To my award-winning customers, I love you. Please feel free to share this or leave comments. I cannot thank you enough for reading this. I am going to do everything in my power to add value to your day!
Hello everyone for those who do not know, my name is Zach Cizek! How was your Mother's day weekend?! Mine was pretty good I must say. With a wife who is nearly 30 week's pregnant and my sister recently having a child, there was a bit more meaning for me this past weekend.
I digress. In Minnesota, Mother's Day usually means finally consistent nice weather is here! No more worrying about the random 30 degree April snowfall or morning sleet storm, spring has turned a page and is staring straight into the eyes of summer!
Fire up that grill! My wife surprised me with a grill for our anniversary, and I cannot get enough of it. I love to cook and or bake just about everything, but when it comes to grilling, there is something about it that I absolutely love. With the turn of the spring many Midwesterners like myself experience their built in-instinct, and head to the grill to enjoy some favorites like: beer boiled brats, hot dogs, grilled vegetables, or burgers.
This past weekend my wife and I made both grilled vegetable flank steak tacos as well as beer boiled brats on the grill. Of course we concocted our meals and incorporated our favorite sauce into the recipes, Bollito's calabrian pepper condiment (no bias of course).
My personal favorite was our beer boiled brats finished off with a Bollito's garlic mustard. Seriously good! First we bought brats at our local Von Hanson's meats, picking out Jalapeno Cheddar brats. After a nice boil with Miller Lite, butter, and fresh garlic, we added our brats to the grill. After living in Chicago for 3 years, I did not adopt any of their trendy teams even after witnessing a Stanley Cup and a World Series Title; I stayed strong to my Minnesota roots. However, what I did take back with me from Chicago is the notion that mustard and ONLY mustard belongs on brats and dog, ketchup ... yah not so much.
Here is my recipe for Bollito's Garlic Mustard - Easy to make and un freaking believably delicious.
- 4 tablespoons of mustard
- 2 tablespoons of Bollito's - Calabrian Chili Condiment
- 1 diced whole peeled garlic clove
Simply into a small bowl, mix all three ingredients until fully incorporated. Add to you beer boiled brat, and ENJOY. Thank you for reading. Who is hungry? And, what is your favorite thing to grill, leave a comment I would love to hear.
What the heck am I doing?
This is a question that tends to run into my head when I hit a wall or obstacle during my journey in building my business and brand, Bollito's.
Today happens to be one of those days. For those who follow us on our Instagram story @bollito_s or Snap Chat @ZachCizek you probably have heard me mention that Whole Foods accepted our “Pepperoncini Sauce”; while this is awesome it is also a challenge.
Why a challenge? Our sauce is expected to hit the shelves in early June, meaning we have to deliver product by the end of May.
With the initial order into many retailers like Whole Foods, they require a "free fill" commitment on their first order. So, we are filling their first 50+ case order at no charge.
While 100% boot strapping this business running into free fills can be difficult in terms of available funds. Because of a recent large order with Fuego Box our "free fill" agreement with Whole Foods will not require me to dig into my personal account... alright! Side note, check out Fuego Box and subscribe!
But wait; there is another obstacle..... and at this time it appears to be large.
When I first came up with the idea to make a Pepperoncini Sauce I was able to track down an awesome partner who sourced the pepperoncini peppers and bottled them into food services sizes. The large food service size is HUGE for minimizing our costs and increasing our efficiencies when producing product.
Early this week, I was informed that our pepperoncini producer has now discontinued their food service sizes. It looks like we will be opening PLENTY of 10 oz. jars to insure our May order gets out the door in time for Whole Foods. We will be working with our pepperoncini company with the hopes of being able to buy their food service sized gallons of peppers in the future, fingers double-crossed.
Keeping the eyes on the prize. Challenges such as sourcing peppers come about at least once a month, and while it is frustrating, dwelling on obstacles is a waste of time for me and my goal of growing Bollito's into a national brand. I know that when I keep my head down and work hard on growing Bollito's, anything is possible, and what seems like a roadblock is really an opportunity to learn and grow even faster and more efficiently as a food business.
LOOK FOR US! We are completely rebranding our product, packaging, and Bollito's logo. I am probably the worst with keeping surprises, but this upcoming upgrade to our brand is worth the wait, and the end of May is not that far away!!! Stay tuned!
