Page 1

Entrepreneurial f The Premier Magazine For Food Entrepreneurs


February 2018 Issue 20



Advice on Leadership from Richard Coraine

How to Cut Through the Clutter


José Andrés

Thoughts on Mentorship & Building Community


Create the Perfect Online Review Strategy

The Chocolate Business


Nor man

Entrepreneurial f Che


February 2018 Volume 3 / Issue #20

Publisher Rennew Media, LLC Editor Shawn Wenner Contributing Editors Katharine Rankin Staff Writers Jenna Rimensnyder, Jay Michael, Sara Kleins, Christian Saddler, Chloe Friedman Graphic Designer Rusdi Saleh Cover Norman Love Cover Photographer Brian Tietz Contributors Joyce Appelman, Christine Matheson Green, Sue Reninger, Brenda Lubragge, Megan Wenzl, Jeff Grandfield & Dale Willerton Special Thanks Norman Love, Holly Boldrin from Priority Marketing, Jose Andres, Joe Girard, Lindsey Neidig & Catherine Delf from Rouxbe, Jessica Sennett


entrepreneurial chef

Contact Us Entrepreneurial Chef 151 N. Maitland Ave #947511 Maitland, FL 32751 contact@entrepreneurialchef.com

The opinions of columnists and contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by Entrepreneurial Chef and/or Rennew Media, LLC. Sources are considered reliable and information is verified as much as possible, however, inaccuracies may occur and readers should use the information at their own risk. Links embedded within the publication may be affiliate links, which means Entrepreneurial Chef will earn a commission at no additional cost to our readers. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any fashion without the expressed consent of Rennew Media, LLC. For advertising information, letters to the editor, or submission inquiries, please email: Contact@EntrepreneurialChef.Com. Entrepreneurial Chef donates a portion of advertising & editorial space to C-CAP, CORE, NRAEF & Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry. All Rights Reserved Š 2018 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC

Learn more at www.kabbage.com/ec

Business funding Business funding without the hassle. without the hassle. In the culinary industry, extra capital can

mean the difference between thriving In the culinary industry, extra capital can and just staying afloat. Kabbage helps mean the difference between thriving businesses access lines of credit of and just staying afloat. Kabbage helps up to $250,000 for whatever comes up. businesses access lines of credit of

Apply online andfor getwhatever a decision right up. away. up to $250,000 comes Withdraw funds when you need them Apply online and get a decision right away. without reapplying. Withdraw funds when you need them without reapplying.


Use Kabbage funds to: TA C K L E Y O U R B U S I E S T S E A S O N

Hire new to: UsePurchase Kabbage funds inventory


Purchase Upgrade inventory equipment

Hire new Improve employees your space

Upgrade equipment

Improve your space

© 2018 Kabbage, Inc. All rights reserved. Kabbage is a registered trademark of Kabbage, Inc., used under license. All Kabbage loans are issued by Celtic Bank, a Utah-Chartered Industrial Bank, Member FDIC. Credit lines are subject to periodic review and change, including line reductions, line increases, or line eliminations. This is not a revolving account. Individual requests for capital are separate installment loans. © 2018 Kabbage, Inc. All rights reserved. Kabbage is a registered trademark of Kabbage, Inc., used under license.

Contents Features



Editor’s Note

14 José Andrés

The Value of Mentorship & Community in Life & Business

46 Richard Coraine

Leadership, Culture, & Hospitality Effectiveness


entrepreneurial chef

Norman Love

Falling into the Chocolate Business

58 Joe Girard

Building the World’s Leading Online Culinary School

70 Jessica Sennett

Turning a Problem into a Passion Project & Full-Time Business


The point of sale that serves your business.

Bakery • Café • Restaurant • Food Truck






Digital Marketing: Cut Through the Clutter & Attract Your Tribe

How to Find Your Compass



Create Your Online Review Strategy

Understanding Different Landlord Types – For Food Entrepreneurs

86 Overcoming a 15% Success Rate: Beth Wilson-Parentice’s Beverage Business Victory 6

entrepreneurial chef

82 Lessons Learned from Closing the Doors of a Restaurant


Apply and receive quotes from top-rated carriers in as little as 15 minutes. Our expert agents will then help you choose the right policy for your business. Get covered in as little as 24 hours. It’s that easy. After all, something about owning a business should be.

APPLY ONLINE From personal and private chefs to the restauranteur, we’ve got you covered.




Editor’s Note


y the turn of the year, I started to become increasingly frustrated. In my mind, a series of actions should have been unfolding that would drive both personal and professional goals forward. At one point, mid-January, I was flat out fuming. Have you been there before? Perhaps your expectations weren’t met, and your satisfaction and happiness levels plummeted? Well, I certainly was the victim of my own doing. The situation, which by the way would eventually unfold as desired, caused me to become introspective. I began questioning, “Why the heck it flustered me so much.” And what I arrived at was my inability to manage my expectation, coupled with a lack of emotional control. Yes, my auto-responder was set to “mad” after my expectations cluttered reality. The lesson I learned, and hope to impart, is that the difference between your satisfaction and happiness is often the difference between the expectations you hold and reality. Furthermore, the dampener to how fast you operate is a lack of emotional control. Ultimately, you can have expectations of how things will unfold, but be quick to accept the curve balls life throws and the reality that is laid at your doorstep. In doing so, you will stay in motion and be less likely to shutter or flounder unnecessarily. As always, I hope the new issue of the magazine brings you fresh ideas, inspiration, and actionable advice.


entrepreneurial chef


Career Success

Compass How to Find Your

By: Christine Matheson Green

10 10 entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chef chef

Struggling to find your edge? Your point of difference? With a shortage of chefs and massive competition, every new head chef and entrepreneur must struggle with the curve balls that this era is throwing at them. Cooking is no longer seen as fire and tradition driven. No, no, science has poked its perky head in there thanks to Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal.

A chef now is expected to produce an exciting blend of old-fashioned cooking and modern laboratory. To push the envelope, to amaze and excite, to invent. To be a wizard. It’s terrifying, exhilarating and madness all at the same time. So if you’re starting out your journey and trying to feel your way so that you swim rather than drown, try to keep in mind just three things that will help you find your compass point for home.

Look Inside First That’s your direction for finding what truly excites you about cooking and why you’re here in the first place. Yes, enjoy what others do, explore, educate yourself, expand your knowledge. But don’t lose touch with that inner knowing that sets you on your home course. You know what I’m talking about? When you cook something that feels perfect for you. A dish or dishes that are the sum total of your ability, sense, and nous. Then build on that. I recently reviewed a restaurant that’s Italian through to its bootstraps and has been firing for 26 years. In the same spot. A few menu tweaks here and there, some freshening of the décor over the years, but on the whole? It’s perfect in its own sense of self. Customers love it, and they turn tables two and three times a night every night while competitors look on and sigh. D’Angelo’s knows the game. entrepreneurial chef


Look Outside Next Look at industry trends, fashions, icons who like pied pipers call the hit tune of the moment that we all dance to. Observe, but never lose sight of that inner sense of what’s right for you. One of my friends recently worked for 3 days with Marco Pierre White, an experience he described as ‘“surreal, and Marco told me he’s now a fan of ‘bottle cooking’!” I laughed, “What the hell is bottle cooking?” “It’s using pre-made sauces and mixes to add the flavors and depth, and it’s easy. At least I think that’s what he meant”, said Mark, then he added, “But who knows? He might have been just taking the mickey! It’s Marco,” he shrugged. What’s that lesson, you might ask? Don’t take any of it too seriously.

Look Outside Further Now, look at your market. Most marketing consultants will say ‘name your avatar, know their smallest wishes and movements.’ You know what I say? In restaurants, you can’t do that. You might want to because you think it’s easy, or easier, but ultimately, restaurants survive because they have a broader appeal. Who will dine at yours then? Picture your restaurant full of happy diners, and go through them, table by table, put them in your internal video screen and watch them as they’re seated, they read the menu, order, chat, eat, and then send compliments to the chef, to you. Bend down to them. What are they saying? Listen, listen, listen. Get to know them. Personally. Ask their names. Train your front of house staff to know their customers. 12

entrepreneurial chef

And recognize them each time they visit. That is what builds a restaurant. Hopefully, for your sake, there’s a cross section of the community there enjoying your food because it’s good and true to you. The food carries the warmth of your personality and care in every bite. Yes, you probably want some of the influencers there because you’re on the money and hot, and they’ll help get the message out, but if you’re picturing solely a trendy crowd of wanna-be’s then forget it, because like locusts they’ll strip your place bare and then move on to the next. And you can never be all things to all people. Don’t even try. It’s all about balance. Every top chef I’ve interviewed freely admits they’ve found their compass point. Home, deep inside them an intuition that clanged loud enough to point them in the right direction for them. What does this all mean? Just be true to yourself. Don’t try too hard. Know what you’re doing and why. Authenticity, integrity, and personality will take you a long way. Find your north on your internal compass and go for it, and good luck. Photo Credit: Ipopba

Christine Matheson Green has been owner/chef of 10 successful restaurants, two cooking schools, and now writes about the industry and interviews chefs on her blog, www.justthesizzle. com. She has also just launched a global chef support site, www.offthehotplate. com aimed at reducing the carnage a high-pressure industry and poor conditions has created. Her motto? “Don’t tell, don’t bleat, just do!”

Need to fund a food + beverage idea? We can help! Hi. We’re PieShell. A crowdfunding platform that caters specifically to food + beverage entrepreneurs.

Visit PieShell.com to start your project today!

75% of food projects FAIL on most crowdfunding sites…

until now!


“The PieShell community helped me make a huge transition in my business. That change has me on track to TRIPLE my revenue in 2017 compared with last year.”

