A recipe for entrepreneurial success requires this one ingredient
This story originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com as part of the coverage of the 2016 Chase for Business Conference. [Note: this will only appear within the article on Chase.com]
What’s the key to entrepreneurial success? The answer depends on whom you ask. Some will say you need a great idea. Others will say financing is most critical. Others still will tout the benefits of building and working with a strong team.
They’re all right. And, yet, the one thing almost everyone agrees successful business owners must have is passion.
Take it from Sarabeth Levine. In the late 1970s, Levine was an insurance salesperson who wasn’t particularly fond of or interested in the work. It paid the bills and put food on the table. Up until then, Levine had worked a string of professions—house cleaner, waitress, oral surgeon assistant—but none ever gave her much satisfaction.
It was around that time she told her mother, Dore Blume, that she “felt like a nobody,” Levine recalled during a panel discussion at the recent Chase for Business Conference in New York City. “She told me, ‘You are a somebody, you just haven’t found her yet,’” Levine said.
Levine’s perspective changed in 1981 when she and her husband, Bill, opened a small bakery-kitchen in Manhattan called Sarabeth’s. Levine had a passion for making homemade orange-apricot marmalade, among other baked goods and specialty foods. Levine was hungry for something substantial that would spark her interests and desires.
With Sarabeth’s, Levine found herself, she said. She found her passion.
It’s that passion, as well as the popularity of her “magic marmalade,” that made Sarabeth’s into the thriving operation it is today, Levine said. In 1996, Levine was honored with the prestigious James Beard Award for Pastry Chef of the Year and since then, the company has been focused on expansion. Sarabeth’s consists of 16 restaurants, with three more openings soon, including one in Dubai. The company also owns a 15,000 square foot factory in the Bronx where the marmalade is jarred, and her spreads are sold in department stores and specialty shops throughout the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, Japan, and South Korea.
By loving what she does, Levine in turn makes others happy. After all, pleasing people is at the core of a successful hospitality business. “I have a path,” Levine said. “I have to love what I’m doing. If I don’t love it, then it becomes work.”
Levine also recommends:
Hire people who share your passion. Even though Levine already was an accomplished home baker, she hired “very talented” bakers to help her grow the business. “The more I learned about people, I learned how to get the best out of my employees,” she said. “The payback, for me, is to see the quality of our bakers and our chefs and how they care.”
Always be consistent. “You’re only as good as the last meal that you send out,” Levine said. If the quality of your works slips, you’re bound to hear it from your customers -- and they won’t be happy. “If I give one bad meal, or one bad croissant I’ll hear about it,” she said.
Danielle Duboise and Whitney Tingle have a similar story, which they also shared during the panel discussion. In 2012, the pair co-founded New York City-based Sakara Life, an organic meal delivery and healthy living company that helps clients achieve health and a sense of well-being.
Before launching Sakara Life, Tingle worked in finance but long hours, stress and poor eating habits began to take their toll on her body and her spirit, she said. Similarly, Duboise’s pursuit of an acting career left her feeling stressed and unhappy about food.
Tingle and Duboise wondered if food could actually be at the heart of a happy and healthy life. So they started Sakara Life with a “mission to make as many people as possible know that food is medicine,” Duboise said. As their website reads, “We believe that what you put into your body forms the building blocks for the rest of your life and affects your relationships, career, happiness, and ability to create.”
What started with Tingle and Duboise cooking food in their kitchen in Manhattan and delivering it by bicycle quickly generated a following, including celebrities. Soon, they were delivering their healthy foods in Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Miami. All the while, it was their passion for healthy eating that fueled their growth. Earlier this year, Sakara Life announced a $4.8 million funding round and that it was expanding its delivery service nationally.
“You’re all in when you decide to become an entrepreneur,” Tingle said. “Making decisions that either grow or hurt your business, it requires all of your passion and ultimate focus, 24/7.”