Gardening and building anything from Lincoln Logs to forts became a passion of his. The process of starting from scratch and putting in work while being patient became an infatuation that Peter looks back on today, and attributes to his current success building RXBAR.
Peter attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. Peter has ADHD and growing up was never the best student. However, Wittenberg provided small class sizes and hands on learning. Peter thrived at Wittenberg and benefited greatly from attending the Liberal Arts school.
After graduating from college, Peter worked for a food company in a marketing role. Peter and his close friend from first grade, Jarrod Smith were throwing the football around one day and kicked around the idea of starting a business together. A few weeks later, Peter came across an inc.com article, which titled "start a nutritional bar company for under 10K." Peter sent the inc.com article over to Jarrod. The next weekend the close friends went to Whole Foods, bought ingredients and started cooking in Peter's parents' kitchen.
Peter and Jarrod worked relentlessly sacrificing their weekends for a year while building RXBAR out of Peter's parents' basement. The two would make up to 400 nutritional protein bars a week and go into the city and sell them. The eager entrepreneurs discovered that their RXBARs were selling. They decided to make the plunge and jump in head first to build their business, RXBAR. Jarrod and Peter opened up a commercial space in the West Loop of Chicago with the goal of growing their business nationwide.
RXBAR, the product. RXBAR makes 9 flavors of protein bars. The ingredients used are whole quantifiable and contain no fillers. What you see is what your get. Each bar contains 3 Eggs, Almonds or Peanuts, Cashews, and Dates. After eating an RXBAR protein bar you feel good. Peter and Jarrod when building their company realized that nutritional bars in the marketplace at the time contained unidentifiable ingredients. RXBAR decided to use only the cleanest ingredients when building their business, and refused to cut corners or costs in order to deliver.
Where can you find RXBARS? RXBAR products are available at over 5,000 retail locations around the country including: Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Caribou Coffee, and CrossFit gyms around the country. RXBAR can also be purchased at the company website or on Amazon.com.
Inspiration. Peter draws inspiration from solving problems and helping others. He is inspired every time an employee at RXBAR achieves a set goal, or when a customer is satisfied with the RXBAR product. The satisfaction in seeing others happy motivates Peter.
"Do not cut corners, only add them."
This quote came from a mentor of Peter's. For every decision that Peter makes regarding RXBAR he thinks about this quote. RXBAR refuses to compromise on quality and will always look to solve a problem without cutting corners.
RXBAR's CEO, Peter Rahal's favorite way to use Bollito's Tuscan Red sauce. Peter loves eggs and like many others has discovered the flavor magic Tuscan Red brings when added on top of his morning scramble. The RXBAR offices always have Tuscan Red on hand to add flavor to their employees' meals and snacks.
Peter, your creativity and ability to relentlessly create make you an inspiration for all. Thank you for sharing your story and keep up all of your success. You are truly a boss.
This week’s sauce to the boss feature highlights successful entrepreneur Matt Matros. Matt defines what it means to be an entrepreneur. He has successfully built a concept, brought it to market, and exited; Matt is now onto his second business venture, Limitless Coffee & Tea. Prior to Limitless Coffee & Tea Matt founded Protein Bar.
Protein Bar is a fast casual food business, and their mission is to change the way people eat on the go. Protein Bar has 18 locations throughout Chicago, Washington DC, and Colorado. Matt successfully exited Protein Bar in the fall of 2014 yet still sits on the board. For anyone who is looking for motivation to achieve their largest personal goals and dreams, Matt's story is a must read.
Early life. Matt grew up in a small town outside of Los Angeles. His father, an entrepreneur, ran a dry-cleaning business but unexpectedly passed away when Matt was 11. Matt credits his father for his entrepreneurial spirit. Matt loved sports, which lead him to attend the University of Southern California where he aspired to become a sports agent. After graduating from USC, he landed a job with a baseball agency and worked there for two years. Matt at the time was a self-proclaimed "fat guy," and decided to make a drastic change in his life. In the summer of 2001 he lost nearly 60 lbs. eating a primarily protein diet consisting of protein shakes, chicken, and eggs.