PieShell PieShell ThePieShell

Erika Kerekes PieSheller + Founder of Not Ketchup


Success Story

JosĂŠ AndrĂŠs: The Value of Mentorship & Community in Life & Business

By: Joyce Appelman


entrepreneurial chef

entrepreneurial chef



orld Central Kitchen reached the milestone of 3 million meals served for the American people of Puerto Rico. World Central Kitchen, Chef José Andrés, and the #ChefsForPuertoRico network of chefs and volunteers have serviced communities in need, via satellite kitchens and ongoing operations. “We give thanks to the amazing people who have made it possible to cook and share these three million meals all across Puerto Rico,” said Chef José Andrés, chairman and founder of World Central Kitchen.

Since arriving on the island, World Central Kitchen has activated a local, committed network with a proven model that can be sustained by local partners and the federal government, with the support of the people of Puerto Rico. All through the leadership and mentorship by Chef José Andrés.

José Andrés was spotlighted in the news for his heroic leadership, activating World Central Kitchen and rallying the hospitality industry to step up after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico, and then again after devastating fires blazed across Los Angeles and the northern regions.


entrepreneurial chef

Initially, World Central Kitchen focused on feeding hot, quality, nutritious meals to those in need without ceasing. After this concentrated period of day-to-day emergency relief and recovery, the next phase began with #ChefsForPuertoRico and the organization’s long standing commitment to the island’s most vulnerable population. World Central Kitchen plans to fund the restoration of prep kitchens for its core food truck team, enabling these small businesses to relaunch with full or enhanced capabilities and equipment for maximum productivity, including generators and diesel costs, for those that still lack power. World Central Kitchen will invest in restoring kitchens so that restaurants can reopen in a timely manner, fueling private sector reemergence and growth and plans ongoing programs and long-term projects – including a focus on fishermen and sustainable agriculture.

Chef José Andrés has shown that a job is not just about making money. It’s about having a place in the world and serving the community. And it’s about looking for a calling, not a job. To some people, a job is to the spirit what helium is to a balloon. That’s why mentoring and nurturing the next generation entering the culinary industry is so important to Chef José Andrés. With the fact that 3.2 million disadvantaged youths in the U.S. between 16 and 24 are not in school and do not have jobs. And, that as the restaurant and hospitality industry continues to surge, there’s a forecast of 1.7 million new restaurant positions by 2025, there is an overwhelming need for trained, hard-working and dedicated staff. While many professionals in the industry are seeking ways to solve the problems, the pioneering non-profit Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) founded by culinary educator and cookbook author Richard Grausman, and now Co-Chaired by chef, author, and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, has developed a recipe of lasting success centered on mentorship over the past 28 years.

I have many friends who I consider to be mentors in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. For his exceptional leadership and achievements, Chef José Andrés will receive the C-CAP Honors Award at their annual culinary event in February in New York City. The Chair of the event, Kenneth A. Himmel, President & CEO of Related Urban says, “We are thrilled to honor José Andrés for his remarkable contributions to the industry, for making the world a better place, and for his commitment to culinary innovation.” entrepreneurial chef


Don’t let planning get

in the way of action.


Who were your mentors and how important was mentorship for you? I have many friends who I consider to be mentors in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Rule breakers like Ferran Adria taught me to always take risks, to question and think creatively, outside the box. Robert Egger touched my spirit as I saw the work he did with DC Central Kitchen and then LA Central Kitchen, and ultimately taught me the importance of empowering communities – how it’s more powerful to invest in smart, sustainable solutions than to just throw money at a problem. And then there is my team, who I learn from every day, and the people who support our work like the volunteers who helped #ChefsForPuertoRico and World Central Kitchen serve over three million meals in Puerto Rico this year. They show what it means to be selfless – like the children who waited for everyone to be served before they got their plate of food – their one meal of the day. There are amazing people all around you; you just have to look for them. 18

entrepreneurial chef


What are the most important aspects of mentorship to you as a business leader?

I believe that we must always be open to others, to new opportunities, knocking on doors that we don’t know if they will open. That way, you can find a mentor anywhere – even if you are a long-time business leader, or just entering into the world of business, you can still always be learning from others if you are open to it.

I believe that we must always be open to others, to new opportunities, knocking on doors that we don’t know if they will open.

entrepreneurial chef



What are the most important aspects of building community for you and your business? To me there are many important parts to building a strong community – it is not just you and your business, but your neighborhood, your city, your country. I got involved early with DC Central Kitchen, and since then we have had a great back and forth relationship – students from DCCK come to train at our restaurants, and our team goes there to teach and to learn. I love the work that Dog Tag Bakery is doing in Georgetown, they are filling a need for a great bakery but also serving the community by training veterans – it is absolutely amazing. And over the years I have seen how community can be built by surrounding yourself with a strong team – people you respect and trust. These are the ones you will be relying on for years to come. Some of my team members have been working with me since the very beginning when we opened Jaleo 25 years ago! 20

entrepreneurial chef

The best successes are those that are shared, and the most helpful failures happen when everyone can learn together.


What are the most important aspects of “giving back” to the community, especially in relation to Puerto Rico? Before we arrived in Puerto Rico, my team from World Central Kitchen and I, we thought we might be there for a few days, making a few hundred meals. But when we landed we understood the scale of the problem and quickly learned a valuable lesson about the urgency of now. Instead of going to an office building and discussing what needed to happen, we did what we do best – we cooked. We went to chefs, to kitchens, to food trucks, and started making a plan to feed hundreds of people, then thousands of people – and ultimately our team served over three million meals. Don’t let planning get in the way of action!


With being honored by C-CAP for exceptional leadership, what’s your advice for the next generation of leaders?

Life begins

at the end of your comfort zone.

Be like the three Musketeers – “all for one and one for all” – never forget the people around you. There is a proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The best successes are those that are shared, and the most helpful failures happen when everyone can learn together. Photo Credits: Ryan Forbes, Allen Kramer, Jackson Steppe

entrepreneurial chef


The world’s leading business plan software, built for entrepreneurs Pitch, plan, and track your business. Anywhere.

Test the numbers

Validate your idea

Create a pitch presentation

Share with stakeholders

With LivePlan’s unique approach to business planning, you’ll have a one-page business plan before you know it. It’s fast, easy, and even fun. In no time, you’ll be planning marketing sales activities, dreaming up products and service offerings, and creating essential financial projections. It’s the quickest way to get started.


By: Sue Reninger

Digital Marketing:

Cut Through the Clutter &

Attract Your Tribe 24

entrepreneurial chef


he food industry is a competitive one, with restaurants dawning trendy personas, while food brands are introducing new must-have products that entice consumers to buy as soon as they hit the shelves. For marketers, this means battling a crowded field where the average restaurant guest or food consumer no longer responds to overt messages to “buy now!� A strateStrategies for Greater ROI gic social adDigital marketing efforts, with pay-per-click buys vertising plan and paid social media strategies being placed consistently is an effective way to advocate for your brand or restaurant, raise awareness about an LTO must be in place or updated menu and drive tangible sales through increased foot traffic. Social media can be difficult to to cut through directly tie an ROI to, but with a variety of messaging being shared regularly through smart digital marketing campaigns, those analytics can tell a story about the clutter. how well your brand is being received by guests. Messenger ads on Facebook, in particular, have the ability to drive engagement between your business and a list of highly targeted consumers. When designed with the end in mind (i.e., increased foot traffic), they can offer you a superior way to enter into a conversation with potential guests. A smart brand marketing team will craft questions and a message to steer these subsequent conversations in a way that provides you with unparalleled analytics into your core audience. entrepreneurial chef


Implementing a Winning Strategy In today’s digital age, digital tactics can grab consumers’ attention and influence purchasing decisions. That being said, digital advertising has become more important than ever, as well as the way in which companies take advantage of it. Lead with your best foot forward. For many food businesses, this means focusing on delicious, fresh, vibrant, indulgent or decadent food photography. Speak to your guests in a visual language that cuts through the clutter. Do use custom-made links. When hosting a campaign, create a custom link. This is an uber-effective way to track it on your website or a third-party website. Clicks to your custom link will be seen as activity on a potential guest’s profile, and the more information you have on a potential guest, the more tailored and meaningful your conversations can be. This allows you to be a marketer rather than a technician. Use the data that your custom links provide to optimize your message and distribution so that you reach the audience best suited to your business. Do track your progress throughout your digital campaigns. When you benchmark your social and web statistics at the beginning of any campaign you might be hosting, remember to check back in frequently. This will allow you to evaluate your success as well as identify areas where you can be more successful. Track and measure daily, even hourly. With programmatic advertising technology, this is now more feasible than ever.

Messenger ads on Facebook, in particular, have the ability to drive engagement between your business and a list of highly targeted consumers. 26

entrepreneurial chef

The #1 Caution Avoid speaking at your consumer. Instead, speak to your consumer. Develop a meaningful conversation and seize the attention of new leads with storytelling. To portray your brand or restaurant as a must-have experience, your targeted guest needs to know that their values align with your company’s values and that you will be solving a point of pain for them. Start a conversation that creates a friendly dialogue – just as you would face to face. The old adage, “write as you talk” can most definitely help to foster these familiar relationships. Consider shifting your strategy if you feel there are parts of your campaign that need to be strengthened, whether through a reallocation of your funds or through more specific targeting of your audience. It is crucial to understand your audience, including your business’s guest persona, how frequently they are online and which social platforms they prefer to use. Photo Credit: Fotomek

Sue Reninger is a Brand Strategist & Managing Partner at RMD Advertising, an integrated public relations, social media, digital, brand strategy, & crisis management agency in Columbus, Ohio that serves global & national category leaders in the food industry. Connect with her at www.rmdadvertising.com.

For the forward-thinking passion-driven food entrepreneur (and anyone else who loves reading about them)

Read about the successes & failures from the most celebrated chefs & restaurateurs in the world. Start your free trial today.

Reputation Management

Create Your

Online Review

Strategy By: Megan Wenzl


entrepreneurial chef


magine you just opened a deli last week. So far, customers are flocking to it. Your deli was featured in the local paper, and you’ve already offered to host a fundraiser for one of the local non-profits. You have created a solid marketing strategy so far. But now it’s time up your game and incorporate online review management.

