How She Got There: Samantha Wasser, Co-Founder of by CHLOE.

Name: Samantha Wasser
Job Title and Description: Co-founder of by CHLOE.
Website: by CHLOE.
Twitter Handle: @eatbychloe
Instagram Handle: @eatbychloe

It's no secret that being plant-based, vegetarian or vegan can feel extremely expensive, especially with a minimal college budget. Thankfully, Samantha Wasser has co-founded a vegan fast-casual restaurant called by CHLOE. that we can all enjoy and afford. With several locations of her new hot vegan spot in New York, California, Boston, and London, we're totally loving the affordability and convenience of this vegan stop. 

If you don't have the luxury of having a by CHLOE. in your area, then you might want to plan your Spring Break ventures around these hub locations. Wasser's company is on its way to becoming the McDonald's of vegan food, and her restaurants now have Mediterranean cuisine on the menu. Beyond offering more environmentally friendly food options, by CHLOE. fosters a family-mentality, both within its restaurants and it the local communities they serve. 

Aside from sharing how she got scammed by a fake cup company and channeled that monetary lose into professional growth (that's going on the inspo mood board), Samantha Wasser talks about her career, how she started by CHLOE., and how humbling and surreal it is to know that people genuinely want to spend their money at her plant-based restaurants.

Her Campus: You have this kind of duel-faceted job where you're the co-founder and creative director of this plant-based restaurant. I was just wondering what your current job entails. And if there's a typical day, how you would describe it?

Samantha Wasser: I wish there was a typical day; that would make my life easier. I guess a typical day could include — sometimes I'm in my office, our corporate office, doing work for future locations on my computer, catching up on and going over designs for future restaurants, packaging, creating products or promotional materials that we’re working on, as well as putting together any new apps and marketing campaigns. Or, I'm running between all of the locations doing site quality tests, to make sure that the food is up to date and the restaurant is organized the way that it should, that the pastry cases look the way that they should. Or I'm just, you know, meeting people throughout the city that I've connected with either through events or working together for different collaboration. Or sometimes I just pick other CEOs’ brains about what kind of works for them. And, you know, where I might need some guidance as well. So, I guess typical day kind of changes, sometimes it's just back-to-back meetings. Other times, I'm able to really immerse myself in everything on my computer and actually catch-up and get some stuff done. So, I guess it just depends on the day

HC: Absolutely. And that's kind of fun, that you have these different angles that you work from. You don't get, you know, get set in stone or caught-up in the mundane routine.

SW:  Yeah, and it is exciting. And that way now, with phones, I'm always connected, especially in the restaurant business. I kinda never sleep, which is really true. I get all of our customer emails on my phone, so I can always know if there are any problems in the restaurants. I'm always connected.

So, I think that really allows me to be able to work from wherever I am. Sometimes it's great to be in the office because I'm able to work with my peers and brainstorm our new ideas. But yesterday, I had a meeting at 10:30 in the morning downtown and my corporate office was uptown, so it didn't necessarily make sense for me to, like, stop by the office beforehand. So, I was able to just go to a coffee shop by my house and work for a good hour and a half,  then head over to that meeting. To have that flexibility is super helpful.

HC: Absolutely. And then what was the first entry-level job and your field and how did you get it?

SW: It wasn't really in my field out of college. My first job was in celebrity endorsements, celebrity procurement when I was a company called Platinum Rye. We worked to negotiate on celebrity spokespeople. So, I worked for Pepsi and Procter & Gamble on some really amazing, glamorous accounts, such as Crest and Prilosec and Pepto Bismal.  It was really, you know, interesting for me and totally different than what I'm doing now. And I think that kind of helped me figure out that I wanted to do something more creative, whatever that meant. Because we were kind of working for the brands, and the brands had a creative agency as well, they would kind of come to us and say, ‘Here's what the agency came up with. Here’s what the commercial is going to look like. This is the idea. Who do you think fits within our budget, and what would work for this campaign?’

And we put together an amazing list of people, and sometimes, we’d push for people, but ultimately, it was up to the decision of the brand. And sometimes it's kind of like, ‘Oh, my gosh, like, why didn't they pick this person? She's amazing. She's about to blow up, they're not going to be able to afford her when her big movie comes out.’ And so, I think I was always kind of hitting a wall, creatively, because I would envision something so different than what would actually happen. I think that’s just the nature of what happens when you work at big companies, There's so much red tape, and there are so many people who make the final decision. And so, I kind of knew that I wanted to be making that final decision. So, that kind of lead me into restaurants, which is what I grew up around and always had an interest in. But I didn’t want to just come work with my dad and work in steakhouses and just carry out someone else's vision. I really wanted to create things from scratch and do it my way. And create places that I wanted to hang out in — that I could see my friends hanging out at, so that was really important to me.
 