Matt to Michigan. In 2003 Matt attended the University of Michigan to pursue his MBA. After completing his MBA he began working for Kraft Foods as a brand manager. He came to the realization that a corporate life and career was not something he loved. While working the corporate gig Matt realized there was no place serving the food that he wanted to eat; on October 17, 2007 Matt came up with concept for Protein Bar. Protein Bar was the start of Matt becoming a true entrepreneur.
Protein Bar. In May of 2009 Matt took his life savings and got SBA loans to open up the first Protein Bar outside of the Sears Tower in downtown Chicago. Protein Bar struggled mightily right out of the gate, Matt was selling mostly protein shakes competing with the likes of Jamba Juice. Realizing that people left their offices only once a day to get lunch, Matt added food to the menu and business took off.
Growth of Protein Bar. Customers consistently asked if Protein Bar was a franchise, consumers were taking notice and the customer base grew. Matt decided to expand his business and raised 7 million dollars over a few years with the help of loyal customers. With the additional investment, he built Protein Bar to 15 locations throughout Chicago and the Washington D.C. area. Soon after, Matt reached out to private equity firms to help Protein Bar grow even further. In late 2013, Matt sold a large portion of his business to Catterton Partners a large private equity firm. He continued to run the business for nearly a year and then decided to hire a CEO to take his place.
Limitless Coffee & Tea. Matt took time off after hiring a CEO for Protein Bar and traveled the world for 6 months. In mid 2015 he returned to Chicago and decided he wanted to get into the coffee business. Limitless Coffee & Tea was born. Matt's goal is to deliver clean coffee to American consumers. Coffee by nature is a very dirty process. Limitless Coffee & Tea sources their beans directly from farms in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Columbia. They bring the coffee beans to Chicago and air roasts them. The end result is a bean that is almost completely free of toxins. At Limitless Coffee & Tea, Matt and his team are relentlessly perusing the cleanest coffee and tea in the world.
Matt's Calling. Characteristic of an entrepreneur were always present in Matt's life. Entrepreneurship is his calling, he believes his overwhelming strength is visioning and seeing things with the ability to turn those visions into reality.
"The best idea in the world is the one that you are obsessed with." - Matt Matros
Advice for others obsessed with their idea. "Just do it." Matt is a firm believer in the 80/20 rule. He thinks that many entrepreneurs spend to much time over researching their idea. Many are afraid of taking the step to becoming an entrepreneur. What is the worst that could happen? Matt believes that if you are contemplating starting business that must mean you are an individual who has certain level of emotional quotient. If the entrepreneur’s business fails, the individual is usually innovative by nature and will hustle and scrap to become resourceful in finding a job or beginning a new venture.
What inspires Matt? Matt is inspired by anyone who can truly innovate. Matt admires businesses that have been able to stay simple but grow through consistency. Businesses like McDonalds, Chipotle, and Chaboni are companies that he is inspired by the most.
Matt's favorite quote. "If you want something bad enough, the universe will conspire in your favor." Matt really believes that if you wake up everyday thinking and dreaming about something the universe will bring it to you.
"Yours is the earth in all that is in it." - Khalil Gibran
Matt believes that we can accomplish and achieve anything we set our minds to.
Matt's favorite way to use Tuscan Red. Matt is a massive egg consumer and loves to use Tuscan Red with to enhance the flavor of his favorite morning meal. Recently he tried Tuscan Red with a salad and was blown away with flavor it added.
Hey guys! How was your weekend? Mine you ask... it was awesome! Our Tuscan Red sauce has now rolled out to almost all the Midwest Whole Foods locations. There few stores who do not yet have Tuscan Red, but will by this week's end.
Just about every day, you can find me at a Whole Foods store sampling Tuscan Red. The excitement of having a sauce on the shelf is awesome, but in reality the product is not sold until it is off the shelf. If my company is going to succeed, I need to concentrate on sales to consumers. How do I do that? Sampling, marketing, and rebranding.
Sampling. Sampling works extremely well. An overwhelming amount of Whole Foods shoppers who try Tuscan Red seem to love the product, and buy more times than not. With sampling, my goal is to create product awareness and ultimately have consumers buy. Based on our online sales, customers who buy once come back to re-buy 65% of the time. Tuscan Red retention rate is pretty solid. But how do I sell my product without being there to sell it?
How do you win and stand out on a shelf? ... you have to jump out, tell a story, and appeal to the consumer and packaging can help with those objectives. But first, I need to sell sauce in order to afford a packaging upgrade.
