Sally Minier, Sweet Sallys, Woman Entrepreneur

ImagesThere is nothing like taking what you have done so well for many years in the corporate world and then jumping ship to do something on your own and succeed at it.  Sallys career is completely in the food world perhaps one that we rarely read about as food is everywhere but I find her path not only impressive but one that I might have loved to do myself.  Her end game these days is taking her baking business to another level.  Sweet Sallys is her love, baking recipes from the Jewish family that she grew up with to even a few gluten free goodies. 

Sally grew up on the Jersey Shore.  She left the shore and went to college outside of Boston at Wellesley.  She loved the academic experience but just so she could experience one year being in a co-ed school where athletics were top she took her junior year and went to Williams.  Not that far from Wellesley but far enough.  I had a friend in college who did the same thing.  I was at an all womens college and my friend chose to spend a year at UCLA instead of going abroad.  It was just the perfect thing for Sally.  She was on athletic teams in high school so at Williams she quickly formed a social network through sporting events.

She graduated Wellesley in 1986.  First stop was Wall Street.  Perfect job at that time.  She spent three years at First Boston as a mortgage financial analyst.   The job had her spend some serious time living in Los Angeles and San Francisco when they needed someone out west.  It was one of those jobs where you were supposed to work there for 2-3 years and then go get your MBA.  I knew many people like that.   Instead of thinking about going to business school, Sally pined for opening an inn in Napa Valley. 

Sallys brownies
So instead of business school she left First Boston and got a job at Loews Hotels in Los Angeles.  Not surprising that they wanted to put her in the finance department but she firmly resisted.  Sally wanted to learn the ins and outs of the hotel business and asked to be put at the front desk.  One year of that and then she moved into sales and marketing.  She quickly realized that there was no room for real growth there and went to work for All-Suites Property eventually landing at the Ritz Carlton. 

Sallys rugelah
Working in regional sales for the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles was a serious dream job.  She got to stay in any of the Ritz hotels for $50 a night and certainly being in sales it was important to go check out as many as possible.  As much as she liked Los Angeles she missed the buzz of NYC.  In Los Angeles she found the people she became the closest with were all transplanted east coasters…it was time to go back.

She continued to work for the Ritz Carlton and relocated to the one on Central Park South, the original.  She was put in the marketing department.  It was time to move into something different even though she enjoyed the Ritz.  Sally took a job at Viacom managing their internal conference center.  It was this shift that took her into the food world.  After some time they moved Sally into managing all of their food services and events.  It was an exciting time.  Viacom had just purchased Paramount and they went from 800 people to 25000.  She stayed for five years and believe it or not during that time she got her masters in hospitality at NYU because Viacom paid for it. 

After five years she was lured to Goldman Sachs where she managed their US food service program.  Next lure was Lehman Brothers where she managed their food service programs in the US and India.  Essentially her job was to to manage client dining, catering, lunches and corporate dining.  This was like running your own business.  Sally managed food services around the world dealing with third party vendors and others that would come and go from a special cookie maker to a single coffee supplier.  Bringing in innovative companies to make sure the food was also fresh and creative.  She loved it so much at Lehman she actually thought she could spend the rest of her career there but as we all know that didn't work out.  The markets crashed and Lehman went under. 

Sally was brought along when Barclays took many Lehmans employees as it gave her an ability to leave at one point with a decent severance package.  I have actually met a few entreprenreurs who did the same thing.  She took off two years and started planning on Sweet Sallys although in her head she had been planning the company for ten years. 

The hardest part was finding a kitchen to bake in.  You need one that has the right permits.  She met a guy while she was doing some consulting work and she talked to him about Sweet Sallys.  He said to her that her eyes light up when she talks about it.  Sally said her biggest stumbling block was that she needed access to an approved kitchen to start up her business.  He told her that he owned a catering company in NJ and she could use his kitchen.  Sweet Sallys was born.

Through her networking she had also met a woman at an event for the food industry who had consulted for coffee bars.  She hired her to come work for her.  Sally said she knew all along that the business was going to be an internet business not a brick and mortar business.  She also hired a company to build her a site with a shopping cart and she blasted out to her network that the business was born.  It was December 2009.

Sally says it has been an interesting ride.  You have a concept for a business but it has to evolve and be massaged into becoming a real business.  The business has grown organically as she has reached out to everyone she knows.  Through her restaurant services connections she started to sell to them from the onset so she has been providing sweets for Goldman and UBS and even the Plaza.  It has been all word of mouth.  The internet business is the consumer gift business but the big opportunity is in wholesale.

Sally has bootstrapped the business by herself.  Living through the IPO of Goldman Sachs gave her a cushion.  She refers to that cushion as her Sweet Sallys money.  Even her Mom and sister have come into the kitchen to help her on projects.  Her kitchen in located in Hawthrone, NJ.

Last summer she got a call from a friend who used to be at Lehman about a job that she thought would be perfect for Sally.  Jane Street Capital was looking for someone to run their food program like she had at Goldman and Lehman.  She wondered if Jane Street Capital would hire her and let her also run Sweet Sallys at the same time and they said yes.  She hired two bakers who she meets with three times a week in between going to Wall Street.  It works for right now as it helps her to bring in more capital for the business as it continues to grow. 

Serious energy being able to run two jobs with one being a start-up at once but obviously entrepreneurial.  Check out Sweet Sallys.  I ordered the ruggelah and the brownies.  Great packaging and quite delicious too. 




Comments (Archived):

  1. Jackie Danicki

    Love this! I really appreciate these stories that help me see the big picture – I spent the first 10 years of my career doing marketing, PR and partnerships in start-ups, then took a break to do a Gates Foundation project in the developing world, did 1.5 years in a giant corporation, and finally am back to my roots as founder of my own start-up in NYC. (My parents think I am insane for doing this instead of staying with the safe bet, but are supportive anyway.) It can be hard to trust the process, to lean into the uncertainty, to enjoy the journey – Sally’s story is inspiring. Thanks for sharing it!

    1. Gotham Gal

      follow your heart!

  2. Guest

    I didn’t know how to get this to you, but I know it is a topic of interest for you:…I found this very interesting!

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks Carl. I saw this AMEX event. very cool that they are doing this.