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Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, chief executive officer of Vero Beach, FL-based Seald Sweet International, will be the guest speaker at the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce, Tuesday, May 2, at United Fresh 2011 in New Orleans.

Held each year in conjunction with the United Fresh convention and expo, the Reception Honoring Women in maydaProduce recognizes the contributions of all women working in the produce industry, and selects one individual to share their personal experience of service. The featured speaker is selected from nominations submitted by United Fresh members across the industry and reviewed by a committee of her peers, including honorees from the past 15 years.

“From entry level to the corner office, Mayda’s career is proof positive that hard work and savvy business skills are rewarded in our industry,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in an April 7 press release. “And since assuming the role of CEO, Mayda has played a critical role in the international growth of Seald Sweet within the citrus category, and its diversification into other areas like deciduous and tropical fruits. Self-made, roll-up-your-sleeves stories like Mayda’s are the cornerstones of so many produce businesses, and a fantastic leadership example for the next generation of produce leaders, both male and female.”

Ms. Sotomayor-Kirk emigrated from her native Havana with her family when she was just three years old. The family settled in south Florida and she attended Miami-Dade Community College on a scholarship, originally pursuing a career in law. After discovering a passion for the world of international produce, Ms. Sotomayor-Kirk took an entry-level sales position with Pompano, FL-based Great American Farms, eventually working her way up to director of imports. In 2000, she acceptedthe same position at Seald Sweet and helped to develop and lead the company’s imports program. She became the company’s first female senior vice president in 2004, and in 2007, Ms. Sotomayor-Kirk became the first female CEO in the company’s 100-year history.

 

“I am so humbled and honored to speak at this year’s Reception Honoring Women in Produce,” Ms. Sotomayor-Kirk said in the press release. “So much of what drives me in the produce industry is the building of relationships. It has been at the core of my own success, and at the core of our success as a company at Seald Sweet. In that same vein, the annual United show is so effective at fostering those relationships, and I am very happy to be a part of that this year.”

A wife and mother of two, Ms. Sotomayor-Kirk has succeeded in expanding her company’s international network and programs, helping to position Seald Sweet as a global leader in the citrus category, and continuing to foster ties with Seald Sweet’s Belgium-based parent company, Univeg.

In addition to her involvement with United Fresh, Sotomayor-Kirk also serves on the board of directors of the Produce Marketing Association, as well as the board of directors of Seald Sweet’s Uruguayan citrus subsidiary, Forbel S.A.

The annual Reception Honoring Women in Produce has established itself as one of the more popular networking events at the association’s annual convention. This year’s event will be held Tuesday, May 2 at the Hilton Riverside New Orleans. Tickets are required for the event, as either part of a convention package registration, or can be purchased onsite for $50.