Why Online Review Management? Reviews are everywhere. They offer a form of social proof. They show consumers that a business is what it says it is. They are forms of social interactions, meant to be used as tools for both consumers and businesses. When you manage your reviews, you manage your reputation. Customers use reviews for research in deciding where to spend their money – especially when deciding where to dine. That’s why we surveyed more than 400 consumers to see how they use reviews to find restaurants and other types of businesses. Here are a few takeaways from the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Review Survey especially relevant for business owners in the food-service industry: 56 percent of consumers say reviews are influential when choosing a new restaurant. 44 percent of consumers say they are likely to leave a review after a positive experience with a restaurant, more than any other industry. But consumers are actually more likely to leave a review after a negative experience: 45 percent say a bad experience at a restaurant could cause them to leave a bad review. While you build an online review management strategy for 2018, here are some things to know. entrepreneurial chef


Google Is Where Customers Are

Know Where Customers Are Talking

Customers flock to Google for their reviews: 64 percent of customers check online reviews about a business on Google, according to the survey. Yelp ranks second at 45 percent, followed by TripAdvisor and Facebook.

You might have reviews on sites you don’t about – sites that aren’t as popular as Google, like Zomato. Do you have five reviews or 15? Find out where customers are talking. If you haven’t claimed your profiles yet, do so.

In addition to reviews, Google is the place where local searches take place. The more reviews you have and the frequency at which they are posted will affect your local search ranking. And where you rank in local search can have a huge impact on brand reputation and customer acquisition.


Responding Is a

Problem 30

entrepreneurial chef

When you claim those profiles, you improve your search engine optimization. It’s important to ensure name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistency for optimal SEO performance. Search engines look for consistency. Consumers do too. If a consumer is researching food service businesses and happens to come across a review site that is not managed or has incorrect information, he or she might take their business elsewhere.

Fifty-three percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within a week, an increase of 2 percent compared to last year, according to the survey. Expectations about review responses are on the rise. Although more than half of the customers surveyed expect a business to respond, 63 percent of customers say that a business has never responded to their review. Not responding to a customer online is the same thing as not responding to a customer in-person. Responding to reviews builds relationships with customers. Review responses also show potential customers that businesses care. It encourages current customers to become brand advocates. So if a consumer sees a negative review, but sees that you have responded to that review, then that consumer knows you care about resolving issues.

Increase Ratings by Requesting Reviews Eighty percent of customers will rarely choose a business lower than 4-stars, according to ReviewTrackers research. That’s why it’s necessary to get a consistent stream of reviews from happy customers – so that customers will take your food service business into consideration when searching for an eatery. When you ask for reviews, you are more likely to get a higher rating. When you don’t ask for reviews, negative reviews will start to take over your review sites because when left on their own, the sites collect more negative reviews than positive.

Listen to Customer Feedback

If You Read One Section If you take away one lesson from this article, know this: online review management will help your business understand its customers and help consumers find your business online. Consumers search for businesses online, and they will lean toward Google to tell them where to go.

Online review management is also a great way to gain insights from the feedback found in the reviews. It’s also a strategic way to understand your customers’ expectations. You can use customer feedback to find patterns in the parts of your business that are doing well and the parts on which you need to improve – which could be menu items or service operations. For example, if multiple customers talk about rude service at a particular time of day, you can look into it and fix it before it affects your overall sales. Photo Credit: George JMC Little

Megan Wenzl is the associate editor for ReviewTrackers, an award-winning customer feedback software that helps businesses transform the customer experience. Megan is a dedicated storyteller who loves helping businesses succeed. Megan has a master of arts degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago.

entrepreneurial chef


Cover Story

Norman Love:

Falling into

the Chocolate

Business By: Chloe Friedman


entrepreneurial chef

entrepreneurial chef



tellar accomplishments and international acclaim have lined the career of chocolatier

Norman Love. The founder of Norman Love Confections, a top 10 rated artisan chocolate company by USA Today and rated in the top three by Consumer Reports, Love has undoubtedly cemented his legacy as a world-class chocolatier. From making ice cream in high school to becoming the best in the world, Love has followed a unique career path. After applying to The Culinary Institute of America and landing on the wait list, Love spent thirteen months until becoming an apprentice pastry chef at a restaurant in Pompano Beach, Florida. Realizing his love of pastry and sweets, and given that, at the time, The Culinary Institute of America lacked a program focused solely on pastry, Love bargained his way into the French-speaking kitchen at the Turnberry Isle Yacht and Racket Club in Miami Beach.


entrepreneurial chef

Not long after, Love launched a twelve-year career at the Ritz-Carlton, first in St. Louis, then all over the world. During his time as Corporate Executive Pastry Chef, Love opened hotel pastry kitchens in such diverse locales as Boston, Dubai, and Bali. His avant-garde artistry landed him on the list of top 10 pastry chefs in 1996 and 1997 by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazines. Additionally, Love led the U.S. team to a bronze medal in the biennial Coup du Monde de la Patisserie – World Cup of Pastry – competition in Lyons, France, which featured the top pastry chefs from 18 nations. After enduring a 42-week a year traveling schedule, Love decided to focus full-time on his production company. However, he wisely kept a foot in the industry by installing a small chocolate-making station in his office to supplement his income. And when USA Today featured his chocolates as one of the best in the country, his small operation exploded. Not only were orders coming in droves, but the success also led to Love producing a limited edition line of chocolates under the name “G” for Godiva. Despite the high-level achievements, Love remains true to form and continues to create hand-painted and handcrafted pieces that resemble modern works of art. Yet, no chocolatier, no matter how good, could have survived – and thrived – in such a competitive market without serious business acumen. Love reflects this in his constant search for both innovation and improvement; a favorite motto of his being, “be better than yesterday, not as good as tomorrow.” Love’s ability to run and expand his business successfully, is a direct result of being a hands-on boss, working closely with employees and fostering their creativity and growth. In the feature with Norman Love, he goes in-depth about him leaving the security of The Ritz Carlton, falling into the chocolate business, the most important focus points for continued growth, attracting and retaining top talent, and how others can reverse engineer his success.

& QA The


Norman Love


After close to 13 years with Ritz Carlton, what inspired you to venture on your own? Falling into the chocolate business certainly wasn’t the initial intention. In 1999, I was the corporate pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton, traveling more than 42 weeks per year. That year I was given the opportunity to compete as captain of the United States pastry team in the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie (the World Cup of Pastry) in Lyon, France, a bi-annual international competition. It’s a European soccer-like environment, with air horns, flags, chanting, cameras in your face, and some of the best pastry chefs in the world are judging. We finished third, and for us, it was a great accomplishment – American pastry was in its infancy.

Back then, there was only one international competition for pastry chefs. My friend Michael Schneider, who owned Pastry Art & Design Magazine and was instrumental in my career, we thought of doing our own. We started in Beaver Creek, Colorado, on an ice rink in the middle of town with a tent, and we gave away tremendous prize money to generate a high level of interest with chefs around the world. [Unfortunately], we created an environment that wasn’t conducive to excellence, and Food Network was there to televise chocolate centerpieces crashing to the floor and all kinds of drama. As you can imagine, I was pretty upset that day as we didn’t give them the opportunity to be as good as they could be, but the ratings went through the roof. All of the sudden, my little company was now being offered an opportunity to develop TV shows for Food Network – this was the reason why I left the Ritz.

entrepreneurial chef



What was the transition like as you stepped away from the security of the Ritz Carlton? I was nervous about leaving corporate America and a very steady income. [Because of this], I started making chocolates in my office to help supplement my income while I was developing the competition and production company. Chocolate has always been my thing; I see it differently. Americans love to eat with their eyes and that artistic expression really didn’t exist in chocolate. My global travels were the inspiration for creating a line of chocolates that I had no idea how to ship or sell, other than to industry friends that I met over the years. I simply had a table, chocolate warmer, and little refrigerator to make chocolates, and that’s how it all began.


What was a pivotal moment in your business’ evolution early on?

I started in October 2011, right after 9/11, the worst time ever to open a business, but USA Today profiled us in January 2002 as one of the ten best places to buy chocolate for Valentine’s Day. All of a sudden the phone never stopped ringing! I didn’t even know people would be interested in buying chocolate. I was just supplementing my income by selling to the hospitality industry while working out of a medical building with no signage in a desolate industrial park. Shortly after that, Godiva called me and said they were interested in me making chocolate for them. This led to me developing a line of chocolates for them called “G,” which launched in some Neiman’s stores in 2002, and it turned out to be a huge success. 36

entrepreneurial chef

I was nervous about leaving corporate America and a very steady income. I found myself working day and night, working harder than I ever had, in a little space producing 350,000 pieces of chocolate for them. After the success of the launch, they came back and asked if I would make 1.3 million pieces. This was the turning point to move into the chocolate business. My wife and I took our life savings and built a factory with some friends, and I was making millions of pieces of chocolate for Godiva for 8 years. [At the same time], I was growing a wholesale business, and a distributor was selling my chocolates to the hospitality industry. I started to gain some national exposure, and I couldn’t make enough chocolate for me, so we started to peel away from [Godiva]. Today we’ve been in the chocolate business for 16 years, with 120+ staff members, five retail stores, and two factories, producing just south of 7 million pieces a year.


In relation to the massive growth, what’s a principle you’ve stuck by through it all? We’ve grown methodically and carefully because with me it’s always about how good and never about how much. I don’t race after the almighty dollar, I focus on product, integrity, and being better than yesterday without compromise. We’ve learned to make a lot of chocolate, and we still make it the exact same way I did 16 years ago. I’m really blessed with an incredibly accomplished team of chefs and staff members. Our little brand that opened in Fort Myers is now globally recognized with crazy amounts of accolades, which is humbling to me and a true testament that we have a great team that understands standards and is empowered to be the best. We’ve grown by focusing on our competencies and product, not the money, and it’s our product that dictated how we grew.