Here are two more lessons they shared:
Don’t wait for the perfect time to start. “If we would have waited until we had all the answers…everything perfectly in place and all the knowledge at that point, then we would have never started,” Tingle said. “We started just by getting going, by making the food the best way we knew how even though we’re not chefs.”
Capitalize on organic marketing. It wasn’t long after starting up that their customer base began to grow client by client thanks to the power of word-of-mouth. “When you’re creating a product that changes people’s lives, they want to tell their friends,” Tingle said.
Visit the Chase Business Resource Center for valuable tips and resources to help drive business growth.
Go Nuts For Desserts - Feature in New York Magazine
Sarabeth's featured in LIU Magazine
Sarabeth's on Oprah's Favorite Things List
Warm-up with savory soup, just in time with the chilly weather. Sarabeth's soup named one of Oprah's Favorite Things was chosen winner of the "Best Soup" award at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food by the Specialty Food Association and is 100% natural with no preservatives. The biscuits are freshly baked at Sarabeth's bakery.
Sarabeth's summer salad tips with the Wall Street Journal
Summer, with its plethora of fresh ingredients, is the perfect time for entertaining with salads as the star of the dinner party. "When it's hot out, I don't want to eat hot food," says Sarabeth Levine, owner of six Sarabeth's restaurants in New York City and Key West, Fla. "I don't want to eat heavy food." Ms. Levine calls herself "a real salad person" who likes making a meal of it year-round. But she finds herself particularly inspired to make them the backbone of a dinner party when she is entertaining in warm weather. "It's the ease of it, the ability to make your guests feel not overly fed. And it's very, very healthy."
New York, NY (February 25, 2013)
If Sarabeth Were Your Mother, You'd Always Be Home For Dinner
Sarabeth's new location on Park Avenue South will cater to the bar and dinner crowd
Remember when you were a kid and your mom would shout "Dinner!" from the kitchen? Running downstairs, your stomach would begin to growl as you anticipated something wonderful. That same childhood experience can now be relived as you leave the office after a long day of work thanks to Sarabeth's Park Avenue South! Acclaimed pastry chef and restaurateur Sarabeth Levine's new restaurant location at 381 Park Avenue South is the area's destination to enjoy mouth-watering classic American cooking and fresh, locally-sourced fare, complemented with a full bar, an extensive range of wines and craft beers, and a creative cocktail list - a grown-up version of a soul-satisfying home-cooked dinner!
The 9,360 square foot space is Sarabeth's largest New York restaurant. The bright and welcoming space invites patrons to relax and stay awhile as both the dining room and bar area offer plush beige and multi-colored striped banquettes. The sleek bar, located upon entry of the restaurant, offers a view of the bustling Park Avenue South sidewalks. Additionally, the venue offers private dining rooms to book for those looking to host a corporate or holiday party, cocktail or fashion event, dinner or lunch gathering, birthday or religious occasion, and more. Large chalkboards with daily specials are featured throughout the restaurants and guests can purchase items like Sarabeth's famous jams, freshly made bakery products, and other retail items at the hostess station.
Poised to cater to the area's bar and evening crowd, fans of Sarabeth's will be pleased to learn that the location will house many of the favorites they have come to love as well as a few new savory dinner dishes. Under the direction of Chef Freda Sugarman? who left P.J. Clarke's Las Vegas to join Sarabeth's culinary family in June of 2011? the establishment offers innovative but uncomplicated takes on classic dinner plates, crave-worthy bar bites, an extensive signature cocktail menu, and a range of wines and craft beers. As if that wasn't enough, Sarabeth? who is the Pastry Chef for all Sarabeth's locations and was honored with the esteemed James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year award in 1996? will have patrons running to the new space just for her tempting desserts.
Sarabeth’s now has 11 restaurants, a jam factory, a bakery café, a best-selling cookbook, and a line of retail products. This mom may be busy, but dinner will never be late!