And then you asked, how did I get that job? When I graduated college, it was really a difficult time to get any job. The job market, no one was hiring. So, I just knocked down a million doors. And I knew someone who worked there, had a connection there, and it was one of the many places I went to interview at. They were the only place that was like, ‘Okay, you can come work here, but as an intern. We can't pay you anything.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, sold! Like, I'll take that.’ With the potential to get paid in a few months. So I was like, ‘Okay, at least that gives me something to do.’ So, I feel like I was at a much different time at that point, and I really had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I was like, this work at least it gets me out of my house and just gets me out in the work environment, which I think is super important right out of school.

HC: Absolutely. And then you can kind of use that experience with something that wasn't really what you were extremely passionate about, and then used what you learned there and retrofitted it to your career, which is amazing, I think.

SW: Yeah. And, the company, although it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do in my life, I learned so much. My boss was all about processes, and she was so organized. I think that in any field, no matter where you work, there's so many things that can carry over to the next thing, even if it's a completely different job. Like, she was very specific about the way emails were crafted or about follow-ups for meetings. And I feel like that kind of instilled in me my work ethic, which you can bring to any job. And I think that was really, really helpful. Also, the office had a lot of young people — it was a young company. And so, there are so many people that have also left and gone and started their own companies that I was able to call upon them when I was starting by CHLOE. My friend, David who worked there,  went and started a matcha company, and they were the only matcha we carried, until a few months ago when they sold their company. So, it was amazing to meet so many connections because you never know where those people are going to end up, or if you're going to be able to work with them. And I was all about supporting anyone I knew. So, I put their companies on our menu boards so that people knew who they were. It was really great in that sense to be able to make so many connections because you just don't know when your paths are going cross again.

HC: Absolutely. And then do you have any words of wisdom or any anecdotes that you've gotten from a former boss, mentor, or co-worker that you implement in your current professional life?

SW: One thing that I've kind of had to learn myself, or something that I kind of have to accept because I’m constantly being pulled in so many different directions. When you first start out, you want to do everything with everyone, and you kind of have to realize that that’s just not possible. So, what I always tell myself or the people that work for me is the day is only so long and you can only do so much. You can’t be so hard on yourself when you don’t get to do everything because it’s just not possible. There’s so much going on all the time that I’m like, ‘You know, you tried your hardest. If there’s something that was an emergency, I’m sure you took care of it.’ But at the end of the day, you have to look at what you’ve actually accomplished. And not at what you didn’t because there are always things you didn't accomplish. You can only push yourself so far before you break down, and I feel like I've had to teach myself that lesson. Because I'll push myself to a breaking point and it's not helpful for anyone.

HC: Absolutely. And then what's one mistake that you made along the way and you've learned from or grown from?

SW: There’s so many. Honestly, mistake-wise, there are so many little things that like you just do wrong along the way that maybe just don’t make sense. When I was constantly trying to source products for all the packaging, I tried to do it as cheap as possible. And, I found this company online to do our cups with that was a little bit less expensive than a big distributor that I probably should have gone with, but you so stuck in this I have to save money [mindset]. Then, it ended up being a scheme and I lost like $10,000 and never saw those cups or heard from the company again.

I think with by CHLOE., when we first opened, we had no idea how to run fast-casual, so we just kind of have to roll with the punches. We came from a full-service background, so we had no idea how to staff for fast-casual restaurant. We thought we knew, for the demand that we thought we were going to have. But, we didn't realize you know that you needed someone to — like, ‘How is the food getting from like the kitchen to the customers?’ At a full-service venue, you have running, but at fast-casual, we didn’t account for that person to actually be bagging or putting the tickets together, so that ended up being me and one of our corporate directors that came in a suit every day in the middle of summer--just bagging burgers and we’re all like, ‘Why is he here in a suit when it’s like a million degrees and we’re standing here bagging burgers?’ It was not ideal, but I think any mistakes you kind of have to learn from them and just roll with the punches and see what happens. If you stay stuck on them or let them kind of distract you, then everything’s a mess.

I’m trying to think of big, big mistakes that have happened. People always ask me this question, and I feel like I never know what example to give them because I feel like I constantly make mistakes all the time.

HC: Hey, but mistakes are how you learn, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

SW: Exactly. And I feel like sometimes when people who work for me make a mistake, that’s when they learn the most. If they’re doing every single thing a million times and a million things right, they’re so stuck in a routine and they’re just operating and shooting things out. So when they make mistakes, they’re so hard on themselves and I’m like, ‘Like you made a mistake, but I guarantee you’ll never do that again.’ Whereas now, they’re more conscious of everything they’re doing, so I know of think something that mistakes have to happen, partly for you to kind of snap out of everything just being so routine.

HC: Definitely, definitely. Then, what's one the most surreal moments of your career so far of running a restaurant?