We’ve grown methodically and carefully because with me it’s always about how good and never about how much.

What has driven you to achieve such high levels of success?

I grew up with a strong work ethic, instilled at a young age. There are certain people that are able to focus on their goal and tirelessly commit and sacrifice to be the best, and it takes a kind of a special person to do that. It’s about always wanting to be better than yesterday, and listening, observing, reading, benchmarking, and knowing that complacency is the worst thing you could ever have in business. My staff members are empowered to be the same way because creative people need to be allowed to be creative. Otherwise, they’re going to fly. This is a collaborative effort of great professionals in all capacities, not just in the kitchens, to grow a brand and to never compromise. entrepreneurial chef


I don’t race after the almighty dollar, I focus on product, integrity, and being better than yesterday without compromise.


entrepreneurial chef

Don’t ever get into business and create mediocracy, always create the best. If you create the best, you limit the competition immediately.

6 Any major hurdles faced while building the business early on? First, it was the financial part. A bank certainly wouldn’t back us – they were laughing at me. My wife and I didn’t have millions of dollars to build a building and furnish it with equipment. Godiva certainly helped in supplying some of the funds for equipment, but the risk was a big thing initially. Then 2008 was a huge [struggle] with the economy. There were 2-3,000 foreclosures a month in southwest Florida. My primary business was directed to the hospitality industry, and it was crippled. That was certainly a huge obstacle for my wife and me.


How did you get through the economic downturn to stay in business? We had around 40-50 staff, and I remember a talk we had with them. We were looking at

these people who had become our friends, that helped grow our business, and telling them, “I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. I’m not sure how long we’re going to be able to pay you.” We got through 2008, and then in 2009 we actually grew a little bit, and in 2010 we got more optimistic even though the economy was fragile, and took the risk to open our second store in Naples. Godiva was instrumental in teaching me the mentality of changing from a pastry chef to an entrepreneur and manufacturer, and learning how to protect the consumer with recall processes and plans. The quality assurance standards they introduced to me were vital building blocks for the growth of my business. entrepreneurial chef


Creative people need to be allowed to be creative. Otherwise, they’re going to fly. anything to compare it to. But today, artisanal producers like myself are everywhere. There is a lot of growth in quality that is educating American consumers on what true ultra-premium chocolate is – just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. When I started, Americans didn’t know.


Are there certain things you did along the way – or currently do – to build customer loyalty?


What was the competitive landscape when you started and how did you standout? Back in the early 2000’s, artisanal chocolate was just budding in the United States. Consumers bought [chocolate] in the supermarket line or the candy aisle, and didn’t go to a chocolate shop. There was a huge education that was necessary; consumers at that time didn’t have 40

entrepreneurial chef

The most important thing I did was to start customer classes right out of the gate. It wasn’t about creating income; it was about bringing customers back to the kitchens to play with chocolate, to learn who we were and what our values and our passion are. This has been going on for years to sold-out classes. It has become fun for my staff to become teachers. It’s really fun for the consumers because and it’s important for creating loyalty. If you exceed the expectation by leaps and bounds, you create this incredible experience that is educational, and customers go home with this incredible gift of a pleasurable experience. You create loyalty, and loyalty is forever.

It’s about always wanting to be better than yesterday, and listening, observing, reading, benchmarking, and knowing that complacency is the worst thing you could ever have in business.


What was your initial marketing strategy and how has that changed over time? We hired a marketing team externally early on to help build our brand locally. The biggest success in exposing our brand on the local level was television. My marketing team helped to build the brand around a lime green bag – it became a status symbol of ultra-premium quality. In our community, there are not many people that don’t know who we. Philanthropy is a huge part of who we are. We give back to our community tirelessly, with more than 200 charities a year. All the charities that we’ve been involved in over the years helped to create tremendous visibility locally. Nationally, we had a publicist that helped to build the brand, and my distributor did trade shows all over the country and helped to build brand awareness with sales calls and food shows in San Francisco and New York. But every chance to give back to our community, this cleanses my wife’s and my soul, to be that type of company in a community helps to build more than visibility.


What’s your advice to the aspiring food entrepreneurs trying to get funds for their ventures? Getting funding for new businesses is probably the biggest obstacle. The desire, the passion, the product, these are all pretty much givens. Oftentimes that locked gate is the financial fuel. Always be careful in partnerships, which more often than not turn south and create more problems than they’re worth. Start small. You don’t need the Rolls Royce; you need a vehicle. I started in 600 square feet with a table and a little reach-in refrigerator, and I’d wash the molds in the bathroom sink. It’s how you have to begin. You have to have struggles in order to be successful. Don’t ever get into business and create mediocracy, always create the best. If you create the best, you limit the competition immediately. entrepreneurial chef



Hiring the right employees is always a challenge, so what do you look for in employees? I never gave a crap about talent. I don’t care because I can’t control passion, commitment, work ethic or motivation. I can influence it, but I can’t control it. If you don’t have that, it’s probably the wrong business. I look for people that are motivated, passionate and committed.


Any unique questions or ways you identify the right person in the interview process? I can look at somebody and talk to them for five minutes and tell you what type of personality they have. A lot of young people have aspirations to be the best, and they want to grow and be on television and do all kinds of things. But to be that, it takes a very special individual. I read people by their body language, their enthusiasm and their excitement in talking about the kitchen. If they happen to have some good experience behind them, then I hit the jackpot, but if they don’t, it’s not the most important thing for me. I can teach how to make pastry as long as the other things are in line. 42

entrepreneurial chef

Start small. You don’t need the Rolls Royce; you need a vehicle.


Any processes in place or ways you facilitate a strong working environment to attract and retain talent? Southwest Florida has been challenging because it’s not the melting pot of the culinary world and it’s not cheap to live. Brand recognition, accolades, and quality professionals that have competed on international and national level help to breed and attract new talent. Having quality – good quality – professionals has always been my thing. A lot of people are intimidated by having people that know more than them. As an owner and a chef, I surround myself with the best possible chefs that are going to make me look even better.


What’s been one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made in business thus far and the lesson it brought? I probably grew my company too slowly. Even though methodical and conservative processes and competency is important, I think the brand could have grown quicker earlier on. I struggle with that even to this day; I’m afraid to pull the trigger because I’ve spent so much energy and time to build the brand that I am afraid to make a mistake. Hopefully [we] learn from [mistakes] as we move forward in business and try to make the right choices.


What would you say is the single most influential factor for your success so far? The CEO for Ritz Carlton used to speak to the new employees at every opening. When I was a first-time staff member, I sat in St. Louis at the Ritz Carlton in 1989 and listened to him talk, and it changed my life. He asked if a baseball player hits three home runs today is he successful? He then coaxed everyone to say, “Yes, of course, the guy’s successful.” But will he get a new contract? “No.” Over the course of time, if the baseball player was an overachiever and maybe even helped bring the team to the World Series, the organization would potentially look at him for a new contract. Here’s the part that really changed who I am today. I always looked at success as something in the future, where in fact, what I learned is that success is every day. It’s about going to work to be successful, and what the future brings is the reward.

If you create quality, wonderful service, and affordable pricing, consumers will find you. entrepreneurial chef



What do you know today in business that you wish you knew when starting? Everything [laughs]. Owning a business makes you tired. It makes you dizzy. It’s exhausting. There are so many things in business that are tiring and exhausting and sometimes disappointing and distracting. But it’s part of owning a business. Learning to deal with issues every day that are the farthest thing from what you love to do is part of being an entrepreneur.


For anybody who is just starting out, what would you say to them?

Never deviate from quality. Never deviate from making the very best that’s possible. If you’re better than everyone, you reduce the competition immensely. Don’t go into business wanting to be a run of the mill chocolate or pastry or donut shop. It’s about innovation, quality, and being better than everyone. If you create quality, wonderful service, and affordable pricing, consumers will find you. Photo Credits: Hugo Juarez, Lane Wilkinson, Brian Tietz


entrepreneurial chef

Top Ten Takeaways from

Norman Love 1

2 3

When stepping away from the security of a full-time job, there will be tension and nerves to contend with no matter the business venture. When trying to grow and scale, allow your products and/or services to dictate growth as opposed to forcing it. If you employ creative people, they need to have some creative license, or they will end up leaving.


Don’t focus solely on money and/or profitability. Ensure you’re focused on the quality and integrity of your business.


Always work to be better today than yesterday.


Benchmarking is vital to your success. You should never be guessing about your historical or current performance.


Find a fun way to engage your customers as it will build loyalty and pays dividends in the long-term.


If you become the best in your market, you eliminate most of the competition.


Never settle for mediocracy from yourself or your employees.


No matter the business type, if you create quality products, have wonderful service, and affordable pricing, customers will find you.

entrepreneurial chef



By: Chloe Friedman

Richard Coraine:

Leadership, Culture,

& Hospitality Effectiveness 46

entrepreneurial chef


s Chief of Staff and Partner at Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), Richard Coraine helped build one of the most powerful companies in hospitality.

A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and the University of New Hampshire Whittemore School of Business, Coraine joined USHG as a partner in 1996, following a decade of leadership with Wolfgang Puck Group, and the launch of his own restaurant, Hawthorne Lane. What initially began as a role of helping to “extend Danny’s reach,” quickly evolved into various leadership positions over the last two decades.

Primarily, Coraine served as Chief Operations Officer, where responsibilities included the performance of USHG’s acclaimed restaurants. As Chief Development Officer, Coraine was instrumental in conceptualizing, incubating, and launching numerous new businesses, including Eleven Madison Park, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack, Maialino, North End Grill, and Untitled at the new Whitney Museum of American Art downtown. Additionally, Coraine collaborated on the 2009 launch of Hospitality Quotient, USHG’s leadership development and training business. Coraine was unfiltered as he shared success principles such as culture killers, the most sacred part of the business, what employees truly want from leaders, hiring strategies, interview questions, and why “Hospitality Included” is a long-term investment poised to pay dividends. entrepreneurial chef


Patience is not only a virtue, but it’s also a very good business strategy and often leads to better results.

