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FoodLink Online staffer brings business acumen beyond his years

Ryan Schneider, vice president of sales and business development for FoodLink Online LLC, headquartered in Los Gatos, CA, has already packed an impressive amount of education and experience into his short career.

At only 29 years old, his role includes growing the company's on-line platform to suppliers and retailers while helping the fresh fruit and vegetable industry with solutions for turn-key compliance with the produce traceability initiative, or PTI as it is commonly known.

"FoodLink provides the data and tools to the nation’s leading retailers, wholesalers and foodservice companies to facilitate procurement with a dramatically better and more efficient way to buy and sell perishable foods," said Mr. Schneider. “We partner with about 1,300 suppliers, connecting them with buyers so they can better facilitate their transactions. When everyone is on the same page with the same information, the result is a more streamlined process.”

Mr. Schneider graduated in 2003 from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, where he majored in economics and political science. He spent the next four years as a senior project consultant for Corporate Executive Board Co., a leading network-based performance advisory firm in Washington, DC.

“In the fall of 2007, I went to the University of California Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles, and graduated with an MBA in June 2009,” he said. “I studied entrepreneurship, with a goal of using my education and experience to help smaller companies to grow their businesses and stay abreast of industry trends and needs.”

Before joining FoodLink, he worked for Rustic Canyon Partners in Santa Monica, CA, a venture capital firm and FoodLink’s principle investor. Prior to that, he was a financial analyst and business developer for a sustainability consulting firm.

“I was in the investor side at Rustic Canyon Partners, but I had expressed an interest in going into business development,” he explained. “I started working with FoodLink full time in January 2010. My job description is to grow the revenue. We’re doing this by better engaging prospective customers. We sell our product by demonstrating how it is of value to both suppliers and retailers. We sell primarily to the buy side of the industry, such as retailers and box stores that do business as wholesalers.”

Mr. Schneider explained that the company’s product is “Software as a Service,” which provides an end-to-end supply chain solution that optimizes the fresh foods marketplace. Rather than forcing buyers and sellers to rely on inefficient, error-prone manual communication channels, FoodLink offers a web-based platform that creates seamless, automated connections among all parties and their systems, including buyers, sellers and carriers. FoodLink stores all the information and history about each transaction, allowing the buyer, receiver, seller and transportation carrier to have real-time access to accurate and timely information.

“Another aspect of our business is to look at partnerships,” added Mr. Schneider. “There are a large number of software providers that may complement what we do, so we look at solutions to bring our products together to achieve greater value and product development.”

Mr. Schneider grew up in a small suburb of Cleveland. His mother is a third grade teacher, and his father owns a financial advisory company. He said that his interest in sustainability and the environment started at an early age, and his ongoing dedication is evident in how he spends much of his free time.

“I’m an active member of Heal the Bay, an organization that works to make Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean,” he said. “As a volunteer, I help to engage other local organizations in fundraising, beach cleanups and insuring safe runoff for humans and wildlife. Through community action events and programs such as 'Nothin’ But Sand’ and ‘Coastal Cleanup Day,’ as well as through advocacy efforts, we work to move municipal, state and federal government and regulatory agencies to act in our collective interests.”

He is one of the organization’s speakers, and he addresses students and others in the community about its work.

Mr. Schneider is also interested in promoting high-quality food products from organic and local small farmers that will enable large-scale sustainability in the future.

Growing up, Mr. Schneider played tennis, golf and basketball, and since moving to California, he has taken up surfing and hiking. He also started taking piano lessons, which is something he’s wanted to do for many years.

“It’s always a good time to branch out and do things that bring more culture into your life,” he said.

Mr. Schneider also loves to travel, and he has backpacked through Europe, Thailand and the Caribbean. In all, he has traveled to nearly 50 countries.

“I try to go somewhere different every year,” he said. “One year I’m scuba diving in Hawaii or Mexico, and the next year I’ll go to Wimbledon [in London] to see the tennis matches. My travel experiences have been diverse, but I gain something wonderful from every trip that I take.”

He hopes to travel to Australia next, with the goal of diving at the Great Barrier Reef “before it gets destroyed and is no longer there,” he said with a hint of worry. “I travel with a large group of friends from the various places I’ve lived. We also like to go to wine country in California and on other interesting excursions.”

Health and fitness are also at the top of Mr. Schneider’s list of personal commitments. He won the Live FIT 5K Run/Walk for the 25-29 age group at the 2010 PMA Fresh Summit Convention in Orlando, FL, in October, which combines personal achievement with charitable contribution by benefiting the PMA Foundation for Industry. He also participated in the City of Los Angeles Triathlon in October 2010.

“FoodLink is constantly adding new features to its product,” he said. “It is very important to continually evolve to consistently meet the ever-changing needs of our customers through ongoing product and service innovation. We adhere to each customer’s unique set of challenges with seamless product customization, and our goal is to continue to strengthen our ability to deliver promised results through world-class customer support. We enjoyed a good fourth quarter 2010, and we’re looking for high growth in 2011.”