Leading by entrepreneurship

Role model Sharon Van Meter empowers newbies.
sharon van meter

When restaurateur Phil Romano invited Sharon Van Meter to move her culinary team-building business to Trinity Groves, his West Dallas restaurant incubator and retail center, she had no interest. “I started SVM Productions with $10,000 and grew it to a $3 million business. I was doing very well where I was,” she says. But as soon as she saw the dilapidated warehouse area, she “got it,” she says. “I was intrigued by the idea of being able to nurture new talent.”

At Trinity Groves, chefs sign a 50-50 ownership agreement with Romano on a 2,500-square-foot space to open a restaurant concept or food business. This is where Van Meter’s expertise comes in.

“I call my office ‘The Confessional,’ she says. “Many are first-time restaurateurs, and they don’t understand the implications of a partnership. After more than 35 years in the business, I’m moving into a new role as a cheerleader for entrepreneurs.” 

Van Meter’s leadership tips:

  • Great leaders have to be great servants first. Your job in the world is to serve others, then you can become a great leader.
  • Leadership is about recognizing talent within your organization and giving everyone in the company a sense of ownership. Then allow those people to work to the best of their ability.
  • Find an incredible mentor. Keep your search gender-neutral. The most important thing is to tap the right person to develop your leadership skills.
  • Work outside the industry. Van Meter took a job at Toys ’R’ Us for six weeks during one holiday season. “At the time, I was so focused on my restaurant’s back-of-house. Getting out in front of customers made me really think about satisfying the needs of the consumer.” 

Honoring women of impact

Van Meter is a recipient of the Live It! Women With Impact recognition from the Women’s Foodservice Forum, in partnership with Winsight. Other honorees: Lorna Donatone and Sophie Bellon, Sodexo; Shirley Everett, Stanford R&DE.

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