Linda Baisley '74, foods and nutrition
She has won a patent for her ideas, run two successful businesses and been named "Man of the Year" by Rich Products. But Linda Baisley, '74, is still driven to make sure Buena Vista Food Products, a food distribution company she has owned and operated in Irwindale since 1991, stays competitive in the constantly evolving food industry.
Baisley explains part of what keeps her motivated to succeed.
"The food industry just never stays the same, so it's those challenges that keep it going: Proving to myself that a small business can compete right alongside the big boys. General Mills, Rich Products and some of those other companies are huge, but we can still do a good job as a small business."
Within a week of graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, Baisley began working for Larry's Food Company, a business that was later sold to one of the "big boys," Anheuser Bush. She worked for other large companies, but the entrepreneurial bug was always on her mind.
"My parents were entrepreneurs. It was always my desire to be able to be my own boss and do it on my own, I did not want to work for someone else. I had been in business for ten years prior to [starting my own business] and I just felt like I was not happy living by someone else's corporate standards," she said.
It was the mid '70's when Baisley started in the food business, and like other industries, it was not exempt from the difficulties a woman had trying to climb the corporate ladder. When Rich Products hired her for sales, women had to have a college degree unlike their male counterparts.
"Standards were definitely higher for women than men at that time," she said. "I wasn't trying to say , 'Well I'm going to do this because I'm a woman.' I just worked hard, and I wanted to work right along the men in the position that I was in and be accepted and part of the team."
She was honored as part of the team when she became the first woman to win Rich Products' "Man of the Year Award," an honor that she says gave her confidence. It is also the award she is most proud of.
In 2002, Cal Poly Pomona recognized Baisley's contributions to her industry and alma mater by awarding her the Distinguished Alumni Award.
"I really felt that if I had spent as many years devoting myself and really giving up a lot of things, that I wanted to be able to have my degree pay off," she said. "A goal I set for myself was that upon graduation I would have a job in the food industry, and I wanted to meet those goals."
Nutrition for school children is one of her interests. She has organized trips to Washington, D.C., for members of the school food service industry to lobby congress for increases in funding to improve school lunch programs.
She recently hired a Cal Poly Pomona graduate to handle quality control at her facility. Along with offering internships to the university's students, she has donated cookies and baked goods for several College of Agriculture events.
Baisley pushes for change. By being an astute witness to evolution within her industry, she subsequently designed a patent-winning cookie packaging process that gives her an advantage over her competitors. This distinction makes her a standout in the food business.