Packer 25 2020 — Stephanie Hilton
Stephanie Hilton continues to be a student of the produce industry, building each day on decades of experience, including 17 years with her own marketing firm.
“You never ever stop learning,” Hilton said.
“There’s never a given day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.”
Hilton started her career with TexaSweet Citrus Advertising and later moved to the California Strawberry Commission, where she spent 12 years before starting her company, Hilton Marketing.
She’s well known for her marketing and business development work for the Tom Lange Family of Cos., which has given her the opportunity to build on and expand beyond her berry expertise, including getting involved in the food safety arena and working with domestic and international producers.
"She has a great leadership style in that she’s leading you and you don’t even realize you’re being led ... She’s so supportive, and she teaches without you even realizing you’re being taught something." — Cindy Jewell, Jewell Marketing
Hilton has also been a valuable contributor to the industry as a whole, from her role as a founding member of the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Roots women’s program to her participation as an industry ambassador for the Career Pathways program by the Produce Marketing Association’s Center for Growing Talent, among other service.
“Stephanie is one of those people in the produce industry that I think knows everyone,” said Cindy Jewell, president of Jewell Marketing, who has been good friends with Hilton since they were both at the California Strawberry Commission.
“When I walk down an aisle with her at a convention, we don’t get very far before she’s saying hello to people I’ve never even met before. I feel like I’ve been in the industry just as long as her, but she knows 10 times as many people.
“She’s so inclusive and so wide-open and just engaging,” Jewell said.
“She has a great leadership style in that she’s leading you and you don’t even realize you’re being led ... She’s so supportive, and she teaches without you even realizing you’re being taught something.”
Jewell echoed what Hilton mentioned about always being a student, commenting on her friend’s willingness to tackle work in different areas of the industry.
“She’s not afraid of a challenge ... She has no fear,” Jewell said. “She easily adapts to whatever the challenge is ahead, just doesn’t miss a beat.”
Jewell considers Hilton one of her mentors, and Hilton says the same of Jewell.
“You never ever stop learning. There’s never a given day that goes by that I don’t learn something new.” — Stephanie Hilton, Hilton Marketing
Another person Hilton has watched and learned from for the past 20 years is her husband Mark, the vice president of produce and floral for retailer Harris Teeter.
“From Mark, I gained a great appreciation and knowledge of a different side of our business, a much greater appreciation for the art of listening, and a reinforcement of treat people the way you want to be treated, always with respect and compassion,” Hilton said.
While she continues to be a student of the industry, she endeavors to give others the opportunity to do the same.
Paving the way for the people coming up the ranks, helping them rise and be the best they can be, is something she considers an important part of leadership, and she finds those efforts to be time well spent.
“There’s nothing more gratifying than someone e-mailing you or saying, oh, I remember this particular incident, and how it made a difference in them either that day or long-term,” Hilton said.
“To me there’s nothing more rewarding because you never know how you impact anyone’s life on any given day.”
More from The Packer 25:
Packer 25 2020 — James Harris
Packer 25 2020 — Rich Gonzales
Packer 25 2020 — Xavier Equihua
Packer 25 2020 — Carter Bray
Packer 25 2020 — Todd Bernitt
Packer 25 2020 — Skip Consalo
Packer 25 2020 — Joe Barsi
Packer 25 2020 — Alisha Albinder Camac