Mission. This week's boss feature is on someone I have looked up to for over a year, Matt Matros founder of Protein Bar and Limitless Coffee & Tea. Just wait until you learn about Matt on Tuesday. After interviewing Matt, I realized I needed to have a clear concise mission and goal for my business. Our goal is to become the Italian hot sauce condiment brand, and be the number one selling hot sauce at Whole Foods. Ever heard of an Italian hot sauce? It does not exist, until now. Tuscan Red is the first and only true Italian hot sauce condiment.
Launch Party. CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR TICKET. On August 23 at 6PM at Workshop Chicago, an unbelievable venue overlooking downtown Chicago, we will be hosting a launch party for Tuscan Red. Our goal is to build a Chicago brand ambassador base for our business and product Tuscan Red. I want to share our story and mission with others. We will have pizza, sandwiches, veggie dips, and cocktails all featuring Tuscan Red. We are lucky to have gracious sponsors who will be showcasing their product and helping us out: Limitless Coffee & Tea, RX Bar, Virtue Cider, and J.P. Graziano's. Come hungry and thirsty. We plan to have 100+ attendees, be sure to get your ticket as soon as possible, the venue will only hold 130 guests, and my goal is to fill the space.
Ask. Fellow Chicagoans, I would LOVE to have you attend. Please invite friends, family members, and co-workers. We will be posting exciting announcements this week stay tuned. The launch party will be an opportunity to meet successful professionals like yourself who are doing amazing things. I am doing everything I can to make it an extremely successful night for everyone who attends. Have an absolute awesome week! Lookout for Tuesday's sauce to the boss feature and recorded Podcast!!!
Mike was raised with one older brother and two older stepsisters. At a young age he had a passion for hockey and down hill skiing. When winter storms blanket the Windy City you will not find Mike complaining about the weather.
The BBQ Sauce. The original family BBQ sauce recipe came to fruition after Mike’s Dad, Mom, Step Father, along with their friends participated in the first ever Rib Fest, which occurred in1984 at Grant Park in Chicago. Rib Fest originated after Mike Royko, an accomplished journalist for the Chicago Tribune challenged the public to a cook off. Royko believed he was the best pit master in all of Chicago and wanted to see if someone could make better ribs than Royko himself. In 1984 masses gathered at Grant Park and the now legendary Chicago street festival, Rib Fest was born. Following the launch of Rib Fest, Mike’s family participated in three additional Rib Fests and consistently placed within the top 10 percent in each competition which featured the family’s secret BBQ Sauce recipe.
Mike off to college. Mike attended University of Arizona for undergrad on an academic scholarship. Mike also was a member of the U of A men’s club hockey team. In college away from Chicago, Mike found himself mixing and matching different ingredients to tweak his family’s BBQ sauce recipe. After trial and error Mike perfected his version of the family’s legendary BBQ sauce. Post graduation from U of A Mike spent a number of years working for Nestle. During his role at Nestle Mike learned the inns and outs of distribution and retail sales on a large scale. Mike’s first landing spot with Nestle was in Philadelphia, where he was forced to build a new community. Mike brought with him his BBQ sauce, and used the sauce as gifts for parties and events, that is where is legend was born. Mike became known as the BBQ sauce guy amongst his new Philly friends and coworkers. Following time in Philly Mike was relocated to both Arizona and Minnesota. With the moves, Mike brought his BBQ sauce and continued to use the product as an icebreaker for building new communities.
Broad Shoulder BBQ is born. Sitting around a dinner table with his wife and family, Mike pitched potential names for his BBQ venture. The name Broad Shoulder BBQ stuck. As many Chicagoans know, the great city of Chicago is often deemed the city of “Broad Shoulders.” Mike wanted Broad Shoulders BBQ to embody even more. He decided before officially launching his product that Broad Shoulders BBQ was not just going to make delicious products, they were going to be known as the company that gives back to the community.
Farmers Markets. In May of 2016 Mike launched Broad Shoulder BBQ at two Chicago suburban area Farmers Market locations. To this day Mike spends his weekends both Saturday and Sunday selling his sauce. Mike and his company in two short months have sold over 1,300 units of Broad Shoulder BBQ. Look out, Mike and Broad Shoulders are moving fast. Mike plans to launch his product into the retail sector with the goal of hitting the shelves at grocers like Whole Foods and other high-end boutique shops where premium products are sold.
