In 2015, Albert and Gina Ramos moved from their small apartment in Pasadena to their first home in Pico Rivera. When they settled into their new home, not only did they get new neighbors in the community, they also acquired two large orange trees in their backyard.
The orange trees sparked the beginning of Pico Oranges, a business opportunity that neither one expected.
The Ramos family has resided in Pico Rivera for almost three years – their house, however, has been around for generations. According to the previous owner, the house where they live was built in 1951, seven years before Pico Rivera was incorporated. The house has remained unaltered with the exception of a few minor improvements throughout the years. The care and attention that the oranges require keep the Ramos family very busy. While the orange trees in the backyard weren’t the primary factor in moving into the house, it was, however the only factor in deciding to begin an orange business from their home.
While Albert and Gina Ramos founded The A.G. Family Company together, he and his wife were not always business partners. Albert and Gina both attended Occidental College, where they first met. He majored in Political Science meanwhile, she pursued Sociology. So where did the inspiration to begin an orange business originate? The answer is simple: According to Albert Ramos, “The oranges would just sit in the tree until they went bad, then I thought about the old adage, ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’, and I said, well maybe it could.” And as a result, Pico Oranges was born, or better yet, grown.
Albert Ramos explained that their Pico Oranges business takes place entirely at their house. Being able to work out of their home allows them to cut expenses and operate the company more cost-effectively. “Between my wife and I, we both manage and operate the business. Once we got the website running, we ordered the business cards, obtained the permits, received the labels for the oranges and we were ready to start selling them.” Although Ramos says they are still developing a practical service for consumers to purchase their oranges, their goal is to make their business as accessible to people as possible. For those interested, Albert and Gina Ramos invite potential customers to request an orange sample and a company newsletter through their website.
The A.G. Family Company ensures that Pico Oranges are 100% certified locally and organically grown, free of harmful preservatives. Albert Ramos emphasized that the hardest challenge that he and his wife faced were the legal aspects of acquiring the proper permits and licenses, from the beginning stages of research to signing and submitting all the necessary documents. Ultimately, he says that the process taught him a lot, and as a result feels more than adequately prepared to take on this exciting new business venture.
Albert Ramos admits that there was some initial debate for him and his wife on what type of oranges they were growing in the backyard. But once a Los Angeles County Inspector came out to their house to examine the trees, he confirmed their suspicions and determined that they were Valencia oranges. Valencia oranges are a breed of sweet oranges that became popular by William Wolfskill, a pioneer from the 1830s who famously took the name inspired after the city in Spain, known for the sweetest oranges in the world. While the name was taken from Spain, Valencia oranges originated in Southern California on Wolfskill’s farm in the City of Santa Ana, eventually becoming the most popular orange in the United States by the early 1980s.
As a resident of the City for the past few years, Albert Ramos says that one of his favorite things about living here is seeing how much Pico Rivera has grown and developed since he was a child growing up in Downey. According to Ramos, “Pico Rivera has a lot to offer in terms of community,” he continues, “I think Pico Rivera is on the right track with everything that it’s doing, with a lot of new developments, and a lot of really beautiful opportunities, not only for businesses but for families. I think when you look in comparison to the surrounding areas I think the City is really setting the bar in this little tight-knit community.”
In retrospect, the Ramos’ family venture into the orange business embodies the full circle Pico Rivera has achieved in celebrating its 60th Anniversary in 2018. The backyard orange trees stand as a symbol of the rich history that Pico Rivera has represented when it was founded as a small farming town known for its walnut and orange groves. Many of the citrus trees still present in the City are living remnants of the past. However, for Albert Ramos, his family business serves as a proud reminder of his childhood when he used to sell oranges on the street with his mother.
Ramos vividly recalls some of the valuable lessons he learned from working with his mother, such as the meaning of hard work and the importance of getting a good education. He says:
"My mother has always been my role model. My mom started off selling clothes in her little Ford Wagon, then I went on to pursue my Master of Business Administration degree and that’s when I realized — you have college and academics, and then you have life teachings, and that’s where I learned about how to sell; you have to put yourself in the consumer’s shoes."
When Albert and Gina Ramos are not tending to the orange trees in the backyard or in the middle of important business meetings, they are spending time with their two-year-old son, Andres, A.K.A. “The CEO”. Albert Ramos says, just like he learned from his mother as a child, he hopes to instill the value of salesmanship and hard work in his son. Aside from managing the orange business and being full-time parents, the Ramos family work busy day jobs. Albert Ramos works in the Marketing and Recruitment Division at Mount Saint Mary’s University; meanwhile, Gina Ramos is a curator of Education at La Plaza De Culturas Y Artes located near the Los Angeles Plaza Park. Despite already having a lot on their plate, pursuing a dream and a strong family bond are what keep them motivated. Albert Ramos believes, “One of the biggest things for me that I find important in this venture is that it gives us, as a family, an opportunity to spend time together; it’s nice for us to collaborate on something along with our son.”
So what’s next for the ambitious A.G. Family Company?
Albert Ramos says that they are looking forward to selling their oranges at the Claremont and Downey farmers market on the weekends. Additionally, they have begun marketing Pico Oranges to small Downtown Los Angeles restaurants, such as Barcito, and are currently drawing interest from Whole Foods to acquiring and distributing their oranges. Overall, Ramos is hoping to attract new potential investors for Pico Oranges, increase the brand’s search engine optimization, and advertise the business more, incorporating the skills he’s acquired from work, his education, and most of all, his mom.