Cammie Chatterton is the owner, president and CEO of Bay Food Brokerage. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to own a retail food brokerage business, establishing her company in 1993. In addition to her executive and entrepreneurial leadership, Cammie also oversees meat sales for Publix headquarters.
I grew up in a small town called Ripley, WV. Everyone assumes when you say you are from West Virginia that you are a coal miner’s daughter but my parents, who owned three restaurants, taught me how to be an entrepreneur with a strong work ethic. I was blessed to have parents who wanted me to understand the world. We discussed everything from politics to finance from an early age. I still remember discussing the moon landing and the Vietnam War when I was just a child. My dad owned horses and I literally grew up on a horse. I started showing horses when I was 2 years old and loved it.
I got my start in retail food brokerage right out of college as a way to gain sales experience. I wanted to do pharmaceutical sales but needed the outside sales experience. I fell in love with the food industry and never turned back. For those who may not know, a food broker is the middle salesperson between a food manufacturer and supermarket retailers such as Publix.
It may sound cliche but, my parents are my biggest role models. They taught me that I could be anything that I wanted to be, and it did not matter that I was a woman. In the 60s and 70s when I grew up, women were told they couldn’t do things based on their sex. I knew from a young age to ignore that and to be a rule breaker. I also have always looked up to President Kennedy and what he stood for in our country. My mom says the day he was shot I cried the entire day. Back then, I was only 3 months old and hardly ever cried.
Everyone should have to wait tables once in their life. My first job was as a waitress and I still use those skills. You learn how to organize, multitask and deal with difficult people, all skills we need to be successful.
When my husband and I got married, we packed up a U-Haul and moved to Tampa without a job. Tampa has grown so much in my 37 years here, but it still has that small-town friendliness.
I founded Bay Food Brokerage in 1993 when there were no food brokerage firms known in the country to be owned by a female, and the industry itself had few females in it. For a very long time, it was hard to be taken seriously. I had to work twice as hard to gain success and to get my point across. Not giving up on my dream, even when the odds were totally against me, made me a better leader today. It helps me mentor others to not give up when the struggles seem impossible to overcome.
People may not know that a food broker actually exists in the chain of events to get food to supermarket shelves. I am very proud that my company helped get food to grocery store shelves during COVID.
The most amazing place I have ever visited was two African Safaris in Kruger, South Africa and Botswana. My favorite country outside of the U.S. is Italy. I love the people, culture and food. When we want to get away for a long weekend going to Atlantis, Bahamas and staying at the Cove is my relaxation place.
I love Desperado by The Eagles. I remember sitting in my bedroom as a teenager and listening to the album over and over. The words in this song have always held a special meaning for me.
It was a great honor to have won the Small Business of the Year Outstanding Leader of the Year Award for 2022 from the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce. Often females are put in their own awards grouping as “women leaders” but this award had nothing to do with being a woman and everyone was judged equally. I am currently a member of the Chamber’s Executive Board of Directors. I am also very honored to be on the Board of Trustees for Jesuit High School and the Board of Directors for Feeding Tampa Bay.
I want to retire in three years and be able to spend more time with my grandchildren and give back to the nonprofits in Tampa Bay. I strive to leave a legacy of treating others well and giving back to my community. I plan to work throughout my retirement with nonprofits in Tampa to make an impact that will be generational. Also on my bucket list is a month in Australia and New Zealand.