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AGRIBUSINESS BILLIONAIRE INSPIRES ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS

  All it takes is focus, working hard, finding good opportunities and being patient to be successful in life. This is American billionaire, businessman and owner of FIJI Water Stewart
21 Apr 2018 10:00
AGRIBUSINESS BILLIONAIRE INSPIRES ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS
Agribusiness billionaires Lynda and Stewart Resnick

 

All it takes is focus, working hard, finding good opportunities and being patient to be successful in life.

This is American billionaire, businessman and owner of FIJI Water Stewart Resnick’s advice to young aspiring business people.

The Resnick’s are one of Hollywood’s richest couples that bought FIJI Water in 2004. Fiji’s lucrative bottled water export business.

Mr Resnick was recently in Fiji attending to company functions and meeting key stakeholders.

“This is my fourth time in Fiji and I like Fiji because it’s a great place because people are lovely and very nice,” Mr Resnick said.

“From the business stance here there is not much I can add to it because people do a good job of running it.

“We have come a few times for vacation and will be coming around again because my grandchildren and my children enjoy so we will come again.

“Work hard, find good opportunities and be patient.

“Work hard but you still have to be patient at least from my experience it takes much longer to build things that are sustainable then people realise. Hard work and patience.”

Almost all of America’s pistachios and more than 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are grown in California, most passing through a nearby facility owned by Paramount Farms. Last year, it processed more than 500,000 tons of pistachios, a 300 per cent increase from 2009.Paramount is owned by West L.A.’s Roll Global, a US$3 billion (FJ$6bn) agribusiness conglomerate headed by Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

The Resnicks are behind the Wonderful brand of snacks, which markets Paramount’s pistachios and almonds, POM pomegranate juice and the Halos clementines produced by Roll’s Paramount Citrus branch. Wonderful will start marketing grapefruit under the name Sweet Scarlets this year.

Their Roll Global holding company is one of the largest privately held agriculture empires in the world.

In addition to Paramount, the company’s umbrella covers FIJI Water; flower delivery service Teleflora; organic pesticide company Suterra; the Neptune Pacific Line, a South Pacific shipping firm; and in-house advertising, legal and management consulting practices.

About FIJI Water

FIJI Water was founded in 1996 out of the desire to share the earth’s finest water with the world.

Today, it is available in leading hotels, fine restaurants, retail locations, as well as by direct delivery. As a leading export of the Fiji Islands, FIJI Water is now the number one imported bottled water in the United States and is enjoyed in over 60 countries across the globe.

FIJI Water is committed to doing business responsibly and seeking opportunities to make a difference.

That means investing in its communities and the environment and focusing its efforts around meaningful issues with like-minded partners to enable positive change.

Below are excepts of an interview with Mr Resnick:

  1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Grew up a town in New Jersey and then moved down to California to go to University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) because I was working my way through college and it was less expensive.

When I was a sophomore in college, I was working at a fraternity house and also at a mental hospital but then I decided that I might do something on my own to finish working my way through school. I thought what I could at least do is start my own janitorial work.

So I started out doing window washing and floor waxing. I did that for a couple of years then I hired some employees when I under graduated I had five employees.

Then I went to law school fulltime, when I graduated I had 100 employees shortly after that about four to five years later I sold the business. I didn’t like the business then because it was an easy business to get into.

Then I got into an armed business/security business and a number of related security businesses and they all went quite well.

Then late 70s there was high inflation and I was quite relatively young by that time I had a wife and three kids and I thought I should get a hedge against inflation. I started to look for real estate that I found this agricultural business where I found this company for sale that was a citrus grower in Southern California and they also had a juice plant and a packing plant and I thought well this is a good hedge against inflation because they own quite a good piece of land.

I thought I would buy that as kind of a passive investment but as I got into it I enjoyed it more and more and then I expanded that business pretty dramatically. Then in the mid 80s we were able to buy another large amount of land from local oil companies and that’s when we got into the almonds and pistachio business.

It has brought the company up to primarily a business which is all about farming. We tend to take our products from the farm right through to marketing, merchandising, creating brands and actually selling and delivering the product. So that’s basically the business.

2.I understand that you are the largest farmer in the United States.

Can you tell us a bit about it?

I am one of the largest farmer. We are the largest citrus farmer in the world, pistachio farmer in the world, almond farmer in the world and all together we are the largest farmer in the world.

We own about 150,000 acres for producing and then we own about 40,000 acres of land we don’t have crop on but mostly because we are limited by water.

  1. Can you tell us why you bought Fiji Water and how much you bought Fiji water for?

The reason why I bought Fiji Water was when we created POM Wonderful it was quite successful and we had a good organisation, good sales force, good distribution and I thought how can we expand that.

A good friend of mine came to me and was friends with David Gilmore who started Fiji Water and he came to me and said you know you should buy FIJI Water because it fits into your profile because you are a good business guy you know how to run things.

