On June 14, 2021, Lynda Resnick, vice-chairman and co-owner of The Wonderful Company had a fireside chat with members of the Greater Island Council of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton at our Monday Speaker Series Event.
“The Wonderful Company is a privately held $5 billion company committed to offering high-quality, healthy brands and helping consumers make better choices, every day. With offices in five states, 13 countries and five separate continents, The Wonderful Company is a California company with a global footprint.” From The Wonderful Company website.
Lynda Resnick is the vice-chairman and co-owner of The Wonderful Company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA.
Following is a summary of the high points of the fireside chat with Lynda Resnick via Zoom.
- Lynda had an Ah-ha epiphany in 2009. She and her husband have always been philanthropists. In 2009, Michael Sandel did a presentation on Justice in Society in Aspen and stayed at the Resnick’s house. He asked if you lived in a perfect town and you had a choice of going on with your perfect Nirvana life or interceding in the life of a child being tortured, knowing that the Nirvana would end. What would you do? She realized that this was her life and that many kids are in that situation now and she was not doing all she could to help.
- Lost Hills – Lynda was not welcomed with open arms at the beginning of her work with the town because they thought that she would leave like others who volunteered to help them. So, staying is what built trust. She did 500 surveys and talked to many people and listened to them. They said that a very high priority is making sure that their kids’ have a good future. So, she decided that she needed to do something to give them hope.
Yes, Lost Hills is really the name of the town!
- Biggest lessons learned from Lost Hills initiative:
- Inside we are all the same
- Luck and privilege got her where she is
- 98% of the people in Lost Hills are Latino and they are very concerned about their children and safety
- The two Wonderful College Prep Academy schools are charter schools. It cost $125M to build them (physical plants). They also support 168 other public schools that their employees’ kids attend in other Central Valley communities.
- K-12 education program: The most important element for success is leadership and teachers. The first class of kids were 2-3 years behind. Now it starts at preschool and they have nearly a 100% rate of college attendance.
- Wonderful Company recruits as many of their employees’ kids as they can, especially those who graduate from their programs to keep the talent in the Central Valley. Every 9th grader chooses agriculture or engineering, health and wellness, teach and learn, or Logistics/robotics and get a post HS certificate. Their Ag Prep program teaches agriculture or engineering. Students graduate with 60 college credits so they can enter a 4 year college as a Junior. 30 of those kids have come back and they can either teach or do a company internship (entry salary more than $60K) and can choose what business area interests them the most.
- Where did the medical program start? Wonderful had wellness trailers on the orchards. But the people often didn’t go to the medical facilities. The reason was that they did not have Spanish speaking medical professionals. Wonderful started their own program because they couldn’t find a satisfactory company to provide the medical services that they thought were needed. These health programs have reduced diabetes by 52%, and they are tackling obesity and high blood pressure. Because of this, they had far less COVID problems. 100% of their employees (except for religious and political issues) have been vaccinated.
- They have Health Ambassadors. They realized that peer recommendations are important, so they asked the most successful people, put them through training, use them in break rooms, morning groups etc. Gyms are opening and that is great.
- Kern County, where they operate, has been cooperative in supporting Wonderful’s improvements. The County does not allocate financial resources but have allowed the company to do the things that they feel are needed such as building roads, sidewalks, plantings etc.
- Are there programs to support kids prior to Pre-K? They have an expectant mother program. They have family resource centers, especially for young mothers and young families.
- Lynda suggests that all initiatives should start small. There are under 2,500 people in Lost Hills. Everything can’t be done all at once. So far 117,000 kids have been influenced. She uses the process of Test/Rollout (learned this at Franklin Mint – which she owned). You should go focused and deep; have success and then roll out.
- They began paying a $15 minimum wage in 2019. As a result, people don’t leave. To get this implemented, she had her company execs examined unintended consequences which convinced them to go ahead with the wage increase. They take care of their employees – free medical care, send the kids to college and realize friends are their future.
- They had to shut their schools down during the pandemic, but concentrated on remote learning. 95% of the kids participated, and the results were good.
- How they overcame lack of trust – they made small promises and kept them.
- Affordable Housing: 3 BR, 2 bath houses. Their non-profit partner was managing them for $350-800/month rent. They are now building new houses which can be purchased with a small deposit for $230,000.
- The Boys and Girls Club – they could they use B&GC to proliferate their ideas.
Lynda is writing a book about her history and what she has done. Her next new venture in philanthropy – do more of it!
Lynda Resnick’s Bio at: Lynda Resnick
The Wonderful Company Corporate Social Responsibility report. Click here.