Sweet, Tangy, with the perfect hint of heat. Broad Shoulders BBQ sauce has the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and heat components that hit the taste buds perfectly without overpowering the pallet. Mike’s sauce is truly one of a kind. Make sure to check out BroadShouldersBBQ.com and email Mike to pre-order your sauce today!
Inspiration. Mike draws inspiration from his family. Mike’s father is an entrepreneur, his mother a professional who worked for Kraft, and his step father a long time employee for US Foods. Mike learned from his three parents that with hard work and motivation, any dream can be discovered. He also drives inspiration from other entrepreneurs who have made the jump and are acting on their passions.
“Because nothing happens until something gets sold.”
- Craig Wortmann
Mike’s favorite quote comes from a professor of his at the University of Chicago, Craig Wortmann. Mike believes that anyone can have an excellent idea, but in order to make the idea a possibility a sale must occur. Without a sale a dream will never become a reality.
Mike and Tuscan Red. Mike also has a visionary pallet, and discovered that Tuscan Red pairs perfectly with shrimp. Tuscan Red, the ultimate shrimp cocktail sauce.
strategically launch with all Midwest Whole Food locations. Jessa, let’s dive in and learn about how and why you continue to blast through brick walls while at the same time staying so damn positive.
Jessa’s early life. Jessa grew up in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Jessa is one of four children having an older sister and both a younger brother and sister. At a young age Jessa fell in love with soccer and participated in a local circus program. Jessa recalls building discipline through training and practicing her crafts restlessly, she wanted to be great. Above all things, Jessa’s true passion was soccer. She excelled on the soccer field playing for an elite traveling team. Jessa wanted to be like Mia Hamm and her ultimate goal was to get a D1 scholarship playing soccer.
A torn ACL at age 13? Jessa was a masterful defender on the pitch and a fierce competitor. While competing in a soccer tournament, Jessa tore her ACL. She was devastated. At such a young age, Jessa had reconstructive surgery and spent months rehabbing her knee. Unfortunately, Jessa’s knee never fully recovered. She made the tough decision to leave soccer; putting her time and effort into school and a newfound love for theatre. Her passion in theatre allowed Jessa to learn to step outside the box; to this day she credits theatre for her confidence in presentations.
University of Wisconsin to Saint Ben’s. Jessa completed her freshman year at University of Wisconsin. For Jessa, UW was a wonderful place but she never felt like it was a true home; Jessa transferred into Saint Benedicts in northwest Minnesota. Her transfer was a game changer. She excelled in school majoring in accounting and communications, while fostering life long friendships and memories.
relocated to Arkansas. She learned a lot about herself personally while growing professionally. Like a boss, Jessa handled each move with a successful and positive outlook even though it was not easy to keep picking up and moving.
Fayetteville, Arkansas. At first sound Fayetteville Arkansas is not the most appealing of places; however, spend time there and you soon realize it is a hidden gem. Jessa moved to Arkansas with General Mills in yet another sales rotation working the WalMart account.
Arkansas the land of opportunity. In Arkansas Jessa not only met her husband, she also landed her dream job. Jessa’s husband Denis, happened to work in the office building next to General Mills, the rest is history. Jessa settled into her new General Mills role in AR. She was truly passionate about selling and learning her customers, but realized she was not overwhelmingly passionate about the products she sold.
Suja Juice. Like an absolute boss, Jessa decided to put her future into her own hands. She started researching food and beverage companies who produced and sold products that she believed in. Jessa recalled her time working in Arizona, where she fell in love with health and wellness. She trained and become a yoga instructor and learned about healthy eating habits and…. juicing!
Jessa came across a new startup that was listed as Forbes’ #2 most promising company, Suja Juice. Suja makes organic non-gmo bottled juices and smoothies using a method called high pressure processing (aka HPP). HPP is a method of preserving juice using extremely high pressure. The juice is never heated, which is game-changing because the it retains its nutrients and fresh taste. Jessa loved the juice and wanted to use her sales skills to help grow the brand. She first connected with the VP of Sales, then Suja’s co-founder and CEO asking for a job – after showing up at their offices in SD, her persistence paid off and she became the 6th sales person at Suja. Suja not only hired Jessa; they created a new role for her.
