An entrepreneur’s life is full of challenges and sacrifices. It is easy to succumb to the fear of failure and difficult to sustain a positive mindset through the most turbulent of times. A successful entrepreneur is the one who possesses a strong inner drive. One such self-motivated individual is Peter Schatzberg, Founder and CEO of Sweetheart Kitchen.
Peter graduated with a double major in Finance and Mgmt. Info. Systems with excellent grades. Nevertheless, upon graduating, employment opportunities never materialized and that’s when it struck him that there are no guarantees in life. He decided to take control of his fate by starting his first company at the age of 21. Shortly thereafter, he joined a leadership program at General Electric (GE) where he spent many years traveling the world and gaining knowledge across an array of industries. While at GE, Peter became obsessed with obtaining an Ivy League MBA and made a promise to his father that one day he could proudly wear the t-shirt of an Ivy League Institution. While his heart was set on Harvard, his application was not considered. He spent three more years at GE before he was accepted by an Executive MBA program offered by Columbia and London Business Schools.
He asserts, “My willingness to compromise and remain undeterred taught me that my success would require that I rely upon my intangible strengths. I bought my father a Columbia t-shirt before classes started although I never attended my own graduation. Fulfilling my commitment to get in was all that mattered.”
Stumbling blocks along the way
A true entrepreneur believes passionately in their vision and does not allow stumbling blocks to get in the way of achieving their goals. Upon graduation from business school, Peter launched his second company FreeFoods NYC, which was a challenge from the onset. During the struggle is where Peter refined his entrepreneurial skillset and developed his vision for the Virtual Kitchen model. At FreeFoods dating back to 2010, the opportunity for aggregating delivery volume into a process-driven facility became apparent. Peter started the ‘Green Summit Group (GSG)’ in 2012 before food delivery became a global phenomenon. With $4MM of capital GSG grew to $10 MM in run-rate within 24 months. But the company was tech light and had not yet developed a global Supply Chain mentality. GSG closed in 2017 when other well-funded “delivery-only” Virtual Kitchens failed and investors were frightened away. Thankfully, by then Peter had developed a reputation as a pioneer in food delivery and his experiences had turned him into a hardened entrepreneur. Funding opportunities started coming his way.
A New Beginning with Sweetheart Kitchen
Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” and so Peter established Sweetheart Kitchen (SWHK) in 2019 and gave his Virtual Kitchen vision just one more try. Although Peter had failed in previous attempts, he was not defeated. Turning his mistakes into valuable lessons learned, he started SWHK intending to solve the inefficiencies of the food delivery Supply Chain. With the knowledge acquired in his previous attempts, he started the Company on a larger scale and with more capital. SWHK recruited a world-class team that shares the vision of scaling to 1,000 units across Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and beyond.
SWHK is fortunate enough to be participating in an industry where the pandemic only partially interrupted operations. However, the strict curfews and looming Supply Chain breakdowns have caused the company to change its short-term focus. “We recently pivoted from rapid multi-country expansion to the demonstration of unit economics (from existing units). Since March 2020, we increased same-store sales while drastically improving margins. This was achieved through the commitment and perseverance of the SWHK team.”
Valuable Lessons Learned Throughout the Journey
Peter views obstacles merely as challenges to be overcome. He says, “Regardless of circumstance, a leader must possess integrity, courage, decisiveness, empathy, humility, and strength of character. Technical skills and raw intelligence become less critical when a leader is surrounded by many talents or is facing adversity.” Peter believes that being a good leader is about putting the needs of others first and nothing benefits a leader more than being honorable and transparent with colleagues and investors. Peter states, “I have also realized the vision that took me ten years to develop takes some time for others to appreciate. This can also be true of investors so it is necessary to be patient and to teach others so that you are not alone on your journey.” He goes on to say, “what I enjoy most is witnessing my colleagues persevere through these challenging times without complaints or excuses, deciding to face the challenges of our world today head-on.” He adds, “The adversity we are facing is making us stronger and I look forward to seeing what we can achieve shortly, once the winds start blowing at our backs.”