How GLEAM & Escoffier’s Mentorship Program Can Guide Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Escoffier has teamed up with the GLEAM network to offer mentorship opportunities to student and alumni entrepreneurs. Check out these success stories!

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August 1, 2022 8 min read

At Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, we know the value of mentorship for cooks and foodservice entrepreneurs. Many of our own Chef Instructors couldn’t have reached the levels of excellence and success that they’ve attained without guidance from those who came before!

So when we got the chance to work with the Global Leadership Enhancement & Mentorship Network (GLEAM), we jumped at the opportunity. GLEAM is a nonprofit, volunteer network of restaurant and food service professionals offering a number of exciting mentorship programs to other industry professionals.

Find out how Escoffier students and alumni may be able to connect with a GLEAM mentor as they work towards their own entrepreneurship goals. Plus, explore the journey of two GLEAM participants who got the guidance they needed to start their own businesses.

GLEAM and Escoffier Team Up to Offer the “Mentors for Entrepreneurs” Opportunity

The GLEAM network was born out of one of the hardest times in the restaurant market’s history. In April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down restaurants across the world, and many would never re-open. In this difficult landscape, 30-year industry veteran and fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen executive Sanjiv Razdan decided to do something to help.

He put out a call on LinkedIn, asking for industry leaders to help him create a mentoring network that could guide small business owners and restaurant executives. With over 30,000 responses, the GLEAM Network was born, led by experts from brands like Starbucks, Native Foods, MOD Pizza, and the National Restaurant Association.

Escoffier was one of GLEAM’s earliest partners and is currently the only dedicated culinary school to work with the program. Together, Escoffier and GLEAM offer a Mentorship for Entrepreneurs program, connecting Escoffier student/alumni entrepreneurs with expert mentors who can help them on their path to running their own small businesses.

Smiling man with an apron standing next to door of restaurant with open sign

Who Gets to Participate in “Mentors for Entrepreneurs?”

Each spring and fall, applications open for Escoffier students and alumni to apply to work with a GLEAM mentor. Students/alumni must either own their own business already or be in the process of opening one to qualify.

The application process includes submitting a video sharing who they are, what their business is, and the “one big thing” they’d like to explore with a mentor. Escoffier then chooses 12 students/alumni to participate in each cohort. Kay Larson, Alumni Relations Manager at Escoffier, says, “We’re looking for somebody who is really going to follow through, who is eager to learn, who is open to feedback and ready to take action.”*

Mentors for Entrepreneurs Infographic

How Escoffier and GLEAM Serve Student/Alumni Entrepreneurs

The selected students are then paired with a seasoned industry professional by the team at GLEAM, based on industry, interests, and strengths/weaknesses. They work hard to create a strong personal match as well as a positive professional match.

The mentor and mentee pairs commit to virtual meetings for at least six total hours over a 12-week period. During this time, they’ll work on the mentee’s “one big thing,” their primary goal to get them to the next step in their business.

Mentees are also invited to attend a Virtual Entrepreneurship Panel. A small group of entrepreneurs offers a few pieces of advice to the mentee group, before opening the floor for a Q&A session. This gives the mentees access to even more brainpower.

Plus, mentees get access to GLEAM network resources, including a behavioral personality assessment to help them determine their strengths and weaknesses.

“I’m so grateful to the GLEAM Network for stepping out with this program because I really wanted to accomplish more than what I’ve seen in my community from other food and hospitality businesses.”*
Roslyn Ballard, Escoffier Student & GLEAM Mentee

GLEAM Helps Escoffier Graduate Tara Bissell to Open Her Own Bakery

Escoffier graduate Tara Bissell on the GLEAM mentorship experience.

Tara Bissell’s “one big thing” was indeed a big one—opening her own bakery with her husband. After a couple of years selling sourdough and sweet treats at their local farmers’ market in Kentucky, they decided they wanted to open a brick-and-mortar bakery location. But since neither Tara nor her husband Andy had any formal culinary training, they decided to send Tara to school before they jumped into a full-fledged bakery. So Tara enrolled in Escoffier’s online baking & pastry diploma program, which allowed her to continue the farmers’ market business while she was in school.

When Tara heard that there was a mentorship program opening up for entrepreneurs, she jumped at the chance. “I love to get people’s opinions who are beyond me,” she said. “I love to hear their wisdom. I feel like it’s going to move me up so much further than where I would be on my own.”*

Tara and her mentor discussed topics like advertising, social media, menu planning, online ordering platforms, customer interface, market research, the bakery’s layout, ordering logistics, and creating a visual style. Her mentor even brought in other experts to consult with Tara on some niche topics.

Tara Bissell“I just want to say how grateful I am to have taken part in this mentorship program…it’s been such a blessing to have all this professional support right at this crucial moment.”*
Tara Bissell, Escoffier Online Baking & Pastry Arts Graduate and Co-Owner, Andy’s Artisan Bread

With guidance from her mentor, Tara and her husband have now opened their bakery, Andy’s Artisan Bread. They make European-style sourdough, bagels, and a whole slew of croissants—plain, chocolate, almond, and even savory spinach and feta. They’ve recently added omelets and breakfast sandwiches on homemade biscuits!

Escoffier Graduate Roslyn Ballard Stays On Track with Her GLEAM Mentor

Roslyn Ballard shares how grateful she is to have participated in the GLEAM mentorship program

Roslyn Ballard has two decades of experience in catering, serving dinners and party snacks to music industry folks in Los Angeles. Even with all that experience, she knew that she hadn’t hit her full potential yet in business, and decided that culinary school was a good next step. But those plans were put on hold when she couldn’t find a school in LA that felt like the right fit.

After COVID hit, Roslyn and her husband relocated to Detroit. When she looked into culinary schools again, she realized that she could study culinary arts online at Escoffier. It looked like an exciting way to get her education while moving forward with her plans of opening her own restaurant.

As her diploma program was drawing to a close, Roslyn found herself thinking, “I wish I could connect with some people who could help me navigate the process of going from culinary school student to making this [business] work.”* So when she heard about the GLEAM mentorship program, it sounded like the ideal solution.

“They matched me with the perfect mentor,”* she says. Her mentor helped her to stay on track and stick to her plan when she found herself unsure about next steps.

“Escoffier was my delicious piece of cake. And then being part of the GLEAM mentorship program was like the cherry and the whipped cream on top. It just made it even better.”*
Roslyn Ballard, Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Graduate

Roslyn’s “one big thing” was writing a business plan that could take her from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur. Her casual dining restaurant will focus on her amazing quiches, biscuits, soups and salads, kombuchas, and teas.

Through her mentorship, she identified the next major steps that she needs to complete to get her closer to finishing her business plan, including connecting with a property owner for a restaurant space and meeting with her financial advisor to discuss ways to generate income.

After completing her diploma program, Roslyn returned to Escoffier for her associate degree. Now that she has graduated, we’re looking forward to following her progress as she gets her business off the ground!

The Future of Mentorship

GLEAM has already made a major impact on the hospitality industry in just two years. At Escoffier, we’re proud to have been one of their earliest brand partners, and we look forward to continuing to work with their network to hopefully expand this student/alumni entrepreneurship program in the future.

And if you’re a current Escoffier student or alumni, you can apply here until August 22, 2022, to work with a professional mentor!

To get your culinary education, aka a “delicious piece of cake,” as Roslyn put it, contact our Admissions Department and discover which Escoffier program could be right for you.

To learn more about culinary entrepreneurship, read these articles next:

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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