Course Corrections

Protecting Culture

“Looking back on our growth, it’s been a great learning lesson. What I find now is people with an entrepreneurial spirit feel the need to develop the perfect business plan before they get in the arena. What I counsel people on is there are more lessons to be learned in the arena. I would much prefer to be in the game learning than wasting time trying to manage my assumptions of what could happen.

“Our intent was always to grow the company through the culture, and we assumed that if you hired the right people, it would naturally happen – and that’s not so. What we found early on was that it’s all about leadership, and leaders need to set the direction

What I’ve found to be the most exhilarating and fun part is the course correction. We’ve always looked at it as a learning [opportunity] as opposed to failure. Every business we started has needed a course correction. Sometimes major, sometimes minor, but we’ve never nailed it from day one.”


entrepreneurial chef

We excelled when we grew people from within. We failed miserably and painfully when we hired people from outside that were very accredited, had great experience, but weren’t cultural fits. We’d almost always failed when we hired somebody at a high level from outside of the company and expected them to be cultural fits overnight. What I learned was the more time you spend with your leaders, the better. What people need now are your time and wisdom.”

Leading Employees

Driving High Performance

“What I’ve found is people want three things. [First], they want me to be the compass – [showing] which way is north. The second thing is wisdom – to use me as a library. And the third thing is they need a cheerleader – somebody who believes in them.

“I decided to do a self-assessment company-wide, and I looked at businesses that were thriving and dysfunctional for correlations. What I got very quickly was the leadership had done three things really well.

If you have a company where you hire people wired to do something really well, they don’t want people walking around telling them how many mistakes they made. High achievers are not bred to make a ton of mistakes, but they will every so often, and leaders [must help them] get back in the game.”

Adding Value “When you’re a C-level person, you need to be a catalyst. If you’re engaging with one person at one time, how can you make that the most meaningful engagement? For me, it’s all about alignment, mentoring, calibration, and adding value no matter where I go. Developing the next generation of leaders; either teaching them how to look at things, how to analyze things, connecting with them, and making each transaction or each engagement meaningful.”

Businesses that were thriving had leaders who very clearly articulated what they wanted people to do. Also, inherent in that is [articulating] what success looked like for the employee. The second thing was that they had a feedback loop on an ongoing basis, good or bad. The third thing was leaders created a level playing field. People want to know that if they do what is asked, and do really well at it, then the sky’s the limit. [People] don’t want to know there are politics in play or the system is gamed against them.”

You can teach people how to open a restaurant, close a restaurant, how to seat guests, but they need to be what we call caregivers of the highest order. entrepreneurial chef


I would much prefer to be in the game learning than wasting time trying to manage my assumptions of what could happen.

Interview Questions “What I’ve learned hiring managers is I only ask three questions in a job interview, and it takes me about eight minutes. Based on three questions, I’ve got about a 98 percent success rate of hiring the right person. The first question is, “What is the biggest misperception of you by other people, and then tell me why that’s not who you are?” The reason I ask that is because it requires the person to tell me how they believe the world views them. We’re in the perception business, so I need somebody that fully is self-aware of how the world might be viewing them and that they assume responsibility for it.

Hiring Strategy “You trust employees with something very sacred, which is your business. And your employees make your business. The one thing important to us is who the person is because you can teach people how to open a restaurant, close a restaurant, how to seat guests, but they need to be what we call caregivers of the highest order. We hire people that are very self-aware and who have great joy in making sure other people are happy.” 50

entrepreneurial chef

The second question is, “What is the last gift you gave somebody for any reason?” I ask that because it shows somebody’s capacity to give something to another person without expecting anything in return. The third question is, “Who do you admire for any reason? ”It shows me aspirations. It shows me people who are looking to a higher plane, and it shows me where their inspiration lies. I’ve gotten everything from my father to Nelson Mandela, but I’m able to assess why [they selected] those people and what traits those people have.”

Every business we started has needed a course correction. Sometimes major, sometimes minor, but we’ve never nailed it from day one. “Hospitality Included” Inspiration “The catalyst was to eliminate the disparity in wages between the front and back of the house, and that continues to be the primary motivation. We were unable to attract top talent in the kitchen by paying “industry wages,” and we wanted to not only be competitive with the best talent but to stop the existence of [not being able to] find good people on a regular basis because wages were too low. The way that we saw doing that was by having the ability to pay people more by having everything rolled into one price on a menu.”

Pulling Off “Hospitality Included” “I’m not sure it’s for everyone. For us, we knew it would be a long-term investment. We needed to make sure three things happened simultaneously. Number one, the employee experience is as good as it’s ever been. Part of the employee experience is with finances; you want to make the wages the best you can. The second thing is that the public “gets it,” paying one price, but that’s an education process. The third thing is it needed to make sense financially for the business in the company. We’re trying to calibrate all three of those things simultaneously. As we roll out in different businesses, some take to all three of those pretty quickly, and some are more of a work in process. It’s not a short-term solution; it’s a learning and growing process.” entrepreneurial chef


Time Management

Long-Term Success Principle

“I start my day with Danny for about a half hour with a “clipboard session,” where I’ve got a clipboard and we bounce ideas back and forth. Once my clipboard gets filled up, after about a half hour, I’ve got a week’s worth of stuff. I then take my calendar and strategically put some things on it, but I also leave enough time to just go somewhere, so if there’s a meeting happening, I can drop in and add value, and not [miss the opportunity] because I’m booked. One thing I hate is when executives tell me they’re booked back to back. I think people get too fixated on putting stuff on their calendar to matter as opposed to adding value no matter where they go.”

“When I looked back on the most virtuous element that helped me, and I can say the same for Danny, is that patience is not only a virtue, but it’s also a very good business strategy and often leads to better results. Patience is really what has made USHG what it is thus far, and we’ll continue to exercise patience. Not to an extreme, but patience equals thoughtful outcomes because you’re able to process things.” Photo Credit: Union Square Hospitality Group

People want to know that if they do what is asked, and do really well at it, then the sky’s the limit.


entrepreneurial chef

New mobile app with Inventory Management and Order Check-in features changing the way the hospitality industry operates forever.

Orders Placed. Invoices Received. Inventory Managed. History Recorded. Click. Done.

Ordering Made Simple. That’s the BlueCart way.

Sign up at bluecart.com and download our free mobile app to simplify your orders today.

Commercial Leasing

Understanding Different Landlord Types –

For Food Entrepreneurs By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton


entrepreneurial chef


How much do you know about your own commercial landlord? There is a strong likelihood that you will lease commercial space for your business but not, however, know all the facts about who you choose to do business with.


ommercial landlords fall into different categories and have different motivations for owning their commercial real estate development. To food entrepreneurs, being a landlord looks easy – landlords take care of the property and collect the rent. However, landlords can become casualties of the economy and even victims themselves when their tenants can’t pay their rent or completely go out of business.

We have defined the most common types of landlords in our book, Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES, and summarized them below – how would you categorize your own commercial landlord?

A professional landlord isn’t a person but a company that exists for the sole purpose of owning; developing; leasing; buying; and selling commercial, residential, and industrial property for a profit. A professional landlord may not only own various real estate assets but also internally manage those properties.

Furthermore, a professional landlord uses various commercial real estate formulas to calculate and measure the rate of return on their properties. When you’re negotiating a commercial lease or renewal, the leasing representative punches the numbers into a computer and gives the landlord a net effective rental rate – determining if the deal is advantageous or not for the landlord. Two examples of institutional landlords include banks and insurance companies. One of the safest places for institutional landlords to invest your deposits (and their profits) is in commercial real estate. An institutional landlord can generally afford to leave a property vacant rather than take a low rent deal from a tenant. Cash flow is important to institutional landlords, but property value is paramount. In some cases, a landlord may have started out as the mortgage holder for a commercial property which eventually went into foreclosure. In this circumstance, the bank’s property ownership may be more by accident than desire. entrepreneurial chef


Investment fund landlords can include teachers, nurses, and other professional associations who invest pension fund money to buy and hold commercial real estate. Investment fund landlords rarely construct new buildings; instead, they make a purchase decision on a commercial property based on the existing or predictable rate of return. Their decision to purchase real estate hinges on security and safety. Commercial developers are individuals who pool their financial resources to purchase a parcel of land. They then create design specifications, and property site plans to maximize their return on investment. Developers want to have the highest number of rentable square feet on their properties so as to maximize the return. A Commercial Flipper is a developer who sells the property quickly in hopes of a fast profit. This isn’t necessarily a derogatory term. From a tenant’s perspective, it’s important to distinguish if the developer is a flipper. If so, you can bet that within a year or so you’ll have a new landlord who is more a longterm investor. Finding land, designing good properties, pre-leasing, and finishing the projects requires hard work. It can be much easier for a landlord to purchase flipped properties. A Casual Landlord typically has a few holdings and may be casual towards their investment and their tenants. They’re often slow to respond and almost never proactive during the leasing process. Their investment is simply not a priority to them and, as a result, good tenants get neglected. 56

entrepreneurial chef

Mom and Pop Landlords are commonly wealthy doctors, architects, or families who have accumulated some real estate or have an accumulated wealth invested in real estate. Typically, they’re hands-on with the property and often quite accessible to tenants on a personal basis. Mom and Pop landlords typically want low-maintenance tenants who pay their rent promptly and don’t call them at midnight to report a problem with the property. The longer they have owned the property, the more emotionally invested in the property they become. For some smaller landlords, they may be more negotiable on rental rates rather than providing months of free rent or large tenant allowances as they may not have a pool of capital to draw from. Photo Credit: Fresh Idea

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield — The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail DaleWillerton@TheLeaseCoach. com or visit www.TheLeaseCoach.com. For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Dos & Don’ts for Restaurant Tenants, please e-mail your request to JeffGrandfield@ TheLeaseCoach.com.