Today, Jessa is responsible for promoting and selling Suja in the Club & Mass channels. Jessa mostly works with large retail giants WalMart and Sam’s Club (headquartered in Arkansas). Suja is now carried in these stores nationally. When Jessa is not busy working with WalMart or Sam’s Club, she can be found attending food conferences and meetings throughout the nation. Like a boss, Jessa epitomizes the meaning of a hustler and continues to outperform expectations.
Who inspires Jessa? Jessa draws inspiration from her three siblings. Each of Jessa’s siblings encourage and motivate her through their never ending relentless pursuit in finding success and happiness.
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words; watch your words, for they become actions; watch your actions, for they become habits, watch your habits, for they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”
Jessa and Tuscan Red. Jessa is the largest online customer having bought twelve bottles of Tuscan Red despite having a Tuscan Red for life card. Jessa and her husband Denis have become obsessed with putting Tuscan Red on their nightly protein. They marinate their chicken, slow roast pork, and grill their steaks using Tuscan Red as both a marinade and dipping sauce. Warning: overexposure and use can lead to addiction to Tuscan Red, Jessa and Denis are textbook examples.
Jessa, thank you for sharing your story; you break through barriers and continue to come out on top with a smile on your face. You are an inspiration because of what type of person you are and how you continue to persevere through life.
To my loyal followers, thank you! I have recently made it my personal duty, goal, and obligation to introduce 20,000 new customers to Tuscan Red by the end of December. To the people like John Hren, Ellie Cizek, Justin Adducci, Clare Cizek, Tim Kunkle, Dy Stewart, Peggy White, Patty Flynn, and Jim Cizek thanks for liking every single thing we post! It may not sound like a big thing, but it keeps me motivated.
The state of the state. Last month we launched Tuscan Red into ALL 53 Midwest Whole Foods locations. An accomplishment, yes; however, the real work now begins. Getting new customers to try and buy the product is our focus. Question, when you (yes you reading this) go to the grocery store, how often are you intentionally buying something new? From our experience, grocery shoppers are loyal to their eating routines and diets. Why would a customer buy Tuscan Red when it is sitting next to Cholula, Frank’s, or Tabasco; especially when the cost is twice as much? That is where sampling comes into play.
Why buy Tuscan Red? Tuscan Red is much more than a common watery hot sauce. Tuscan Red’s naturally thick consistency using only all natural ingredients sets our product ahead of the competition. Read the back of a hot sauce label. Ever see the word Xanthum Gum? Xanthum Gum is a thickener. Companies use it because their water based hot sauce needs a little boost to transform into an actual sauce. The base of our sauce is our pepper and we use a lot of it. We want our Calabrian Pepper to show off its natural flavors. We truly believe Tuscan Red is in its own class of condiments.
Baked Goat Cheese & Tuscan Red. Okay, this past weekend I made a pretty baller dish using Tuscan Red. Tuscan Red baked Goat Cheese toast. TRY THIS. Ingredients needed: ¼ bottle of Tuscan Red, 5 oz. block of Goat Cheese, Olive Oil, Ciabatta Bread. Instructions: Microwave a 5 oz. block of Goat Cheese for 15 seconds. Next, add a ¼ bottle of Tuscan Red to the soften Goat Cheese. Mix until fully combined. Slice your ciabatta bread into 1” thick pieces. Drizzle olive oil onto the cut ciabatta bread; toast the bread in an oven for 10 minutes at 325 F. Take the toasted olive oil bread out of oven, spread Goat Cheese & Tuscan Red mix onto each piece of bread (thick layer). Put back into 325 F oven for 15 minutes. Take out... ENJOY!
Coming soon! We have remarkable Bosses lined up to be interviewed within the next month. Look for our new Sauce to the Boss article this coming Sunday!
Amy and I met at Workshop Chicago, a co-working workspace for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and independent workers. When I met Amy, I thought to myself, “Wow, this person must have had something awesome just happen to them today.” Her positivity and energy was contagious, a passion for her brand and for life were obvious. Since we first met, every time I have bumped into Amy at Workshop Chicago, she’s always her same, positive, focused, and energetic self. Amy is truly a one of a kind individual; just wait until you learn more about who she is and what unbelievable things she is up to!
