Caribbean import is Valley’s top exporter

VISALIA – Crops from Tulare County go to three quarters of the world’s countries making Tulare County one of the top agricultural exporting counties in the nation. The companies connecting produce sellers and buyers are often large, international companies with hundreds or thousands of employees. But some of the exporters, like many of the farmers they partner with, remain small, grass roots businesses located just down around the corner.

It was just 15 years ago when Didier Vivies, an immigrant from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, founded his company Central Valley Ag Exports, Inc. in Visalia. He began by going door-to-door to establish relationships with farmers who would supply him with high quality commodities at a good price and with customers whom were willing to give him a chance and start buying from him. From these humble beginnings, today CVAE employs 10 people and has earned the “2020 Exporter of the Year” Small Business Award from the Central California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network SBA. They were nominated for the National Small Business Award by the Valley Community Small Business Development Center (VCSBDC) which serves Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Madera Counties, and is hosted by Clovis Community College.

“We were honored to have CVAE win this award,” VCSBDC director Rich Mostert explained. “Our team of expert consultants provides a full range of no-cost services and workshops to companies across a diverse array of industries, and it is always so rewarding to help a company grow and succeed.”

Due to the pandemic the traditional May SBA Small Business Week event was unable to occur, and the company has been recognized in a private ceremony. “This yearly event recognizes the critical impact small businesses have on our local economies and celebrates the outstanding accomplishments made by each of our award recipients,” Central CA SBDC regional director Kurt Clark said. “Their achievements exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is a hallmark of the U.S.”

Vivies established the business in the most fertile agricultural area of the San Joaquin Valley and features a large variety of legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, rice and oatmeal. Serving both domestic and international companies, they offer a variety of options, from bulk deliveries direct from farmer to customer, to packaging for international and domestic locations, to private label packaging.

CVAE credits the consulting assistance they received from the Valley Community SBDC as pivotal to their growth and success, and have worked with the VCSBDC for several years. “VCSBDC’s consultant Olga Martinez has been of great help by assisting us with our growth objectives by introductions to prospective strategy partners through business-to-business match-making, recommending we participate in different conferences and trade shows, plus other strategy advisory services,” CVAE operations manager Ludivine Vivies said.

Since 2003, the Central CA SBDC has assisted thousands of companies, from start-ups to established firms with no-cost consulting services, workshops and assistance in sourcing funds. This has helped to create and retain over 10,000 jobs, as well as creating more than $435 million in loans and equity. The Central CA SBDC and its five dedicated satellite Centers serve 14 counties in Central California: San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare, Kern, Mono and Inyo counties.

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