South American Beef Inc.
After years of working in Argentina for numerous meat companies as a beef exporter, Alejandra “Alex” Vidal-Soler moved to the United States and started her own company. South American Beef Inc. was founded in 1999 in Des Moines, Iowa. Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown every year and is now at the forefront of wholesale meat and seafood distribution, offering many products that are available year-round.
Vidal-Soler began her career by earning a degree in farm administration. “When South America opened the borders to bring beef into the United States, I came here to get into the market and introduce grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free beef,” recalls Vidal-Soler. “I began representing companies from South America as a broker and then opened my own business in September 1999.”
One of the most competitive advantages that South American Beef possesses is the relationships that Vidal-Soler has maintained with suppliers from all over the world. “That’s our strength that makes us very competitive in the market,” Vidal-Soler explains. “We also live on our reputation that our customers can rely on us to keep our word.” An additional strength is the company’s ability to obtain almost anything that a customer requests. Again, Vidal-Soler attributes this to her relationships with suppliers.
Different products, different customers
As many business owners are aware, diversification is often critical to the success and growth of a company. South American Beef has recognized that asset as the company has expanded its products from the purchase, import and sales of high-quality beef to lamb, goat, mutton, veal pork, rabbit, seafood and poultry game meats from well-known packing plants. “Diversification is the key to our success because in this market things can change every day,” says Vidal-Soler. “Sometimes the market shifts in our favor and sometimes it doesn’t, but our large selection of products is what has kept us growing and profitable.”
With 10 full-time employees, South American Beef works with distributors all over the country. The company imports multiple containers to all the major ports in U.S. “We work out of ports in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Miami, Houston and Savannah,” says Vidal-Soler. “We also have cold-storage facilities in all of those locations plus others in Chicago and Atlanta. Our customers can pick up product at those locations or we can deliver.” The company also exports to the Caribbean and recently started exporting to Europe, Africa and Asia.
South American Beef has been fortunate in that the company rarely has to seek out new business. Most of the company’s new markets approach Vidal-Soler and her team with opportunities. “As long as I have relationships with people all over the world and am able to do it, I will — because I love what I do,” says Vidal-Soler. “I often take these opportunities to help other people in the industry. For example, some of my suppliers out of Uruguay or Australia want to get product to Hong Kong or Singapore from South America but they don’t have the connections that I do. I’m willing to help people with that.” The fact the Vidal-Soler is bilingual is a major asset for global communications.
Vidal-Soler seems to have mastered the art of networking and building relationships. She currently sits on the board of directors of the Meat Importers Council of America (MICA). As the only female business owner on the board, Vidal-Soler says the experience has opened many doors for her and her company. “I have traveled all over world and visited just about every packing plant there is,” she says.
Doing the right thing pays off
Through all the success that South American Beef has experienced over the years, Vidal-Soler says that maintaining her integrity toward the business and her clients has remained the most important aspect. “My word is everything,” Vidal-Soler explains. “I am 100 percent honest with my employees and clients. I was deceived to a lot by the bigger companies when I first started. I still consider myself a small business owner but a big player in the market.”
Vidal-Soler utilizes this mindset as motivation when she goes to work every day. “I love to sell and take orders and I love to talk to customers,” she elaborates. The act of communicating with customers and informing them of the best decision is something that gives her a great deal of pride. “It’s very rewarding when a customer tells me that they are happy that they chose to work with me and my company, she adds.”
As the company continues to grow, South American Beef Inc. will continue to build upon its established relationships around the world while establishing new partnerships.