Entrepreneurs can build success – and then build On their success – by carefully crafting strong business models, being patient, and always putting people first.
Steve Salis began his hospitality career as a co-founder of &pizza, the successful pizza chain with locations across the Northeast. Salis Holdings and Catalogue are privately held companies. They include a variety of lifestyle and retail brands, as well as restaurants.
- Two-time Michelin Bib Gourmand Winner, Federalist Pig BBQ Joint
- Kramers Bookstore and Bar, all-day restaurant
- Sidekick Bakery, a sweet, savory and everything-in-between bakery
- Honeymoon Chicken, which has quickly become one of the most fried chicken concepts in the region
- Ensemble Kitchen, tech-enabled delivery & takeout center
Salis is the chief executive officer of his brand, which has become a fixture in Washington DC’s community. The company plans to keep the momentum going by increasing and growing its business operations over the coming years. His strategy includes opening several new Ted’s Bulletin locations across DC and Virginia, along with more opportunities for acquisitions and unit growth.
Salis founded Sizzle Acquisition Corp in 2021 as a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) to make this growth possible. This initial public offering brought in $155 Million and is now helping Salis identify and develop potential acquisition targets across the retail, technology, and restaurant sectors.
Salis understands that it takes time and effort to create a business. Beloved brands don’t reach that level of success overnight. It’s about taking the necessary steps to build a strong foundation, and ensuring that every aspect of the company is functional before trying to expand.
“With Salis Holdings and the Catalogue’s network of brands, it took time to get to where we are now,” he recounts. “It started with acquiring brands that we thought had potential, and then took a lot of trial and error.” It also took working closely with some very talented people to get to a place he now finds himself: expanding concepts like Ted’s Bulletin and Federalist Pig, revamping and modernizing iconic staples like Kramers, and launching new brands like Honeymoon Chicken, which recently became a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand winner.
“There are so many people who go into making a business successful, from the people on the ground to the branding team and the executives,” Salis explains. “Every person is crucial to the process.”
Key Lessons Learned
Salis outlines three lessons that he has learned from his first venture, &pizza. These are applicable to every one of his other ventures. “My first, &pizza, came with many learnings that have helped shape me into the successful business owner and entrepreneur I am today.” They include:
- Business models that combine premium quality and accessibility are possible. “We have had great success with creating elevated experiences and products that remain approachable and accessible to all consumers.”
- Brands can build emotional bonds with their guests through familiarity. “Once you’re able to create meaningful connections between guest and brand, you can really tap into their wants and needs and create experiences that align with their values.”
- Put people first. “Over the years, I have learned the value of taking care of my people first and foremost,” Salis recalls. “We are one team, and in order to be a successful business, everyone on that team needs to be taken care of.”
A good communicator is key to being a leader. “You have to be willing to listen to others, ask questions and constantly strike a balance between teaching and learning,” Salis emphasizes. “For me, being a leader is about challenging myself and those around me to think differently and expand the way they approach situations. In an industry that changes as quickly as the hospitality industry, it’s imperative to think quickly, plan strategically and be willing to fail in order to eventually find success.”
Salis was a competitive basketball player for much of his childhood, which taught him valuable lessons about teamwork and leadership. “I may be the leader of our company, but just like in basketball a win can’t happen unless the entire team is doing their respective jobs. Beyond good communication, it takes trust, belief in each other and belief in the goals of the company to succeed long term.”
Company culture is another thing Salis says he is “very invested” in. “Over the years, we have worked to build strong relationships, and to create a place where people genuinely want to work. Allowing everyone on the team to have a say and to feel comfortable sharing their own ideas, concerns, or questions helps build a culture of trust and respect.”
Entrepreneurship Life’s first post was STORY: STEVE SALIS – BEING A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR & LEADER