David was having some problems with production, but he did some good jobs of marketing it and I thought so well it made some sense because it wasn’t too large at the time and we thought it would fit in well.

I paid a fair price for it but I felt I overpaid but he thought he didn’t get enough money but I bought for a fair price. We bought it in 2004.

  1. What are some of your current plans for Fiji Water?

To the extent that we can, because Fiji Water has been around for eight or nine years and it took a bit of time to get it to five million cases. We have had it for 13 years and we have taken the five million to about 25 million cases so we have had very good success with it. Our idea here is to continue to expand the company in a profitable, meaningful and responsible way, I think we have have opportunities to do that.

Whether it grows or the growth will not be rapid as it is or it has been its anybody’s guess because it’s a competitive business. When we bought FIJI Water I think there were 60 bottles of water in the United States of America and we had to differentiate ourselves and I think we had done that and our focus now is to run what we do better and by doing that it grows bigger and if there is a continued demand out there that we meet that we can continue to expand the business.

Within the last two years, we have spent about FJ$70 million in expanding our Fijian footprint both in bottling line and a lot of other equipment into our facilities. Not only equipment to manufacture but also for power and we have expanded quite dramatically in the last two years.

  1. Will you be making more investments in Fiji?

Yes, will continue to make investments. We looking at maybe solar power we think we have enough capacity for at least a period of time but for how long, we are a company that is always looking for continuous improvement and often time it means some investment to grow the business in a profitable way.

We also try to invest in the country and we feel that things have been good for my wife and I and we believe that in this world you should give back particularly if you have been very fortunate.

We have been very fortunate and we like to give back to areas where our employees are. We give back to Central Valley in California because there we have about 6,000 employees.

We have done quite a bit for Fiji but its not well known what we have done but we want to continue and want to expand that basically somewhat save the Sovi Basin and we partnered with Conservation Internation on a large-scale reforestation project in Fiji to restore a total of 2,800 acres of degraded grasslands.

We have done a lot for the FIJI Water Foundation and education and so we continue to expand in Fiji and expand our philanthropy in Fiji.

  1. How many market does FIJI Water export?

We export to 80 markets a lot of them are small.

Our major market is the US that represents a big chunk of our business but others are growing and there’s some opportunities there.

  1. What is your competitive advantage?

Every business that we are in basically we are the leader. I think as a company we have learned how to be good at what we do because its a lot of hard work and we try and have good products in the Fiji area. The water is excellent and an excellent sales force.

We do a good job of marketing and protecting the brand which is extremely important.

There’s lot of good products around and lots of good tasty water but people have to know about it and that’s what we are good at doing. You have to start with a good product and then you have to take good care of it and I think we are quite good at that. Our advertising, marketing, sales and merchandising force is excellent. It takes focus and patience.

  1. What is your source of motivation?

For some reason when I was kid I always like to do things better sort of to measure my self to me its fun to build business and to see them prosper not just for the money that’s a measure but more to build an organization and to see it be creative and be successful and that drives me and I am sought of never happy but I am not unhappy and I always be feel you could do a little better because that’s what we constantly focus on.

As a company the concept is lets not worry about being bigger lets worry about being better because if we are better then we will be bigger.

9.Describe yourself in one word.

Aggressive. I like change and I like to see things happen. I am not aggressive in a negative way but in a positive way. Being aggressive because people want to improve and people just sit back and be satisfied. I just find it very motivating to see things go better and to do things better and that’s what I mean about being aggressive. Aggressive not in a malicious way but wanting to improve and change.

10.What is your favourite quote?

Just do it and that’s not because of Nike and that is because when everybody ask what is one my biggest impacts and well I had two jobs when I was only 13 and working at mental hospital and at a photo store. I remember when I 13-years-old I went to work at a photo store there was a warehouse at the back, my first day at work the man who ran the store took me into the warehouse and told me to rearrange it and move the whole stuff to the wall. I was a little kid and I was thinking how was I ever going to get it done and he said just start. Maybe that’s a better quote. Just start. It’s interesting as soon as you start you realise things get done and I still remember that to this day. I got started and its much easier than I thought.

11.Anything else you would like to say?

Fiji is a wonderful place and the people are wonderful and we really do enjoy the FIJI Water brand that we have and we think we are a good care taker of it.

We also think we have a nice image of the FIJI Water and I think that helps the image of the country. I mean if you think about selling over 500 million bottles of water a year and everybody sees it and the labelling is nice and we do a very positive image for the country.I think its probably given Fiji more recognition than anything else its done and we didn’t do that for that reason but its also nice to have that happening. Hopefully that can help Fiji particularly with tourism and so if we can be of help we can do that.

Golden Globes.

It feels good but except we had to pay for it, because its not like its free but we think its very worthwhile. It’s the image that we try to protect is that this is a quality product and quality people want it and people want to be associated it with it.

We live in Los Angeles and its Hollywood and so we have sponsored a lot of Hollywood things the last 15 years.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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