381 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016
Price Range: Appetizers $9-$12; Sandwiches $15-$24; Entrees $17-$36; Desserts $8.50
Signature Dishes: Chicken Pot Pie; Seafood Cobb Salad; Stone Oven Pizzas
161 West 23 Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10011
Phone: 212-684-1955 | Fax: 212-684-1955 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarabeth's opens in Tokyo
New York, NY (November 11, 2012) – On November 1st, Sarabeth Levine (www.sarabeth.com) opened her famed restaurant, Sarabeth’s, in Tokyo, Japan. Sarabeth’s Lumine Shinjuku is the first international location for the brand which consists of nine restaurants, a 15,000 square-foot jam factory, a state-of-the-art bakery café, a best-selling cookbook, retail products and a popular mail-order business.
Japan has been one of the brand’s strongest retail markets, and Sarabeth’s Shinjuku is poised to bring even greater exposure for the company, opening next to the Shinjuku RR Station, one of the busiest rail road stations in the world, accommodating approximately 4.5 million travelers per day. The new location includes design elements from Sarabeth’s restaurants and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to offering take-out.
Sarabeth on NY Live
NY Live goes behind the counter of Sarabeth's in Chelsea Market
Sarabeth Levine has been canning, baking and cooking up general deliciousness for over 30 years at Sarabeth’s Kitchen, the chain of nine restaurants in New York and Florida she owns with her husband, Bill. Her shortbread cookies are quite easy to make... Levine says these cookies were the first sweets her grandchildren ever ate and are still their favorite.
Sarabeth Levine appeared on ABC7 News on Monday morning, October 25 to talk about her remarkable journey, and her new book.
In 1981 a charming, homey cafe opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and before you could say “almond croissant and a cappuccino” discriminating brunch-seekers were patiently queuing up for a seat at tiny Sarabeth’s.
Read the full article…
We are delighted to announce that Sarabeth’s new book Sarabeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours is being released on October 19, but you can pre-order your copy today! Pre-order customers will each receive an autographed copy when the book is released, and the shipping is free within the USA.
Mastering the art of baking, presented step-by-step through recipes from the legendary New York City baker. Sarabeth Levine offers an irresistible array of scones, muffins, croissants, cookies, and other classic desserts. This important addition to the baking book canon has been anxiously awaited by the extraordinary baker’s countless fans. It features more than one hundred inspiring recipes for her signature baked goods, ranging from unique English muffins and luscious banana cream pie with vanilla bean pastry to creamy chocolate pudding. Recipes for the perfect accompaniment to her buttery pastries– her legendary spreadable fruits–are also included. Step-by-step instructional photographs teach the baking techniques that make Sarabeth stand apart. Tips on such topics as making a decorative piecrust edge are also discussed in this user-friendly primer. The exquisite photography shows the home baker creative ways for sharing these wonders with friends and family.
Sarabeth and Bill Levine accept the sofi™ award. From left to right: Ming Tsai, Celebrity Chef, Bill Levine, Sarabeth Levine, Ann Daw, President of NASFT.
Watch the video coverage of the sofi Awards, including an interview with Sarabeth and Bill Levine.
Gold Winners for the 37th sofi™ Awards were announced at the 55th Summer Fancy Food Show on Monday, June 29 for the outstanding foods and beverages of the year. This year, Sarabeth's own Blood Orange Marmalade was a sofi Gold Winner, in the Outstanding Classic category. Presented by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) the awards honor the outstanding specialty foods and beverages of the year in 33 categories. “sofi” stands for specialty outstanding food innovation. The awards were presented at the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. You can see a full list of this year's Gold Winners in every category on the sofi website.
BEYOND JAM: Bill Levine sees the evolution of Sarabeth’s Kitchen from jam shop to gourmet-food brand as “just putting one foot in front of the other.”
