“Faith and Family will Get You Through Anything” With Marygrace Sexton, CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices
I had the pleasure to interview Marygrace Sexton, Founder and CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices, and her daughter Natalie (who is marketing director and just had her own baby girl!).Marygrace started her company by delivering her squeezed fresh juice out of a borrowed refrigerated meat truck at night. She worked day and night to revive an old factory on the tired side of town in Fort Pierce, Florida, into a thriving juice manufacturing plant where millions of pieces of fruit pass through its doors to be crafted into one of the country’s most delicious clean label juices. She raised two beautiful daughters (and is now helping to raise her granddaughter) and nurtured and grew her women owned business into a second generation women owned $60 million dollar success. All the while she never forgot where she came from and continues to give to those less fortunate than her and her family.(Including juice donations, monetary donations, and a new DE-TECH program she has created for kids). But her greatest accomplishment in her mind is that she has nourished a generation of families with her authentically healthy line of juices. Now her daughter is doing the same. Marygrace’s husband, (Natalie’s father) is a fourth generation citrus farmer and it was one day when Marygrace was pulling her daughter Natalie in a red wagon through the orange groves, that she decided she was going to change the world!
What is your “backstory”?
The Natalie’s story begins in a family orange grove back in 1989, when I was pulling my infant daughter Natalie through the rows of citrus trees in a little red wagon. My husband, a fourth-generation citrus grower, had always dreamed of producing squeezed fresh juice, free from preservatives, artificial ingredients and added sugars, but he was in the midst of managing the family’s packinghouse and I saw it as an opportunity for me to make it happen. Reflecting upon my own infant daughter and other mothers like me who cared about their family’s food choices, I became determined right then and there to bring this business idea to fruition. On that crisp fall morning, in the middle of the grove, I began my labor of love, and named it after its inspiration, my daughter Natalie.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I think one of the funniest and most interesting times is when I received my first big order. I realized that due to the freshness of the juice, it needed to be kept refrigerated– including during delivery. We didn’t yet have a delivery infrastructure, so I borrowed the local meat purveyor’s refrigerated truck to make my delivery. While it wasn’t exactly ideal, it got the job done and I am very grateful to have been able to fulfill the order.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One thing that really distinguishes our company is our transparency when describing our juices. Juice companies these days can use terms like, all-natural, organic or fresh, but when it comes down to it, these descriptions aren’t clearly defined anywhere and are open to pretty liberal interpretation. That’s why we let our bottle labels do the talking; Our ingredient list is right on the front label, we use clear terms like no added sugars, non-GMO and no preservatives.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I think about the things that are most important to me in my work-life balance and as a company, we try to achieve those things that work for us. In addition, when an employee is at work it’s important to listen to their suggestions and business ideas. People were meant to use the gifts they’re given. It’s important to recognize these attributes and manage each individual in a way that brings out the best in them, both personally and professionally. Your employees are one of your greatest assets. It is your responsibility to provide for your employees which is why we have implemented excellent programs like a new 401K matching program, and excellent health benefits. As a CEO and leader, you want to empower your employees and help them believe in your mission and brand. People that have a strong sense of purpose in your business will thrive. Give people a purpose.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
One of my first bosses, Dr. Barkett helped develop my work ethic. He taught me to strive for excellence in all that I do. Mediocrity was not an option, he instilled a discipline of being intentional, detail oriented and of working hard… For me it all comes down to faith and family. I would be nowhere without them. One time, in the early days of getting the company off the ground, I got a little too involved with working all the time. My brother Bill made the simplest of gestures. He bought me a bicycle and left it in my driveway one day. He knew we both loved riding bikes as kids and he wanted to remind me that there were other pursuits in life beyond our business. He was right, and that simple gesture began a bike-riding renaissance for me. It’s done a world of good, for me personally and the health of the company as well. Faith and family will get you through anything.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes. It’s one of the core values in our business mission at Natalie’s to give back to the communities that help us succeed. That’s why we stay loyal to our network of Florida citrus growers and donate close to 20 thousand gallons of juice to worthy causes. In addition, we help over 60 charitable organizations make an impact in the communities that they serve. Through our success at Natalie’s, God has blessed us with the opportunity to make a difference and improve the lives of others.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me before I Became CEO” and why.
I don’t believe in questions like this. I think everyone has their own journey and purpose and through their journey each person will experience triumphs and hardships. You cannot tell someone how to be a CEO — you have to experience it and learn from it as you go. I think everyone should have the opportunity and strive to be a CEO- however, most people limit themselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Work the hardest, and excel at what you do. Fight for what you believe is right and have confidence in your ability to succeed despite adversity”
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?