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Erin Tolefree

President, Baldwin Richardson Foods Company

Years in current role: 1

What was your biggest success in 2021?

Our biggest success of 2021 is that Baldwin Richardson Foods was able to continue growing despite the volatility in the supply chain and labor market and never waver in our commitment to our customers. The fact that we could create and seize opportunities for growth and continued success — despite the topsy-turvy nature of conditions around us — is 100 percent due to the strength and commitment of our people and our culture. On a personal note, I’m proud that during such a tumultuous time I was able to navigate the complexities of work and family in such a way that my husband and children are happy and thriving. That will always be the most important measure of success in my life.

What is your biggest takeaway from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

My biggest takeaway was about the power of community. Baldwin Richardson Foods made the decision early on that we would take care of our employees no matter what, so we committed to maintaining full-time employment while providing a safe environment. We used that time for capital improvement projects, and when recovery orders started ramping back up, we were ready. It was a challenging year, but I saw the way the BRF community rallied around each other and I knew that we were lucky. So at the end of the year, we increased our contributions to the local organizations that we support — because it hadn’t been an easy year for them, either. The pandemic has brought home for me how critically important it is for communities to take care of each other in tough times.

What is your favorite thing about the Rochester community?

Rochester has amazing resources: It is a wonderful place to raise a family, with great schools and beautiful natural resources. It has a fantastic higher ed infrastructure that is launching world-class talent into the world. Rochester is experiencing a resurgence of entrepreneurship and is an excellent place for entrepreneurs to come up with big ideas to launch and grow. The pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for our community with disparate impacts on rural, urban and communities of color. Because of the abundance of Rochester’s resources — our people and our culture of entrepreneurship — I believe we can come out of this time with a recovery that doesn’t just help us survive but helps us to collectively thrive and achieve greatness as a community. Our potential is limitless!

This profile is part of Rochester Business Journal's Power 100 list for 2022. Information used in this profile was sourced from the honoree. View the full list at rbj.net.

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