Andrea Giraldo showed she had the business gene as far back as the 10th grade when she was a student at a Catholic school in Colombia.
Giraldo, a Pearl River resident who today owns and operates a successful food distribution company, exhibited her acumen with the art of the deal at that early age when she took advantage of a business opportunity regarding chewing gum.
Her school forbade gum chewing, but that didn't stop the young Giraldo from seizing the chance to turn a profit. She did a little research and found that she could buy gum for one peso and sell it to her classmates for 10 pesos. Little did she know that this ability would have a great effect on her future.
Today her company, A & G Trading Corporation is a specialty food distributor supplying organic, gourmet, and ethnic foods to the supermarket trade and natural food stores.
She credits much of her success to her prodigious ability to network in the business world.
"My contacts are my capital," Giraldo said.
It has been a long and always challenging journey for the self-professed "soccer mom" since she set out on this path about nine years ago.
Giraldo was born of Colombian parents in New York City and then spent 10 years of her childhood as an Orangetown resident. Before moving to Colombia in the mid-1990's, she earned an associates degree in advertising from the Parsons School of Design in Manhattan.
While in South America, she honed her talents and started building her network by working as a regional director for an internet company. where she specialized in sales to corporations, universities, and business-to-business negotiations. She also gained valuable experience as the marketing director for an energy company and by being active in political fundraising. It was also in Colombia that she met her husband Andres Orango, an agricultural engineer.
In 2002, Giraldo and her husband returned to the United States and moved to Pearl River. After only a week back in the U.S., a Colombian company had her serve as their representative at the Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center. At this stage of her career she focused on dry foods and worked exclusively for Colombian firms that did not have large enough budgets to gain entrance into the U. S. market. Giraldo filled a necessary niche. She sold products from these companies to importers and distributors
In 2005, Giraldo felt that she had enough experience and contacts to start performing the distribution function on her own Her marketing prowess was so well regarded by other countries that, in addition to Colombia, she was invited by the governments of Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain and Egypt to visit trade shows on their behalf.
This is a highly-prized role in the food industry as individual countries usually invite no more than a total of 20 people from the U.S. in any year. It is also a position that comes with a certain amount of pressure as these representatives are expected to make knowledgeable purchases at the various shows.
Giraldo feels very lucky to be so well respected.
"Most of the other invitees are from major corporations," Giraldo said. "In Egypt it is a blessing to have this opportunity particularly because in the Arab world women are held in a different category."
This made Giraldo's appearance at the first food networking event sponsored by the Egyptian government in December 2009 an even greater accomplishment. It allowed her to stand shoulder to shoulder with buyers from many other countries including England, Spain, Russia, Syria and Morocco.
Now that she handles over 600 items and works with major chains including Inserra Group (Shoprite), Fairway, Zabars, Garden of Eden, Amish and Barzini she hasn't forgotten the key people that have helped her company to grow.
"I have tremendous gratitude for the Inserra Group," Giraldo said. "They have supported me from day one by carrying my items."
She is also quick to add that working with major chain stores brings another set of problems.
"In these stores it is very difficult to introduce any new items," Giraldo said. "There are slotting fees and advertising money is necessary. A slotting fee is required to get a product approved for sale in their stores, but it can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 per item. The fees vary based on the size of the chain."
Today Giraldo works with four independent sales representatives and has an accountant and a delivery person on her staff. In September, 2010 she developed her own brand, Giraldo Farms, and distributed her first product under that banner — coffee. At present, she sells several varieties of coffee including organic and decaffeinated while her instant coffee has become the best seller in some New York City stores.
"I have always been fascinated by how one item can have such an impact on an entire country," Giraldo said, referring to Columbia. "I hope to expand my own brand and add other brands. To do that I will continue to strive for the best possible service because my customers are the reason for the success of my company."
Giraldo was honored with an outstanding business community award May 24 at the Orange and Rockland County Women of Distinction Awards Luncheon.
Giraldo resides with her husband Andres Orango and their 13-year-old son Manuel, who she proudly says, "Is a soccer player at Pearl River Middle School."
"My son has influenced my business and limited my work schedule but the most important thing is to make sure that my family is happy and peaceful," Giraldo said.
Article reposted with permission from Patch. Read the full article here.
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