Gourmet food maker cooks up new products
By Elizabeth MacBride
Stuck at the top of Bill Levine's to-do list for the past few months has been figuring out how to deliver tomato soup to his customers. The intricacies of frozen-food packaging and delivery are no cakewalk, but Mr. Levine, who along with his wife, Sarabeth, owns Sarabeth's Kitchen in Hunts Point, Bronx, figures it's time for the longtime food manufacturer to expand—again.
The soup is just the latest step in the company's 28-year evolution from a jam-and-jelly shop to one of the city's top gourmet-food brands. Sarabeth's started with jams, later began delivering its food through restaurants in addition to grocery stores, expanded to baked goods, and now is adding the soup to its product mix, its first foray into prepackaged meals. Chef's clothing is next.
Mr. Levine thinks of this progression as “just putting one foot in front of the other.” Small business experts like Ira Davidson say that it's an example of a company's ability to expand into different market niches—crucial to succeeding in this or any other economic environment.
“Small businesses aren't going to be able to compete on price, or access to real estate or professionals, or anything else,” says Mr. Davidson, director of the Pace University Small Business Development Center. “What they have is the ability to exploit a market niche fast.”
He recommends small businesses either find new customers for their existing products or—more along the lines of what Sarabeth's has done—sell new products and services to existing customers.
“Must be fearless”
The key to Sarabeth's brand was discovered long before others that New Yorkers, for all their city slickness, crave food that brings to mind the taste and atmosphere of country kitchens. At their first storefront, opened soon after the company was founded in 1981, the Levines made jam in front of customers, using Sarabeth Levine's family recipe.
An important turning point came when the company ventured into restaurants. Making that leap, to what is essentially a different distribution model, is unusual, observes Mr. Davidson. “That guy must be fearless,” he says of Mr. Levine.
Sarabeth's, which has about 75 employees, runs two of its own restaurants and licenses four more. Eight licensed eateries are slated to open in Lord & Taylor stores by the end of 2010—the first debuted at the Fifth Avenue department store in November.
The manufacturing operation supplies food to the restaurants, which should mean further sales expansions as more restaurants open. Total revenue for the brand was $22 million last year, up 10% over 2007.
The restaurants also gave the Levines the idea for selling the soup. Many customers have asked for the recipe over the years. “Tomato soup is almost iconic in our restaurants,” Mr. Levine says. “Twenty-eight years we've been serving that tomato soup.”
BEST FOR BRUNCH
AOL'S survey of the best brunch places in New York ranks Sarabeth's 2nd behind top-ranked "Balthazar", the much-hyped celebrity hangout in N.Y.
Sarabeth's Central Park South opens!
Sarabeth’s Opens Branch on Central Park South
Yes, There’s Brunch, but Also a Bar, New Dinner Menu, and Garden-Glam Interior
May 7, 2005 — Sarabeth’s, the quintessential New York eatery, announces the opening of its new restaurant at 40 Central Park South (bet. 5th & 6th Aves.; 212-826-5959). Three times the size of its largest sibling, this 200 seat Midtown location offers well-priced, high-quality contemporary American food in a part of town conspicuously lacking it.
Now tourists, business diners, families, and local Sarabeth-loyalists have an inviting, all-day restaurant where they can enjoy Sarabeth’s classics such as pumpkin waffles ($9.95), cream of tomato soup ($7), chicken pot pie ($14.50), and strawberry shortcake ($8).
In addition to her signature dishes, founder Sarabeth Levine and Executive Chef Stephen Meyers have added new options exclusive to this branch, particularly at dinner. Examples include: butter-poached lobster salad ($14); Muscovy duck breast with sunchoke puree, mustard greens, and apricot truffle jus ($22); and seared halibut with smoked corn, fava beans, rock shrimp, and lobster broth ($24).
Further emphasizing dinner, the CPS location offers a full liquor bar (in lieu of the familiar take-out pastry counter) and a value-oriented wine list, with 10 wines by the glass. More than half of the bottles are priced under $40.
Paying homage to both old New York and Central Park, designer James Kieran Pine has created an interior that harmoniously integrates glamour and garden elements. "I wanted to create a space with greenery from every vantage point; wherever you’re sitting, it feels like you’re somewhere in the park."
