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Newman's Unit Founders Give Philanthropy Lesson

September 23, 1998

The founders of Newman's Own Organics, which in five years has grown into a major player in the natural foods sector, will talk at The Times' Small Business Strategies Conference in October about how they overcame obstacles to growth.

Nell Newman and Peter Meehan, whose company is a division of Newman's Own foods started by actor Paul Newman, will also discuss in their keynote address at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 18 how even the most cash-strapped businesses can be charitable.

The conference is aimed at helping small business succeed and is the first of its kind locally. The event, which also runs Oct. 17, will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Newman and Meehan's talk is among more than 40 panel discussions, workshops and speeches scheduled at the conference, covering topics such as technology, financing, marketing and growth.

One of the main obstacles to growth for Newman's Own Organics, Nell Newman said, was the perception that organically grown food "tastes bad, looks funny and won't sell." Part of the effort to dispel that notion has been the division's simple marketing slogan: "Great tasting products that just happen to be organic."

Newman said her brand of pretzels now commands 75% of the market in health food stores.

But Newman's partner Meehan says businesses shouldn't wait to be comfortably profitable before they turn to philanthropy.

Nonmonetary efforts such as taking a chance on unqualified yet eager employees and volunteering at local service groups are good for business and good for the soul, Meehan said.

"You don't have to be a millionaire to give something back," he said. "Let people know that you are a part of the community too."

Registration at the conference is $99 for both days and $70 for one day. For more information, call (800) 350-3211 or visit the event's Web site at

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