Join us to end childhood hunger in America. NoKidHungry.org

Success Story

Joe Girard:

Building the World’s

Leading Online Culinary School By: Marie Reynolds 58

entrepreneurial chef

entrepreneurial chef



s the Co-Founder of Rouxbe, Joe Girard has built one of the world’s leading online culinary schools with over 300,000 students across the globe.

Born into a family of entrepreneurs, Girard began cooking at age 13 and worked in several four and five-star hotels before becoming a serial entrepreneur. Having formed three successful businesses in his career, Girard has unique ability to assemble top talent, carve out new business models, and execute well-thought-out business plans.

Prior to Rouxbe, he and Rouxbe Co-Founder Dawn Thomas owned a specialized mobile film catering operation that they built from the ground up and served over 250,000 cast and crew members. However, in 2005, the duo would set out to capture the curriculum of a professional culinary school, in high-definition video, and deliver it online to home and professional cooks across the world. Originally, they built a touchscreen-driven device in a pre-iPad era and called it “Ruby.” Ruby was the “in-kitchen friend” that guided cooking technique and improved health. Interestingly enough, few investors thought that anyone would buy a piece of hardware and then pay for content. As a result, they dropped the hardware component and focused on developing premium instructional content that was available completely online. At last, Rouxbe was born. 60

entrepreneurial chef

As brick and mortar culinary schools around the world began experiencing hardships and closed their doors, online learning has become a viable option for those seeking to learn foundational culinary technique. With high definition videos, world-class instructors, peer support and interactive assignments Rouxbe is quickly setting the bar. Even the celebrated Chef Marcus Samuelsson noted that “Rouxbe has created an exceptional culinary training tool that can reach aspiring chefs on a scale not previously thought possible.” Quite the endorsement indeed. What we learn from Girard is that the path is never easy, no matter the business type. With a capital-intensive business like Rouxbe, having cycled through 80+ investors to find one single believer, and enduring bouts where monthly revenue determined the long-term fate of the business, Girard imparts the lessons and advice from his journey thus far.

Q&A The


Joe Girard


What inspired you to venture into entrepreneurship & start Rouxbe? I come from a family of entrepreneurs and always wanted to own and operate my own business. I was in the food business as a chef from a young age and always looking for some unique angle [to build a business]. My partner and I, Dawn Thomas, found it in teaching people the right way to learn to cook, by teaching people foundational cooking techniques and methods. There was a huge demand for cooking in the early part of the 2000’s, but people were learning the wrong way. Rather than learning culinary technique, everybody was buying cookbooks and watching food shows, ultimately trying to learn from recipes. If you don’t possess the skills to execute a recipe, cooking is hit and miss. Therefore, we set out to build an online school that would provide people with the

opportunity to become better cooks. Our goal was to drive cooking confidence and get people back into the kitchen cooking whole nutrient-dense food (away from fast food and heavily processed food).


How did you know it was the right time to take the leap?

You never know the right time—you have to dive in. It’s hard to do something part-time. We made the decision that online instruction was the future, and that people needed us, and that we would be all-in. There was no plan B. We sold our previous catering company and had no fallback position. I think that’s really critical. The hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is to make that decision and do whatever it takes until you achieve success.

entrepreneurial chef



After the idea, what was the initial starting point?

We believed that online learning would become the new norm. We mapped out a professional cooking school curriculum and started making thousands of short close-up cooking technique videos. We also built an online platform and eventually our own learning management system (LMS), so we could provide curriculum-driven courses with certification for both home and professional cooks.


What was the launch strategy for the business and lessons learned afterward? The launch was challenging because we had to educate a recipe-driven world about how important it was to learn foundational cooking techniques. Disruptive approaches are much more difficult and often take more time than anticipated. We were developing an online learning solution where brick-and-mortar schools had dominated for decades.


entrepreneurial chef


Recipes are still a popular way for people who want to start cooking; most don’t go to culinary school and learn the technique. That was probably the most challenging and riskiest thing for us in terms of investing millions of dollars in premium instructional-grade culinary technique videos. We had to demonstrate why it was so important that they step back and learn the proper way to improve their cooking.

Any periods where failure loomed and you had to dig deep to push through? We never questioned the direction because we always had conviction and knew that people needed to learn technique, whether they were professional or home cooks. There certainly were many points where it was close to failure. We went several years having to generate revenue every single month to stay alive. I don’t think that’s any different from most businesses in their first 5 to 10 years. It took a lot of perseverance and dedication to make it happen. Overnight success is rare, and most entrepreneurs have to expect many years of very hard work for their venture to become a profitable enterprise.

Disruptive approaches are much more difficult and often take more time than anticipated.


Was Rouxbe a capital-intensive business to start?

Very. Producing premium educational video content costs thousands of dollars per minute of content. We went to about 80 people before the first person committed to make an investment in our Company. We had to find investors that believed, as we did, that education would shift online.


What helped you finally get that investor more than 80 pitches later? Every time you present to a potential investor, it’s a learning opportunity. You have to find somebody who believes in what you believe in. You have to speak from the heart and with authenticity. You have to demonstrate that you, as the entrepreneur, are highly leveraged to make the business a success; that there is no plan B.


How did you handle naysayers who believed people couldn’t learn to cook online? When people say you can’t learn how to cook online, they are often thinking about taste and having a chef give feedback on the flavor profile. We’ve developed an assessment application that chef administrators use in commercial kitchens, to provide this sort of feedback. For example, a student learns how to properly cook a piece of fish by watching our instructional technique video and/or reading supporting educational material. Then they actually prepare and present a piece of fish to the chef, who then assesses things like taste, level of seasoning, doneness and presentation and then submits their evaluation via the learning application, which become part of the students’ overall grade. This takes the chef administrator only a few minutes and strengthens the entire learning process. For the home cook, learning how to cook is about learning techniques. For example, we break down how to use a knife into a series of very close-up technique videos that better help the home cook learn the competency. Unlike observing an instructor in a brick and mortar school, Rouxbe Students can view any video over and over again, focusing in on certain aspects of the technique by stopping and freezing the close-up video. Another advantage of watching video online is that it’s much more effective for training, especially for time-intensive subjects. With instructional video we can edit out a lot of downtime, making the learning process much shorter.

entrepreneurial chef


You have to look for ways to access influencers in your space, particularly in the early days when you have very little money for marketing-related activities.


entrepreneurial chef

Entrepreneurs should look for disruptive solutions and products to real problems and be prepared to dive in 110%.


What problems do you see in the industry today & how is Rouxbe helping to solve them? There are two major problems facing the professional cook market. Firstly, many brick-and-mortar culinary schools are shutting down as a result of declining enrollments, resulting in fewer cooks to staff food operations. And this is in a market expecting to see an ongoing need for cooks. In many North American locations, it is now very hard to find and retain talent. As a result, many food operators now have to train their own cooks, something they likely haven’t had to do before because there were thousands of cooks paying their own way through culinary school.

Rouxbe provides a better, faster and less expensive way to bring professional culinary education to cooks working in the industry. Secondly, most professional cooks know very little about nutrition and we are living in a time with a population that is ailing from many lifestyle-related diseases. Chefs now need to know how to cook for people that are looking for healthier options, have dietary restrictions, medical conditions and special dietary preferences, yet most professional cooks do not possess these skills or knowledge. Rouxbe solves another related problem for healthcare professionals that inform their sick patients that they need to change their diet in order to improve their health. Healthcare professionals can now prescribe a course called Culinary Rx that helps people learn to cook more health-supportive foods, all online with Rouxbe. entrepreneurial chef


10 evolved?

What was the growth strategy in the beginning and how has it

We didn’t have a lot of marketing and sales money for many years. We put all our resources into developing our product, so we leveraged channel partners. We had a very innovative disruptive offering with a lot of organic growth. We partnered with kitchen tool manufacturers, grocery stores and select premium foods brands, where our product was complementary. You have to look for ways to access influencers in your space, particularly in the early days when you have very little money for marketing-related activities.


What has been your hiring strategy to ensure you bring the right people on board? The number one thing for us has always been to find people that are fully aligned with Rouxbe’s vision. Then, more importantly, to ensure that Rouxbe can help them move forward personally. While this might seem odd for a Company to place the personal goals of its employees before the organizations, if we, as a Company, cannot help our team move forward personally, the relationship will never be a healthy one and likely short-lived. For example, some of our employees want a more flexible working schedule so that they can spend more quality time with their families. Being an online business, we can offer this kind of flexibility.

The hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is to make that decision and do whatever it takes until you achieve success. 66

entrepreneurial chef

12 Any final piece of advice to the aspiring food entrepreneurs out there today? Entrepreneurs should look for disruptive solutions and products to real problems and be prepared to dive in 110%. Expect hurdles, but stay on track. Become an expert at over-coming challenges and stay focused on the finish line, until you cross it. Photo Credit: Rouxbe

Overnight success is rare, and most

entrepreneurs have

to expect many years of very hard work for their venture to

become a profitable enterprise.

entrepreneurial chef


Top Ten Takeaways from

Joe Girard 1

There is no perfect time when starting a business; you simply must dive in.



Though it can be done, it’s incredibly challenging to build a business in your spare time.

Overnight successes are extremely rare. In most cases, it takes years for a business to become truly profitable and stable.



One of the hardest decisions an entrepreneur will make is whether or not to remain committed to a business until it succeeds.

When hiring employees, look for ways the business can help them both personally and professionally to ensure a good fit.


You may cycle through tens or hundreds of investors before finding the one that believes in you and your business.


Disruptive businesses are much more difficult and time intensive to gain traction than one likely anticipates.


If you have a limited sales and marketing budget, find a way to leverage industry influencers to amplify your message.

When creating disruptive businesses, there’s a great deal of education required to scale past early adopters.


Collaborations with complementary businesses create mutually beneficial relationships that will help both businesses scale.


68 68 entrepreneurial entrepreneurial chef chef

Co-chaired by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) is a national non-profit that promotes and provides career opportunities for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment. WHO DOES C-CAP SERVE?


