Dan Vena, 33, started working for the family business, John Vena Inc., Philadelphia, at 12 years old, but after college, he spent a year outside the industry at a job with a computer leasing firm. He was soon pulled back into the produce industry, however.

“I always knew I wanted to come back to the family business,” Vena said. “Ever since I was maybe 6 years old, I loved coming to work with my dad.”

In school, Vena remembers relating everything he learned to the business.

He’s done various jobs since his early teen years, including unloading trucks and sweeping floors but now focuses mostly on buying and sales as the team leader of the company’s sales and trading team.

John Vena, president, said he believes this position will help Dan Vena develop the skills he needs to succeed in the produce industry.

“This position exposes him to all the facets of our business and the industry. This will help develop him into a top leader in our company and in the industry,” he said.

Dan Vena mentions his father as being one of his greatest mentors, but as the fourth generation in a family business he also appreciates those family members he never got to personally work with.

“My grandfather died when I was 2, but hearing stories of how he was a great salesman help inspire me to work harder and do what I do every day,” he said.

Family is clearly important to Vena, who cites becoming a father as one of his proudest moments. He’s also proud of his opportunities in the industry, such as being selected for the 2010-11 United Fresh Leadership Class and seeing continued company growth.

In fact, John Vena reports that Dan’s first assignment was hass avocados, and from 2007 to 2011 he doubled the company’s volume of that category.

“For 2012, he is on track to see growth of 45% above 2011 levels,” John Vena said.

Dan Vena’s goals include being more active on industry boards, but he also has goals inside the company.

“I just want to continue to grow and service our customers and find new customers. I want to keep bringing people the most interesting fruits and vegetables that are available.”

In fact, introducing customers and consumers to new varieties of fruits and vegetables is one of Dan Vena’s biggest passions.

“I come from a family of food lovers, and I love getting to find new interesting produce items to sell and sample and show people,” he said. “The other day I got to introduce a woman to a fig for the first time. I love that stuff.”