MEEt a contributor:  Tatiana perez, Temkin international 

Tatiana Perez started as a teenager in the floral industry and now is a business leader with a leading packaging supplier for floral and produce. Her company, Temkin International, is a Center for Growing Talent partner at the $2,500–$4,900 level.

We asked Tatiana about her career path, leadership style and why she get's involved. 

You started out working for a floral grower in Florida. Describe your career path from the floral industry to the supplier side. 
I was very young, and I think most of us in the floral industry sort of stumble onto it. I studied criminology in college and then worked with disadvantaged youth and thought I could change the world. But then realized it was going to be a huge challenge. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next, and my stepfather, who owned Nature’s Flowers, said, “Why don’t you come and help me out?” I had worked there in the summers, working in the warehouse and packing flowers. I stayed there for 7 years before moving over to Temkin. Nature’s Flowers went from being a five-person family company to being one of Temkin’s top customers. I started working in marketing for just the floral side, but I now do marketing for all the Temkin companies.   

Can you think of someone in your career who’s played a big role in your success? What advice did they share?
The first name that comes to mind is my stepfather, George Malavenda. When I went to work for him, I was thinking about going back to school for my master’s degree, and the one thing he told me when he asked me to come help him was, “I’m going to give you your master’s.” He could not have been more correct. It was the school of hard knocks. He’s very tough and a Harvard graduate, and he taught me so much in those seven years. He’s very strategic and methodical, and he advised me to always have a Plan B and a Plan C — even if everything’s perfect, look into the future. What’s your next plan?  

What’s your leadership style? 
Temkin employs about 600 people, headquarters are in Utah; I manage the marketing team. I think my style is very personal. I don’t micromanage — I like to give direction and inspiration but be very hands-off. It’s best when you collaborate; when I tell my creative team what to do, it never grows organically.   

In a crowded retail landscape, packaging is more important than ever. What’s the secret to a great food or floral package? 
For floral, it’s the perfect balance of letting the flowers carry their own beauty and letting the package sell. We want it to be so easy on the eye that the packaging adds to the product. You can either kill your product with packaging or show it off and complement it.  

Flexible film packaging is becoming a more suitable option for supermarkets around the world. It provides a good amount of real estate for eye-catching designs, information about the product and in some cases adds shelf life to produce products. It also allows the supermarkets to gain more shelf space and the end user easy and reusable packaging.    

Branding and messaging are huge right now. It’s not just an orange, it’s a Cutie. Packaging can really reinforce that message to the consumer.   

Thinking about Center for Growing Talent, what do you think is their most important work in the industry?
When I first heard of Center for Growing Talent, I thought it was so great because it still amazes me that it’s still such an unknown market for young people. I was 22 when I started out. Most people in our industry stumble into it or have family members in the business. CGT has brought so many younger employees into the industry. It is a great bridge to connect students to this market that’s a hidden gem.   

It’s not just that we need new talent and new ideas — this group of young professionals elevates the whole industry. Without CGT, I don’t know of other avenues for that to happen.  

Why does your company support the organization?   
For Danny Temkin, it’s always been so important to support the industry. If we’re not doing this, then who will? We want to show our support for work that to us and to Danny is so relevant. And in turn, CGT and PMA want to make sure our business is supported, as well.