Amy the Cleveland native. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio Amy grew up with an older brother and two loving, hardworking and extremely inspiring parents. To this day she remains close with her family, making frequent trips back home from Chicago. Amy comes from a family of entrepreneurs and artists. Her family always pushed her to follower her dreams and passions. For Amy, creativity was sparked at a young age; she specifically recalls experiences working with her grandfather developing photographs in his darkroom as one of the origins of her creativity.
After nearly a year working in Paris Amy returned back to the Chicagoland area and worked in a marketing and advertising role for Camping World, a Marcus Lemonis owned company.
Simplicity. Le Coeur Watches are designed with focuses on a clean, classic, and minimalist look. Le Coeur Watches simply put are timeless. They intently design their watches staying away from what is on trend, rather concentrating on fundamental classic concepts. Each Le Coeur watch is named after the city that inspired it. Watches with names like: New York, Lisbon, Toronto, and Chicago are some of the timepieces sold by Le Coeur. Most Le Coeur watches are unisex, styled for both men and women.
Le Coeur and giving back. Like a boss, Amy is a firm believer that if one can help, they should. She intentionally built her company knowing that she was creating her personal dream brand and wanted to express her true values. Amy at her core is a person who gives back whenever possible. Each month, Le Coeur Watches partners with a different charity, donating proceeds in ways that best support the charity's greatest needs.
Amy’s inspiration, her mother. Amy describes her Mom as the most loving and joyful person who is passionate about loving others. When I asked Amy what about what makes her mom makes her inspiring, Amy commented, “I am inspired how she does life.” I now know where Amy got her beyond joyful personality.
Business wise Amy draws inspiration from Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal Vintage a company that specializes in fashion, clothing, shoes and accessories for young women. Amoruso recently published a New York Times best seller, Girl Boss, where she shares with readers how she went from dumpster diving to founding one of the fastest growing retailers in the world . Amy describes Sophia as unapologetically herself. Amy admires Sophia’s grit and ability to build a brand surrounding one’s self.
This week’s Sauce to the Boss article is not only groundbreaking, it is earth shattering! I interviewed boss Wes Smithe, a fellow Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota alumni and young entrepreneur who co-founded Chicago based Vaystays. Wes’s story and experiences with building not one but two companies is inspiring. But wait there is more. For the first time ever, a Sauce to the Boss Podcast was recorded! Starting this week Wednesday we will post our weekly Sauce to the Boss Podcast. The Boss Podcast will feature our previous week’s boss. This week Wednesday, the Wes Smithe Podcast will be available.
Who is Wes Smithe!? Wes was born and raised in the Northwest Chicago suburb of Barrington. Wes was one of five kids having four older sisters! Wes is extremely close with his rapidly growing family. Just how big is his family? His parents are Grandparents to thirteen grandchildren with three more on the way! Needless to say, there is never a dull moment when his family gets together.
Wes lives with his newly married wife of one year Lexi in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. Lexi and Wes enjoy the Chicago city life, trying new restaurants, and spending time with their dog Dusty. Like a Boss, Wes lights up when talking about his family and wife, he truly values the time he is able to spend with them.
Wes and GamedayHousing. In 2006 Wes’s now business partner Geoff Polk, bought a house in South Bend, Indiana after graduating from Notre Dame. Geoff purchased his house for the sole purpose of having a place to stay while attending football games. He did this because hotel prices in South Bend were extremely high. Geoff saw a demand and discovered he could pay his mortgage by renting out his house for game weekends. Geoff bought more properties and rented them out as well. Geoff’s new properties were booking over a year in advance for game weekends.
Geoff recruited his longtime buddy and college roommate Chris Brusznicki. Chris and Geoff expanded by selling their South Bend neighbors on the idea of renting out properties for game weekends. In exchange for their service, Geoff and Chris took a 20% service fee. Eager Notre Dame fans were booking every game weekend in the season for $2,000 - $3,500 per weekend. Word of mouth quickly spread. In spring of 2009 the two founders launched a marketplace called GamedayHousing.com to help facilitate their niche vacation home rental service.
