish a lot as a team.”

Over the past 25 years, Gosselin has developed a strong business relationship with and become close friends with Bernadette Hamel, vice president national produce procurement for Laval-based Metro Richelieu Inc.

“Marie is a very strong leader mainly because she practices what she preaches,” said Hamel, current chairwoman of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and another role model for women in the produce industry.

“She is very determined and focused and she always remains open-minded.”