Helping hands

Faces of Gills Onions: Jessica Ortega

At Gills Onions, we’re proud to be family-owned. Our employees are an essential part of what makes our onions so great, and we’re excited to introduce them to you.

Jessica Ortega began working for Gills Onions when she was just 18 years old. Now, more than two decades later, she heads up our retail customers in customer service. She also services one of our largest foodservice customers.

So, we sat down and asked Jessica a few questions about her background, her role at Gills Onions, and what she has learned from her experiences.

What brought you to Gills Onions?

I started here when I was 18. I was just looking for a job, and I kind of stumbled upon Gills Onions. My first job was as a filer. Back then, everything we did was on paper, and someone needed to file all those documents and keep them organized.

But, I started paying attention to what the other employees were doing around me. Whenever I saw that someone needed help, I would offer a hand, and that exposed me to a lot of different roles in the company. Anytime I heard about new programs or trainings that were open to people learning, I signed up. I think I got the reputation of being willing to figure out whatever needed to be figured out, and that led to me advancing in the company.

Now, I’m an account manager, and I help lead the Oxnard sales office. I’m in charge of several key foodservice and all retail accounts. I oversee things for our outside sales reps and enter orders. I also do a lot of inventory control, letting production know what products they need to run to meet customer demand.

And I get to go to our annual food shows for retail, which is always really fun!

How have you seen Gills Onions change over the years?

Well the most obvious change is that I started out filing paper. Billing and orders were all taken by hand. I used to receive faxes! Now, so much is online or automated. It helps our processes move faster and with fewer errors, especially when it comes to inventory and tracking what products leave our facility and which customers they go to.

What hasn’t changed is the importance of human connection and customer service. I have customers that I have had for ten years, and I can tell you their order from memory. So, if I see an order come through that has an extra zero, I know something is probably not right. Technology doesn’t catch human errors, but humans can. I’ve also been able to experience our zero waste initiative first hand. That has been amazing to see. I remember they removed all the trash cans from our offices and replaced them with these tiny cans, like the size of a cup, and said that was all the waste we should be generating in a week. It has really put things in perspective. Now, we bring our own bottles and cups to work. That alone has cut out so much waste, and we know we are helping the environment. There is already too much trash in this world.

Why should someone make the switch to a value-added product like Gills Onions?

The biggest thing I tell people about making the switch to a value-added product is just that — you are adding value. You know when you’re ordering five pounds of onions that you are getting five pounds of onions.

Sure, you could buy a 50 lb sack for $8, but you’re not getting 50 lbs of usable product. You have to pay for the space on the truck, pay a person to chop the onions, and then, after all of that, at least a third of that 50 lbs is waste.

Instead, you can buy  20 lbs of Gills Onions and know you are going to have 20 lbs of onions ready to use.

What Gills Onions product do you love best?

As a working mom, I love our retail 3 lb bag of diced onion. Anything that cuts down on meal prep time and gives me more time to spend with my family is great. I grab out the onions I need, reseal the bag, and put it back in the fridge for next time.

Why do you love working for Gills Onions?

One of the things I really love about working for Gills Onions is our relationship with our owners. Steve Gill doesn’t have to be here, but every day you see him here going around from department to department asking people how their days are going and how they are doing. That has a huge impact on our work environment.

Having an owner that takes time out of his day — every day — to come in and speak with you is special. It doesn’t happen very often in other organizations. I think it just speaks to the level of care that Gills Onions puts into every level of its business, all the way from the office to the fields. That’s why our onions are so great.

Ready to try onions grown “The Gills Way”? Contact our sales department to learn more. 

Jessica Ortega