SW: For surreal moments, probably the first day by CHLOE. opened. I was literally bribing all of my friends with food, which, at the time, none of my friends cared about vegan food, so that was like a really hard sell. And I was like, ‘Please, please. No one's going to show up on opening day. Please, you need to come. I don't care; like leave your job. Just come, please, and stand in line in the beginning so we can get the photo for Instagram —10 people care about us. I think it was like so surreal when I like walked outside like 10 minutes before we opened, and there was a line of strangers — like people I didn't know. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, they like us. They’re here. Now, we have to open the door and now we have to serve them. Oh my gosh, are they going to like this food? What are they going to say about it?’ So, I think the surreal moment was like when paying people came into the store to try the food, Because we have friends and family in the city and people we know we’re inviting, so of course they’re showing up because it’s free food.

The most surreal was the first day of by CHLOE., but I still get that moment, like a ‘pinch me’ moment, every time we open any new location. Because this person, who is clearly paying for their lunch, can go to a million places, can order from Postmates, Door Dash, and all these different places, but yet, they’re choosing to walk through our door and pay their hard-earned money for an item on our menu. That, to me, is so crazy. And sometimes I have to step back because we created something that people actually want. People actually like it. So, that is super exciting. And I think that when you're working so hard on something, it's so easy to lose sight of the basic goal. So sometimes, I just have to remind myself that, if I do make mistakes or even if I don't get everything I need to do to get done that day, nobody's noticing that. You know, people are actually enjoying the things we’re creating. And I think we sometimes have to allow ourselves to have that joy and to be happy and not just dwell on the things that you did wrong or that you didn’t accomplish.

HC: And letting yourself be confident instead of like, you know, succumbing to imposter syndrome. And then what do you look for when you are considering hiring someone new or one of your locations?

SW: I can teach anyone how to take people's orders, how to use our POS, how to bag a burger, how to sweep the floor, but I can’t teach someone to have a good personality or how to smile. And I think that's the most important thing-- is personality and being engaging more so than anything else. Because you're going to have so much experience working in a kitchen or the front of house, it doesn't serve anyone any good, unless, like you're making the customer happy. And I always say before an opening day, like when I'm talking to the staff at a new location, remember to smile. If there is a line and people are waiting 10 minutes on a line, they're looking at their phone, already annoyed by the time they get to the counter. If you have a huge smile on your face, that person just completely forgot every single thing like the last 10 minutes of their life and that they were standing online. But if you're just kind of like, ‘Hey, what can I get you?’ And you're just kind of lackadaisical about it, that affects their overall experience of the store, even if the food’s amazing. It doesn't start off on the right foot. Even if you mess up, even if you don't know the answer to their questions, if you do it with a smile, and you say, ‘Let me look into that. Let me check with our manager,’ and if you do it with a smile and you're just kind to the guests, it goes such a long way. It goes so far. I know whenever I walk into a place, and the people behind the counter are like, ‘Hey! How's your day going?’ I'm like, ‘Oh, are you talking to me?’ It's great. So I think that one of the best qualities and one of the most important qualities, especially for people that have worked in the stores, for people that are working in the corporate office, or working for me.

Obviously, personality too. But I think, organization and a work ethic are super important. You know, I want someone to buy into what we're doing and buy into the growth of the company and feel inspired and want to grow with the company -- not just someone that wants to come in at nine and leave at five and just punch in and punch out. I want people to feel good about what we're doing and be so excited and talk to their friends about it. Just because they're genuinely having a good time. It’s a little different for the things that I look for in a corporate level verses store level.

 

AIR BAKED FRIES x @thingsinmymouth

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HC: Absolutely. And that just shows, how powerful a good attitude and passion can be. Because if you're not passionate in what you do, then people are going to notice.

SW: Of course. You know, I feel like by CHLOE. Tries to be as authentic as possible and give people a really amazing experience, not just from inside our four wall but from our blog and just being as transparent and authentic as possible. So, if people that work in the store don't fit that bill it might not show exactly what we're trying to achieve. And I think it's so important to make our customers comfortable. You know, they're stepping out on their lunch break, even if they're waiting for their food, you want that to be a peaceful, fun experience and not something that might annoy them when they walked out of the door.

HC: And then do you have any advice that you give to a college-age person who might be going through similar aspirations and wants to start their own business or their own restaurant, even.

