( Graphic by Amelia Freidline )

Just because you’re born into a family business doesn’t mean that’s what you’re going to do for a living. 

But for fourth-generation wholesaler Stefanie Katzman, it was a choice that fit — ever since her summer before college when she started loading trucks, building customer orders and inspecting product as a porter at Katzman Group’s warehouses in Hunts Point Produce Market, Bronx, N.Y.

“I got sucked in from the beginning,” Katzman said with a laugh. 

The company started with a horse and wagon in the 1890s, and today has three main divisions: S. Katzman Produce Inc., Katzman Berry Corp. and Sharkey’s Trucking.

Katzman’s father, Stephen Katzman, said his daughter’s skills deserve praise: “You picked the perfect person,” he said.

More than 17 years after her initial porter position, you can bet Katzman earned her executive manager role, or as she likes to call it, a facilitator and planner — “I check in on each department, plan for future growth and sometimes it’s just listening or giving suggestions,” Katzman said.

I work on strengthening all those relationships that have helped us become what we are today, and that’s what’s going to help us continue to grow.

She loves the dynamic nature and personalities of the produce industry.

“You have so many strong, A-type personalities and you get a lot of pushback in both directions, which I think is fun,” Katzman said.

She loves to negotiate and rely on the team mentality to find quick, good solutions when a weather event throws curveballs that can affect produce quality and quantity. Katzman played soccer, basketball and softball in high school — all team sports — and carried into her career that ability to work as part of a team toward a common goal. 

Katzman is a firm believer in asking questions. People should understand why they’re tasked with doing something a certain way, she said. Sometimes, they’ll suggest an even better way.
 
That teamwork mentality is what helps Katzman tackle the biggest challenge in her job: handling all the moving parts and the chain reaction when one thing goes wrong.

And then there’s the camaraderie, which is no small thing. She spends time visiting vendors and customers, as well as attending conferences to build relationships.

“I work on strengthening all those relationships that have helped us become what we are today, and that’s what’s going to help us continue to grow,” Katzman said. 

“And the only way that’s going to happen is to keep the pedal hitting the floor.”

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