17,500+ students 211 public high school teachers 168 schools 5,000+ industry partners

Mentor or hire a sudent Donate products or equipment Support our programs and scholarships Host a fundraising event

@CCAPInc For information or to get involved: contact us at info@ccapinc.org, (212) 974-1711, or visit www.ccapinc.org Founded in 1990 by Richard Grausman

Success Story

Jessica Sennett:

From Passion Project to Full-Time Business By: Jay Michaels


entrepreneurial chef

entrepreneurial chef



Jessica Sennett has specialized in cheese making and cheese retail for over a decade. Working at many acclaimed cheese shops including Cowgirl Creamery, Formaggio Kitchen, and Bedford Cheese Shop, Sennett crossed a problem experienced by many cheese lovers around the world – how to properly store cheese. Such a problem, combined with Sennett’s experience, prompted her to invent the Cheese Grotto.


entrepreneurial chef

s a cheese specialist, Sennett takes her cheese and its storage very seriously. In an interview with WYSK, Sennett said, “Natural cheese, like wine, needs to be stored and aged in a climate that allows it to ripen to its full potential.” However, prior to the Cheese Grotto, her research for viable options for eco-friendly cheese storage came up short. With plastic wrap suffocating specialty cheeses in many consumers’ kitchens, Sennett conceptualized a solution and dove head first. With cheese being one of the top three specialty food products in the United States, and Americans consuming more than 34 pounds per capita, her decision was justified. As Sennett shared, “I had to take a leap of faith with Cheese Grotto.” As with man first-timers, while attempting prototype the product, Sennett realized the capital-intensive nature. And for a bootstrapper, it results in a substantial barrier to entry. At first, Sennett attempted her hand at a Kickstarter campaign to launch her company. The result? It failed miserably. Yet, bound and determined, and with absolute resilience, Sennett would march forward with a heap of lessons. As she said, “The effort I put toward my failed Kickstarter campaign gave me both the chops and the connections to launch a real e-commerce launch strategy, and for that I am grateful.” Launching her Cheese Grotto on November 2, 2016, as the first of its kind in America, wowed consumers, experts, and the media alike. Having gained press from places like NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, The New York Time to name a few, it’s easy to say the Cheese Grotto was a homerun. Just don’t say it was easy. Sennett’s determination to never give up is inspiring to say the least. What she shares if the in-depth process of conceptualizing the idea, prototyping, manufacturing, and launching her product. Sennett also gives a granular look into her ecommerce business and lessons learned from attracting top-tier media for her product.

Q&A The



Jessica Sennett

Where did you get the idea for the Cheese Grotto?

I’ve been in the specialty cheese industry for eleven years. The variety of specialty cheese is vast, diverse, and rooted in hundreds of years of traditions around the world. The Cheese Grotto is a product that captures centuries of cheese preservation traditions. Natural cheese requires certain conditions to thrive: humidity, air flow, and temperature. The Cheese Grotto provides this in one package, and it is handmade as an heirloom piece that can be handed down through generations. The initial idea came from my years of working as a cheese monger. More often than not, customers who buy considerable quantities of specialty cheese don’t have an ideal method for storing at home. So I spent hours at home, drawing versions of what an ideal cheese storage container would look like and how it

would function. The Grotto required a balance of high-quality materials, detailed design elements, and multi-functionality in order to make it a worthy cheese storage device.


What gave you confidence the venture was worth pursuing?

I had to take a leap of faith with Cheese Grotto. It is an inventive product, and it is one-ofa-kind, so I couldn’t project its success by reviewing direct competitors. What I focused on was the fact that cheese is one of the top three specialty food products in the United States and Americans consume more than 34 pounds per capita. I was also able to work closely with leading cheese experts, such as Max McCalman and Steven Jenkins, to review and test the functionality of my creation. When they both gave the Grotto high praise, I knew I was onto something of value. entrepreneurial chef



How did you go about creating the prototype?

The prototyping process can be extremely expensive and a barrier to entering the market, especially for a bootstrapping lady such as myself. I was lucky enough to work with a few passionate and talented individuals with expertise in design and engineering. David Liatti, the owner of bar and restaurant 61 Local in Brooklyn, built my first prototype. The deal was that in exchange for his time, I would continue to curate cheese events in his restaurant’s event space and bar. It is important to note that a prototype is not worth much if it cannot be translated to a manufacturing process, and I was fortunate that Dave was privy to that. Each manufacturer has its own work process and will need to tweak your prototype in order to match their workflow. So when I started working with Eco Supply in Richmond, VA last year, we had to go through multiple revisions to settle on the final one.


entrepreneurial chef

A prototype is not worth much if it cannot be translated to a manufacturing process.


Any obstacles when starting out, or failures endured, and if so, how did you push past? As mentioned previously, the proof of concept for an inventive product is the most difficult barrier to entry. One of my biggest failures two years before I launched my company, was to launch a Kickstarter campaign with a large ask and not enough of a brand following. It was so disheartening when I didn’t meet my goal. However, my effort was not completely in vain: the Kickstarter campaign is how Florence Fabricant of The New York Times learned about my product, and she waited patiently until I was ready to launch to be the first person to write about it. In the end, the effort I put toward my failed Kickstarter campaign gave me both the chops and the connections to launch a real e-commerce launch strategy, and for that I am grateful.


At what point did this turn from idea to an actual business?

The moment I received my first investor money, the idea took off as a business. That’s when I knew I could see my way to the launch date of my company. This was in May 2016, and the business launched in November 2016.


How did you make your first dollar and what was that like for you? Due to the timing of The New York Times article with my first day of sales, I was honestly overwhelmed. Within the first week, we had sold out of our existing inventory, and the following two months felt like a sprint to get everyone’s orders in time for the holidays.

Shopify is an excellent platform, and the only upfront investment I had to make is the initial web design.


What marketing channels and strategies have you used and/or implemented to get sales? Organic press has been my leading form of marketing, followed by strategic online partnerships with existing cheese shops, wineries, and other accouterment companies. My email list has steadily grown due to the exposure of my company and a biannual giveaway campaign that I schedule. I fill my weekly emails with original knowledge and content about specialty cheese, recipes, and storage tips, and this almost always converts to a sale as well. I’ve done some paid advertising in the form of Google Adwords, Facebook, and Instagram as well. entrepreneurial chef


I had to take a leap of faith with Cheese Grotto. It is an inventive product, and it is one-of-a-kind, so I couldn’t project its success by reviewing direct competitors.


entrepreneurial chef


With your website and store built on Shopify, what was the deciding factor to use them? Shopify is an excellent platform, and the only upfront investment I had to make is the initial web design. Once that was structured by a web developer, it made it extremely simple to run my own backend, download apps for additional services, and sync the order system with my fulfillment center.


The effort I put toward my failed Kickstarter campaign gave me both the chops and the connections to launch a real e-commerce launch strategy.


What’s the backend of your Shopify store look like in terms of free or paid add-ons to run and/ or manage the business?

For the pop-up on your website powered by Privy to capture visitor info, how impactful has this been in your business?

Most of the apps I have downloaded are free, with the option to upgrade when the timing is right. Here’s a list of what I love: Affiliatly (affiliate sales program), Product Upsell, Privvy, MailChimp for Shopify, and ViralSweep (for giveaways).

As mentioned earlier, my weekly newsletter is quite successful in converting to sales. Having a pop-up window to capture visitor’s interest is crucial to growing that email list. My list has grown by the thousands since I launched, partially due to the call to action. entrepreneurial chef



Any tips or advice for others working to get press for themselves or their products?


Once you have customer data, how do you nurture the relationship to improve the lifetime value? For customers who purchase a Grotto, I do offer a lifetime membership to monthly, exclusive Cheese Grotto deals that feature cheese, accoutrements, and beverage companies. These companies are curated and selected by me. Knowledge is power, and I’ve learned my customers are hungry for more specialty cheese knowledge and tips, and they turn to my newsletter for more insight into the world of cheese and entertaining.


With incredible press – NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue – what have you learned from that standpoint thus far? Forging relationships with the editors and writers is essential over the long-term. They work for their publications, and not you, and sometimes they need to sit and think about your product for a while until they know how they want to feature it. For better or worse, connections are key, and being kind and gracious to the people who will write about you and your business is essential. 78

entrepreneurial chef

Many writers and editors drool over getting the exclusive on a story. Every publication wants to be the first to write about something new. So the initial launch press is actually not as difficult as maintaining your presence in media. Make a list of your top ten publications where you want yourself or your product to be featured, and then offer an exclusive if you can. There is value in both top-tier press and in smaller publications that have your right audience.

Within the first week, we had sold out of our existing inventory, and the following two months felt like a sprint to get everyone’s orders in time for the holidays.



In looking back, what’s been critical to the growth of your business?

For food entrepreneurs with a product idea right now, what’s your advice for them?

Support of fellow industry professionals is essential to get anything off the ground. I needed to surround myself with people who believed in my mission and in my product in order to make it a reality. My customers have also proven very devoted, and will often purchase more than one Grotto as a gift, so quality, personable customer service is also very important. My product is niche so the brand must reflect an authority over a niche market, and that’s how I’ve made my marketing decisions thus far.

My advice is to think about the long-term plan of your product. Do you want to produce the product yourself in your own facility, or do you want someone else to make it? Weigh the pros and cons of each. The more you can get your margins down while staying true to the value of the product, the more mobility your business will have to grow independently of investment, which will put you in a much better position once you are considering expansion.

You will have to pivot according to what the business requires to grow.

A business can’t survive off of one product alone, so ask yourself what you want your brand to represent and what type of product line do you want to make? In all circumstances, you will have to pivot according to what the business requires to grow. Be sure to listen to your customer feedback, and try to convert as many people as you can into brand advocates. Photo Credit: Sarah E Crowder Studio

entrepreneurial chef


Top Ten Takeaways from

Jessica Sennett 1

At times, an inventive product may lack direct competitors to pre-determine market success, so you may be taking a leap of faith.


