Small Business Week takes place April 30 – May 6, and Paychex is proud to celebrate small companies by sharing stories of success and inspiration.
Do you love sweet, crunchy, colorful peppers in your salads and stir-frys? Odds are that the tasty vegetables you enjoy come from Prime Time International, the largest shipper of peppers in the United States. This small Coachella, California, business specializes in growing and marketing colored peppers — green, yellow, orange, and red — with year-round availability.
Four men from diverse agricultural backgrounds founded the company in 1991. “Their intent was to grow and sell the finest-quality fresh fruits and vegetables, and to become a consistent supplier to retail, food service, and wholesale customers,” says Mike Aiton, Prime Time’s director of marketing. “In the mid-1990s, they determined that to have a little bit of a lot of items was not the route to success, [as] the [consumer] landscape was changing. They identified the fresh pepper category as a growing, yet underserviced, segment of the industry and determined to specialize in this crop.”
Today, Aiton notes, Prime Time ships more than 30,000 cases of peppers every day of the year from nine locations throughout the United States and Canada. With a focus on the strictest standards, the farming, harvesting, and packing facilities are recognized as best-in-class. Despite its remarkable expansion, the business has stayed true to its roots. Although two of Prime Time’s original founders have passed away, the two still living are mentoring two long-time employees to succeed them.
“Being in charge of the growing of fresh produce is challenging, frustrating, and complicated,” Aiton says. “The thrill of success is much better because of all the controllable and uncontrollable obstacles which must be overcome. We have a small cadre of top-notch employees, and we’re proud of the dedication and perseverance they demonstrate through good times and bad. Being master of your own destiny is challenging, but extremely rewarding.
“In our industry, your competitors are your friends and allies, and we rely on each other to make the industry stronger,” Aiton says. “Encouraging consumers to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables is a noble cause, and we are all dedicated to moving that needle forward. [At Prime Time] we eat the same food everyone else does, and because of this, we do everything possible to grow the safest produce in the world and provide consumers with nutritious, inexpensive foods.”