When her syrup company needed a bigger factory, Melanie Dulbecco helped her employees stick together.
Torani started in 1925 in San Francisco’s North Beach. It was a mom-and-pop business — a husband-and-wife team who went back to Italy to visit family and returned with recipes for fruit syrups. I joined the company 32 years ago. We switched our focus from liqueurs and cordials to cafés. The vanilla latte was our killer app. We taught Starbucks how to make flavored lattes.
We’ve always been people-first. When I was in business school, I wanted to figure out how I could work with a company that made a product that was of social benefit. A friend knew the family at Torani, and I asked for an introduction. I knew that the company was in Bayview-Hunters Point, a distressed neighborhood that needed jobs, and I thought, “What if we could take a small manufacturing company that has a product that’s a little hidden gem and grow it and create good jobs? What if the family members were into that too?”
When I started, we were a tiny little company. Almost 30 years later we had outgrown our South San Francisco facility and we knew we had to move. We let everyone know two and a half years in advance and told them that our goal was 100% retention. We had a team that was exploring where we could go and they said, “If we move to this state, we could save this much on taxes. There are these incentives for manufacturers if we move here.” And we said, “Hold on a minute. Here’s the zip code map of our team. Here’s the radius that we’ll consider, and it doesn’t go past the East Bay.” We interviewed everybody to figure out how to design this place in a way that they would be really excited to work here.
As a B Corporation, we care a lot about creating opportunities for people economically through learning and development. I love having the tech industry nearby, but we need to show that we can have every kind of job in the Bay Area. We’re out to prove that if we can get to a living wage as a manufacturer here, it can happen anywhere.
We say, “Flavor is what we make, but it’s also what each of us brings.” We think that’s part of what makes us successful. — Told to Dave Gilson
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