SW: If it’s a restaurant, I’d say good luck, and maybe don’t do it. [laughs] But in terms of a company, I think for me what was most helpful is to try and meet with as many people as possible, especially through social media. You can slide into anyone’s DMs, as cheesy as that is. Just try and get as much knowledge as possible. You know, when I was starting out, I was really trying to meet with people in all different industries. Because so many of the lessons are so similar. I remember meeting with the SoulCycle founders right when I started. I was talking to them about merchandising and the shelves in the stores because that's similar. And I was like, ‘At what point do you stop caring about what this shelf look like?’ Because I was driving myself crazy that everything wasn't lined up properly. And I was like, ‘Why was the manager not paying attention to that?’ And I only had one store at that time. And I was like, ‘Oh, crap, like, now that I can loosen the reins a little bit, when do you stop focusing on that and focus on the big picture items?’ And they were like, ‘You never do. You're always going to be focusing on the little details.’ And that was good for me to hear in a way because I was like, ‘Okay, I'm not crazy.’

I just think when it is your baby, you care so much more. I think that I had to kind of learn how to train people to think like me. Because at the beginning, I was so naive, and I was getting so frustrated when people weren't seeing things the way that I was seeing it. And I realized it was because I wasn't explaining to them why I do things the way I do. I was yelling at them because the shirt was turned in the wrong direction. And they're like, ‘Okay, you’re freaking out about that.’ And I kind of had to take a step back and be like, ‘No, we like it to be turned this way, so that people can see the logo.’ I had to just explain to them why, then they were like, ‘Oh, that makes total sense. Like, I'll totally do that every day.’

So, I think that when you're starting companies really try to understand that not everyone is going to do things the exact same way that you're going to do it. Just, be patient, and try and explain things as much as possible and give people more information because sometimes it's helpful for people to then go on to tell others how to do things. And I think that was kind of a lesson I had to learn — know how best to communicate without getting frustrated if something's done wrong. Just learning how I can motivate you to do it right, without getting upset when you do it wrong.

HC: Absolutely. And finding that balance, I feel like, is a constant struggle regardless of industry or where you are in your career.

SW: Of course.

 

HC: Then what's the one thing that really stood out to you most in a resume?

SW: I’m such an aesthetic maniac. When I go to any restaurant or any place, I see things that no one else notices. My husband yells at me every time we go to dinner. And I'm like, ‘Why is that light bulb out?’ He's like, ‘You don't own this restaurant. You shouldn’t care what that light bulb is out.’ So for me, it’s such a silly answer, but I like everything to be formatted correctly and the fonts are the way that they should be, and the bullet points are done right. I was looking at a resume yesterday for something, and they didn't enter one of the bullet points, so it was on the same line as another bullet point. So for me, it’s about making sure everything’s formatted properly.

I also really love when people give their random hobbies. I always thought that was kind of weird. When I was putting together my own resume to list that I like yoga and things like sewing or flower arranging, but I realized, as a business owner, when you see so many resumes all day long, all you want to see is personality — because everyone's resume starts to look alike. And I sometimes think adding a little bit about yourself can make it seem more personable. As a business owner, when you're looking at it, you're kind of like, ‘Oh, they like to go to the movies on a Friday. Like, that's so funny.’ Or, you know, sometimes when you're in the meeting when you're in an interview with them, you may have something in common. You're like, ‘Oh, you like to do yoga too. How often do you do it?’ It’s like an icebreaker sometimes, and it's a good way to get to know someone's personality when you do meet with them. Rather than like, ‘What did you do for this company? And what did you learn? And what are your thoughts of blah blah blah.’ So sometimes, I like to just engage with people a little bit more.

HC: Alright, this is the last question: What's your favorite part of your job?

SW: I would say, my favorite part of the job is seeing people creating memories in the spaces that I created. So, whenever I walk into the store, and I to see someone on a date, or I see two girls like coming in after their workout, it always kind of makes me step back and think, ‘Oh gosh. Like, I created this moment. They could be having the most amazing afternoon, and this is the highlight of their day, right?’ I love when I see people in this space, and they're having such a great time. That makes it worth it. But you know, it also pushes me further. Every day I go on our social media, and I go through every geotag of all our stores and every tag photos, so I can see what people are posting. And I love when people are like, ‘I traveled to New York for the first time, and I went to by CHLOE. three times because I’m obsessed.’ So to me, seeing feedback is always great and it’s amazing to see, and it’s all so surreal.

And then from like an aesthetic perspective, I love making it seem like home. And I’ve had the opportunity to take up these spaces that were kind of forgotten corners and give them new life. And that always takes my breath away, especially in the West Village, our Flagship location. That space had been vacant for years. There was a fire, and it was abandoned. I remember when I was opening, I was telling people where we are, and they’re like, ‘I live there. I have no idea what you’re even talking about.’ Because it’s just one of those corners you always walk by and never knew what was actually there. Now, whenever I go by there, there’s just energy in the space and people hanging out outside, and the building now looks like 100 years younger than it did before we opened. It’s so exciting because it feels like, not only are we making an impact in someone’s life, we’re making an impact and putting our stamp in a city — a place that we love. And that’s so exciting for me.

 

 

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