Following graduation from SMU in 2009 Wes joined Chris and Geoff as an intern in their GamedayHousing venture. Wes expanded the business to other large football college markets including Michigan, Penn State, Ole Miss, Alabama, and Texas A&M. Wes grew GamedayHousing knocking on doors, posting door hanger flyers, and cold calling property owners who were listing on Cragislist. Similar to what occurred in South Bend, property owners discovered they could make a lot of money renting out their houses on game weekends. Much of the early growth of the GamedayHousing can be attributed to Wes’s expansion efforts.
Wes and Advertising. Prior to interning with GamedayHousing Wes had accepted an offer with an ad agency in Chicago called FCB, and began his career working for a telecom client. A year and a half later, he left FCB to join a rival advertising agency, Leo Burnett. Wes has fond memories of his team and experiences in the ad industry. Wes’s friends and colleagues would often remark how passionately he spoke about the startup world and his time with GamedayHousing .
In the spring of 2011 Geoff and Chris invited Wes out to lunch and asked him to join the group in full time as a partner. Wes recalls the day that he decided to leave his cushy job with benefits and leap into the startup world full-time. He describes the jump as liberating and life-changing, he has yet to look back.
Wes and Vaystays. In the winter of 2014 Wes and his business partners decided to take on the global vacation rental space with Vaystays.com. What is Vaystays? How does it work? Similar to Airbnb, Vaystays is a global website platform where vacation rental properties are listed and available for customers to reserve. Unlike Airbnb, 100% of the properties listed on Vaystays are are private homes that are verified by Vaystays, managed by an on the ground professional, and bookable instantly. What does that mean? Travelers are able to discover and book a vacation home rental as easily as a room at the Hyatt on Hotels.com. Customers can expect hotel-like rentals given the properties are professionally maintained by a team closeby.
For professional vacation rental property managers, Vaystays integrates directly with the software their clients use to run their businesses. As a result, Vaystay’s clients are able to market 100% of their supply (hundreds or thousands of properties in many cases) through Vaystays in real-time and take reservations as seamlessly as Hyatt does through Priceline. Professional property managers control 60% of global vacation rental supply, yet only list 15% of the inventory is rentable on HomeAway and Airbnb (because of how costly it is operationally) this is a big opportunity!
If you are looking to rent out a lake house in Tahoe or a beachside condo in Destin, booking through Vaystays ensures each property is in tip top shape when you arrive. As a customer, you can be reassured that the property you are renting is available and professionally managed. As an added value, Vaystays holds all funds in escrow until check-in, you can rest assured your money is safe. Interested in going on an awesome vacation? Vaystays has you covered. Head to Vaystays.com to book your next trip!
Who inspires Wes? He looks up to and draws inspiration from his Dad, who has always been a great mentor and father figure for Wes. Wes’s Dad taught him the importance of hard work and integrity. His father has built one of Chicago’s most recognized furniture companies, Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design. At an early age Wes worked for the family business and aspired to be like his father; who set the bar high for as a businessman and family man.
Okay Wes, this is your true time to shine; what is your favorite way to use Tuscan Red?
Wes and his wife Lexi were introduced to Tuscan Red back in April. Tuscan Red is frequently used to spice up their morning eggs; however, their absolute favorite way to use Tuscan Red is on a Chicago made Home Run Inn Frozen Pizza. They, like many other super users have discovered the magic of adding Tuscan Red to pizza.
To our readers out there, if you have not yet tried our Tuscan Red and are unsure whether you will like it our not, ask yourself one questions. Do I like pizza? If you answer yes, head to your nearest Whole Foods or go to our online store and purchase a bottle of Tuscan Red. Your taste buds will thank you.
Favorite Quote and why?
“That which is falling should also be pushed.”
Wes like myself loves quotes and uses them to stay motivated. Nietzsche’s quote speaks to him on both a personal and business level. From a personal standpoint, Wes believes that it is vital for one to recognize negative influences and remove them right away. Weather it be a job or a person, Wes believes an individual must learn how to push the negativity out of their life. On the business side, as an entrepreneur Wes believes one must never be married to an idea or concept. If an idea or concept is having a negative effect on a business, the idea must be tossed away, the sooner the better.
Wes, you are a true Boss. Thank you for sharing your story and giving us your time. Stay tuned for our Sauce to the Boss Podcast featuring Wes Smithe on Wednesday. Please share comments and questions.