Suzanne Jessup Staton
Suzanne Jessup Staton, 49
Executive vice president, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Central Virginia
Suzanne Staton got into the family business of bottling soft drinks through her father. Same with the family real estate development company that built the shopping center at Forest Lakes and a portion of Seminole Square.
The diving equipment shop she got into on her own. Staton became co-owner of Dive Connections because she wasn’t satisfied with the customer service she was getting elsewhere.
A typical day for Staton is a “world of meetings.” She’s the bottling company’s community face, and that takes up a lot of time serving on committees and boards for organizations such as the Paramount Theater, the Miller School, the Downtown Property Owners Council, and the YMCA. She also serves as chairman of the Virginia Soft Drink Association.
The soft drink industry is “basically a male-dominated industry,” she says. Being a woman was an advantage in the early ‘80s when she was a brand manager at Dr. Pepper and she could get into businesses other salesmen couldn’t.
At national industry meetings, however, people tend to talk to her brother first, and she’s “kind of ignored.” Staton takes it in stride.
“I don’t take things personally,” she says. “It doesn’t bother me.”
Staton would advise young women to take insensitive comments with a grain of salt, and she extols perseverance. “Be persistent,” she says. “Bring up an idea, and be happy it’s yours even if someone else is claiming it. Someone else may say it more succinctly.”
One of her favorite parts of her job is inspecting the company’s three other plants in Warrenton, Weyer’s Cave, and Virginia Beach. Together with the Charlottesville plant, they turned out 7.5 million cases of soft drinks last year.
The biggest challenge? Keeping up in a competitive industry and keeping Pepsi products on shelves in stores. And then there’s the challenge of finding time to go diving.