Edgar Diaz said he learned much at Grand Canyon University, chiefly the four P's of marketing — price, promotion, placement, product. He also learned about the business ethics of not cheating to get ahead.
So after earning a GCU degree in entrepreneurship in 2018, he told his parents he’d like to join the family business, which at the time primarily sold lemon and lime juice to wholesalers of restaurants.
“OK,” said his mother, Kathleen Diaz, “what can you bring to make this company better?”
“Give me some time,” Edgar said, “and I will come up with something.”
That something has helped Lucy’s Inc. to be featured by Amazon in an advertising campaign promoting small business that launched at the end of June — and doubled the size of the company. (Watch one of the ads here).
“Edgar threw himself into learning about the company, starting in the packaging warehouse,” Kathleen said. “He was a warehouse packer with a college degree.”
But a story he always remembered from his GCU marketing class was how one business that sold the same products as a competitor across the street was able to win the battle with just the right strategy — promoting its best-selling product.
And he began to form an idea for Lucy’s.
“I wanted to figure out how to sell online,” he said, and distinguish the City of Industry, California, company from bigger competitors.
Lucy’s began selling lemon and lime juice online in big sizes — 32 ounces and a gallon.
“We were able to sell it at a better price,” he said. “And we started to portray a modern family version with a redesigned label.
“By the second year, we did $500,000 in sales and added white vinegar and snow cone syrup.”
It only has taken off from there, he said, ramping up to $5.5 million in sales last year, as he became the head of business development at Lucy’s.
“Edgar has an entrepreneurial spirit. He is full of joy and energy and initiative,” Kathleen said. “He spearheaded our company’s products onto Amazon and has been a driving force in expansion of products and sales.”
His brother Steven, who attended GCU for three semesters, also joined the effort.
Kathleen said she saw GCU as a campus with vision, a “wonderful place to grow” that a student could play a role in, “and it was that momentum that was translated to students and translated to Edgar.”
Lucy’s opened its own manufacturing facility two years ago and expanded its pursuit of the retail market. Its white vinegar and apple cider vinegar became “Amazon Choice” products by the time the online behemoth decided to make Lucy's a part of a national small-business campaign.
Edgar was featured in Amazon’s 2022 Small Business Empowerment Report, where he credited Amazon for doubling the size of the company.
Amazon erected two billboards for Lucy's, and then the marketing team arrived at their facility. It reminded him of his days at GCU as a student worker for the marketing department, only Amazon rolled in with three trucks and 30 people for 15 hours of filming.
Edgar and his mom were featured in the videos shared on its social media, riffing on the importance of family in business.
“It was a huge shock,” Edgar said of the Amazon experience. “Our family has worked so hard together. What our family was able to do was work out all the issues, come together around a goal and make it happen. We had to die to ourselves to work together. If it happens, it can be magical, because it can create such a deep trust and bond.”
He calls his father, Miguel, who started the business in 2003, “a very cheap man."
"But I love that inclination. My brother and I are more risk oriented. He feels like he has taken most of the risks in life already. That’s what makes us a good team.”
It has led to new ideas of expansion. After Edgar last year developed a severe case of a skin disease called psoriasis that became difficult to treat, he surmised it was a “gut issue” and decided to consume all organic products. And now he is leading the company in the same direction.
Lucy’s is undergoing a transition to all glass bottles and an organic line that will include new products of turmeric and ginger.
He saw that the people who bought their apple cider vinegar were likely to buy those products on Amazon.
“It’s been a ride. It’s been like jet fuel in the engine to not only work on researching it but having an opportunity to produce something that is anti-inflammatory. We are not looking to be a corporation pumping out millions of cans of sugar water,” Edgar said. “Let’s make the highest quality product we can to put on the market. And let’s make it beautiful.”
Miguel started the business as a first-generation immigrant, wondering why one big beverage company dominated the market for lemon and lime juice. Now the second generation is taking him in all new directions — and on retail’s biggest stage.
“People are starting to take notice of our brand,” Edgar said. “Having conversations with retailers is now a walk in the park.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]