A prototype is worthless if it cannot be translated into a manufacturing process.


Failed crowd funding campaigns can be just as valuable if you’re willing to be open to the lessons they provide.


Organic press can be a great marketing tool.


Build strategic online partnerships with people and/or companies to help create buzz for your product.


entrepreneurial chef


Shopify can be a great tool for building an e-commerce storefront to sell your product.


Capture customer information, such as email, and work to nurture the relationship over time.


For better or worse, connections with the media and press are extremely vital.


To get great press, make a list of the top ten publications you’d like to be in and offer them an exclusive to see who bites.


In the evolution of all businesses, you have to pivot for things to take off or grow past a certain point.



Are you in?

To get your company involved, visit ChooseRestaurants.org/Apprenticeship


entrepreneurial chef


Lessons Learned from

Closing the Doors of a Restaurant By: Chris Hill


entrepreneurial chef


arlier this month I went back to grab a pile of cookbooks that I had left behind. I sold my share in the restaurant two and a half years ago, and they’d sat, collecting dust in the windowless office, since. I was obviously no longer a partner, but today we closed the doors for the last time, and the following are my lessons learned from closing a restaurant.

To be honest, I had only stepped foot in the restaurant once in the last two and a half years – that’s the time that has elapsed since I moved on. I didn’t feel right being within those walls, able to hear the hum of the hood, if I wasn’t buttoning up a chef coat, tying an apron around my waist, sharpening my knife, and pulling a cutting board out to chop some vegetables, break down some meat or any of the other dozens of tasks I performed nearly every single day for five consecutive years. In a sense, I felt like a traitor, like I had jumped ship and a certain cloud of shame hovered over me if I were to ever approach the restaurant that, over the course of those five years in m life, felt like home more than anything else. On an average day, I didn’t just log the typical restaurant shift. I lived a football throw away from the back door to the building, which meant I could spend late nights there work-

ing – recipe development, testing and I could game plan for upcoming specials as stocks simmered away on the back burners. Something about the stillness of an empty restaurant in the dead of night soothed my soul. Without a doubt, this is the place where I became a chef. I came into my own as a cook, and here I started to understand flavor combinations, whimsical plating ideas and I became a person that could teach others while allowing for them to learn from their mistakes. On a good day, I guess you could have called me a mentor. When things don’t work out – businesses, relationships, anything in life, it’s easy to look back and think to one’s self, “what could I have done differently and what should I have done differently.” For some reason, none of those thoughts, that can haunt you as you lay down to sleep, even crept into my mind.

entrepreneurial chef


They don’t plague my thoughts because I left it all on the field, in the best way I knew how. I left every day feeling battered and bruised, aching my way back to the nearby apartment, feeling a decade older than I actually was. I didn’t trick myself into fielding internal questions about my commitment or lack thereof, because I was fully invested, ensuring every single dish that left the window was plated perfectly. I could often catch employees haphazardly trying to sell a dish into the window that had no business making its way under the heat lamp. 175,000. That’s about the number of dishes I was a part of in that building, and I made sure every single plate looked and tasted as good as the one prior. I gave everything. At times I’ll argue with myself that I gave too much and sacrificed too much for the restaurant that felt to be failing me. I had compromised my relationship, my finances and at times, my health. At times, I try to convince myself that I gave that restaurant more than it ever gave me in return, and in a way, that argument holds up. But, the real truth is that in those five years, interspersed amongst those nearly two hundred thousand meals that were served under my watch, were a lot of happy people. Certainly, we contributed to the customer’s lives, but I also got to help people pay their bills, and I got to experience true camaraderie and togetherness with a fine group of individuals. Plus, that little restaurant – it grew me into a chef. With that title and rite of passage are lessons learned, new perspectives and deeper understanding of how the industry works – how relationships work – how the world works. The truth is, you don’t always get what you think you should. It doesn’t always go according to plan, and most things aren’t meant to last forever, with every single restaurant that has ever existed, falling into that category. The unfortunate piece is that you have, what feels like a living, breathing entity – within those walls is a certain personality, a type of music and a scent that defines it just as much as the experiences had there.


entrepreneurial chef

The 4 questions I ask myself are these:

1. 2. 3. 4.

Did the restaurant make the community better? Did the restaurant make our customers lives better? Did the restaurant make our employees lives better? Did the restaurant make my life better?

Quite simply, the answer to every single one of those questions is a resounding, “yes.” Thus, I wouldn’t trade it for the world – it will always be a part of me. It shaped my life in profound ways – ways that taught me lessons, ways that made me treat people better, and in ways that made me decide to treat myself better. That now-closed restaurant, I will look back on with nothing but deep-seeded gratitude. Some things aren’t meant to work out. Instead, they teach us valuable lessons. Ideally, we learn from those lessons, and we take them with us forever. Photo Credit: Iryna Inshyna

Chef Chris Hill is regularly featured on TV shows in various markets throughout the Southeast. His writing & work have been featured in numerous publications, in addition to authoring his book “Crush Your Career: A Proven Path to a Sustainable Life in the Kitchen.” He speaks at various colleges & universities regarding culinary media, branding, social media, and the realm of food writing.

CORE supports children of food + beverage employees navigating life-altering circumstances/conditions. Learn how you can help at COREgives.org


Inspirational Short

Overcoming a 15% Success Rate:

Beth Wilson-Parentice’s Beverage Business Victory By: Brenda Lubragge


entrepreneurial chef

entrepreneurial chef


Beth Wilson-Parentice, founder and CEO of Sipp Sparkling Organics, has always been an entrepreneur and artist at heart. Her positive spirit in addition to her passion for creating and entertaining molded her into the successful woman she is today. When she was laid off from her corporate job, she took it as an opportunity to use her creative abilities in an entrepreneurial way. Instead of dwelling on a negative situation, she took it as a positive sign. When one door closed, it gave her the opportunity to open another; and through Strength, Inspiration, Passion and Perseverance, Sipp was born.


ipp was first handcrafted in Beth’s kitchen, where she mixed together organic ingredients to create refreshing beverages with unique layers of flavor. The brand officially came to fruition in her Chester Springs, Pa. home in September 2009; however, the idea to turn her creations into a line of Sipp Sparkling Organics happened during her time catering events and serving organic cocktails.

“People would ask me all the time how they could recreate my concoctions at home. When I would tell them the ingredients they needed to buy, and how they needed to muddle them to create the perfect cocktail – I was always received with glazed eyes and blank stares. No one wanted to put all of that time and effort into creating one drink.” She added, “I never found any cocktail mixers that I felt comfortable recommending to people. They were all filled with junk. That’s how I came up with the idea for Sipp. I would create organic sparkling beverages with three layers of flavor and no artificial ingredients, and they could work as both stand-alone beverages and healthier mixers for cocktails.”


entrepreneurial chef

Use the tools you have available to you – search the internet, do your research, pick up the phone, send emails, and continue to do this until you find someone who is as passionate about your concept as you are. — Beth Wilson-Parentice

In order to turn her idea into a reality, Beth began researching and utilizing her network of connections to find information and investors. She found out that she would need a flavor company, and the cost to get her kitchen recipe into production would be about $30,000$40,000 per flavor. It was also around this time when she was told that 85% of beverage businesses fail. She said, “I almost walked away, but instead, I set aside one week to call every organic flavor company possible.” On the third day, she reached Domenick Luccarelli, who worked in business development for AM Todd. He advised her to fly to California to present her concept at the Natural Products Expo West. She said, “They choose one entrepreneur each year, and

take care of the costs of all flavor formulations – and I was selected! If it weren’t for Dominick and his belief in me, Sipp wouldn’t be here today. I’m very grateful.” After her successful time at Expo West, Beth was determined to follow her passion, despite being in an extremely competitive industry. Over the past eight years, her determination and positivity helped her overcome financial, production, and distribution hurdles – which ultimately caused Sipp to become part of the 15% of beverage companies that succeed. “Having an idea that I created in my kitchen and seeing it sold in some of the world’s biggest retailers is extremely rewarding,” she says. “It has shown me that if you work hard and put your mind to something, you can achieve it.” entrepreneurial chef


Be tenacious and never give up. I didn’t just find a list of people to call; I created a list myself. It took hours of dedicated research.

Beth’s hope is that her story inspires other entrepreneurial minds. “The best advice I can give is to be tenacious and never give up. I didn’t just find a list of people to call; I created a list myself. It took hours of dedicated research. It took almost giving up before finding one person who believed in my concept. I bought stock bottles on eBay and filled them with my kitchen creations. I designed labels and printed them from my home computer literally using a glue stick to get them on. I took pictures of the bottles to create marketing materials; I used my creativity to come up with explanations for the brand, the products, and each flavor.” She added, “I got on a plane to California while almost depleting my checking account, but I prepared a pitch that I knew would blow people away. I believed in myself, my brand, my creations, and that is truly the best advice I can give. Use the tools you have available to you – search the internet, do your research, pick up the phone, send emails, and continue to do this until you find someone who is as passionate about your concept as you are.” Photo Credit: Sipp Eco Beverage

— Beth Wilson-Parentice

Brenda Lubragge is the Director of Marketing for Sipp Eco Beverage, a company redefining what it means to produce tasty and organic beverages packaged in six flavors and sold at multiple retailers around the United States. For more information, please visit www.haveasipp.com or contact Brenda at brenda@haveasipp.com.


entrepreneurial chef

Entrepreneurial f Che


All Rights Reserved Š 2018 Entrepreneurial Chef Published by Rennew Media, LLC

Profile for Rennew Media

Entrepreneurial Chef #20 - February 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Norman Love: What it’s Like Falling into the Chocolate Business + José Andrés: The Value of...

Entrepreneurial Chef #20 - February 2018  

What will you learn from our featured guests? + Norman Love: What it’s Like Falling into the Chocolate Business + José Andrés: The Value of...