Indeed, both the awning-covered sidewalk seating area and interior front room face Central Park, and offer views of trees and passing horse carriages. Farther back, a glass-enclosed boxwood garden serves as the restaurant’s eye-catching architectural centerpiece. The horticultural theme continues in the large rear dining area, which features a bright skylight, trompe l’oeil ceiling paintings of the sky, and windows that look out onto elaborate courtyard gardens. Chocolate-colored zebra-print banquettes provide comfort (and visual appeal) throughout the 200-seat restaurant.
The CPS location of Sarabeth’’s is open seven days a week, serving breakfast (8 AM–3:30 PM), lunch (11:30 AM–3:30 PM), afternoon tea (Monday––Friday, 3:30––5:30 PM), dinner (Monday––Saturday, 5:30––11 PM; Sunday, 5:30––10 PM), and weekend brunch (8 AM––4 PM).
The New York Times Diners Journal 9-16-05
September 16, 2005
By Frank Bruni
It is not uncommon for a restaurant check to have the words “thank you” written on it. It is somewhat less common to find a smiley face, drawn by hand, next to those words.
But at the end of a recent dinner at Sarabeth's on Central Park South, there it was, one of those insistently mirthful marks, simultaneously beaming at me and, to some extent, distilling the Sarabeth's spirit. Like its siblings, this new Sarabeth's traffics is warm and fuzzy and strives in part to be a fluffy afghan of a place.
I know people who find Sarabeth's restaurants magically sweet. I know people who find them cloying. The dividing lines seem to be just how invested a person is in brunch, just how fast pancakes and preserves make his or her pulse race, and just how much patience he or she has for twee.
Not that Sarabeth's is just for brunch or breakfast. Not for many, many years now, and certainly not on Central Park South.
This Sarabeth's, which opened about four months ago, is by far the biggest of the brood, with more than 175 seats. It has the most upscale dinner menu. And where its siblings have prominently placed bakery counters, it has a prominently placed bar.
It is seriously courting evening - in addition to morning and afternoon - business. So that's when a group of friends and I went.
The menu doesn't promise adventure. It promises heartiness and hominess. And much of the time it delivers.
A restaurant like Sarabeth's should have good braised beef short ribs, and so Sarabeth's did. What's more, the portion was generous, and the price $23.
A restaurant like Sarabeth's should know how to treat a chicken breast, and Sarabeth's treated it just right, so that the skin was crisp, the meat moist. A puck of grilled corn pudding beside it represented a pleasant fringe benefit.
Should a restaurant like Sarabeth's produce a great fillet of salmon? I'm not sure, but Sarabeth's produced one that wasn't even particularly good. Dry and devoid of flavor, it was an out-and-out disappointment, as was a side order of soggy fries.
Other entree choices included chicken pot pie, rack of lamb, seared sea scallops and a burger.
Appetizer choices included a shrimp cocktail, a classic Caesar salad, a so-called carpaccio of roasted beets. We had a very satisfying mushroom risotto with Serrano ham and truffle oil, a pleasant salad of baby spinach and fried green tomatoes, and a letdown of a lobster salad, which had tough lobster.
Dessert options encompassed chocolate mousse cake, strawberry shortcake, and the "CPS banana split."
Sarabeth's has been designed and laid out so that no matter where a diner sits, he or she should get a glimpse of greenery: perhaps the trees in Central Park across the street; perhaps an atrium with shrubbery and small trees; perhaps the building's courtyard, with ivy and more trees.
Above our table, on the ceiling, was a trompe l'oeil painting of the sky. And right below it hung a lattice of white-painted wood, which looked a bit like a picket fence that had taken flight. It was a very Sarabeth's kind of touch.
Sarabeth's, 40 Central Park South, between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas; (212) 826-5959. Dinner appetizers, $7.50 to $14. Entrees, $16 to $32.