Ostlund
Ostlund

Some people say produce remains one of the diehard male-dominated industries, but Mary Ostlund of Brooks Tropicals hasn’t noticed that problem.

Ostlund, marketing director of the Homestead, Fla., company, said she hasn’t encountered many gender issues in her five years in the industry.

If she did, though, she wouldn’t let it affect her performance. A 21-year veteran of AT&T, Ostlund said she learned a long time ago that getting the job done is the best revenge.

“I was one of the first women sales representatives (for AT&T)” she said.

“I mention that because I was assigned funeral homes, massage parlors and dating services. No one had tried to sell to them before. I made my yearly quota within the first quarter.”

Maybe she succeeded because it was the right time to approach those businesses — or maybe it was because Ostlund uses both sides of her brain, as evidenced by her love of creative marketing and the fact that she holds an MBA from the University of Miami.

The bottom line is, she hit the mark and never looked back.

Ostlund moved from sales into marketing and paid her dues in that arena also, and like so many other baby boomers she saw technology completely change the way she did her job.

“Technology transformed marketing. It used to take four to six weeks to get your ideas through the production process,” she said.

“Now you can have an idea and in two days you have the ads, and technology allows the marketer to make changes as needed.”

The flexibility to change to meet the demands of the moment while maintaining consistency in the message is one of Ostlund’s selling points as far as management at Brooks Tropicals is concerned.

“Mary is always stressing the importance of a unified marketing message throughout the company,” said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management. “Everything from business cards to tradeshow booths convey our message of quality and value.

“Mary has done a great job branding our products. Buyers and consumers are asking for Caribbean Red papayas and Slimcado Florida Avocados by name.”

While Brindle is quick to credit Ostlund, Ostlund is even quicker to compliment the Brooks sales staff.

“Marketing at its best is not only accomplishing the creative end but enabling those who use it to reach their goals,” she said.

As for her goals, Ostlund said that taming the beast for the Produce Marketing Association’s trade show is an annual duty she relishes.

“My greatest sense of accomplishment occurs every year with the opening bell of PMA,” she said.

“So much can and does go wrong, no matter how well-prepared you are, but somehow it always works great.”

Judges at PMA’s 2010 show agreed that the Brooks Tropicals booth worked great and named it best-in-show.

“When the announcement was made at the show I started jumping up and down. The Russian attendees I was talking to backed away and told a bystander that they hadn’t done anything,” Ostlund said.