Mandy’s: Salad Sisters
13 March 2020
Certain sibling relationships propel the most beautiful entrepreneurial projects. Our Siblings series highlights brothers and sisters teaming up to create, grow and give back. So, how does this fraternal connection translate into business?
To start the series, we met with the owners of Mandy’s restaurant, the Wolfe sisters, at their Westmount location. One is colourful and adventurous. The other is wise and practical. Both complement each other wonderfully, and end each other’s sentences. There, in the midst of a blooming decor, the conversation flowed, while baby Jack slept in his stroller. Here’s our interview with two mothers, sisters, and entrepreneurs.
How did the Mandy’s restaurant project take shape?
Mandy : When Rebecca came back from NYC, in 2003, she told me how inspired she was by salad bars she had been to. She asked me if I was interested in opening one with her. She would design the restaurant and I would come up with the menu and the recipes. I said: Sure! And it just worked from that point on.
Rebecca : Neither of us knew that it would turn into a viable business for both of us or a long-term project. We just had a fun idea and it grew organically on its own. Without having a clear vision on day one…
Mandy : …or a business plan for the next 5 or 10 years.
Have you ever experienced prejudice as sisters and as women at the head of a company?
Mandy : I think some people doubted us and discredited the sustainability of the business. Sometimes, there was this perception : Oh this is cute, two sisters having a salad shop. It’s very cupcake stand-like. But I think that once people discovered that we were running a legitimate business, how many people we employed, and our contribution to the Quebec economy, they gave us more credibility and love.
Describe your relationship.
Mandy : Rebecca has always been more adventurous than me. She is a colourful person. The decor is very representative of her personality. She’s always been an inspiration, and has taught me to be bold and try new things.
Rebecca : Mandy is five years older than I am. And she has always been a nurturing and supportive person. We were raised with the same values, and that comes out in our decision-making. We trust one another completely, and know that each decision comes from the right place.
What are those values?
Mandy : Family first. Then, loyalty, honesty, respect, and a strong work ethic. Making our kids a priority. When we started this business, we weren’t moms yet. Now, we have seven kids between the two of us.
Rebecca : I think compassion is a big one. When people ask what the main difference is when women run a business in 2020, and I think a lot of it has to do with compassion, care and love. I think more companies should be run that way.
Do you consider Mandy’s a family-owned business?
Mandy : Absolutely. One of our company values is family, and not just because we are blood-related, but because we want to empower and trust our employees, and want them to feel like they are in a safe environment, just like in a healthy family. We want them to know that we have their best interest at heart.
Is it hard to maintain that family dynamic as the company grows?
Rebecca : Yes, definitely. Mandy and I are yes people, and for many years, when we worked with a small group of people, anything anyone asked for was a yes, including raises and unlimited family vacation time. Now, as the company has grown, there obviously needs to be processes, and boundaries put in place to manage that many people. So, that’s been a difficult adjustment for Mandy and I, but it was inevitable.
Mandy : When we opened in 2015, we knew everyone’s name, what they were studying in university, even their pets’ names. We would have all of our Christmas parties at Becca’s house. Now we have over 300 employees, and it is very difficult to maintain that same intimate relationship. When you delegate and move away from working for the business and start working on the business, the challenge is hiring leaders and managers that care as much as we do.
“When we first opened, I was working in the kitchen making all the vinaigrettes, it was very intense and very long. We then hired people to do that, because it was becoming unsustainable. But I miss being in the kitchen, I miss making the food during a rush, being covered in avocado and vinaigrette, with lettuce flying all over… And I would sometimes try to go back, but I was in the way. Our employees are just so good at running things (yay!).” – Mandy Wolfe
How do you help each other become better people?
Mandy : She always pushes me to do better. I often ask myself: What would Rebecca do? Because I know that she would do the right thing. She always gets the job done properly, thoroughly, without cutting corners. She is a very positive person. She focuses on the positive thing that can happen instead of the negative, and uses that to reach her goals.
Rebecca : Mandy is the most spiritually enlightened person I know. She is constantly working on herself and therefore impacting the people around her in positive ways. I turn to her to learn how to better myself. She is extremely self-aware, sensitive, and very wise. I’m sure that one day she’s going to write a book on how to make the world a better place.
After they opened their eighth location in Laval, the Wolfe sisters now set out to conquer Toronto. In May, they will publish their first cookbook. Over the next few years, they would like to continue sharing the Mandy’s experience across Canada, and even bring it to some cities in the United States.
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