By Paula Janssen WG’04, owner of Janssen’s Market
I knew that I was going into my family’s business when I started at Wharton. My goal was to learn as much as possible so that I could bring new ideas and methods to my family’s 50 year old gourmet grocery business. I was able to immerse myself in school and extracurriculars since I didn’t have to deal with those pesky interviews. I loved volunteering with the tax assistance program and the business plan competition and Rebuilding Together. I took all types of classes – finance, entrepreneurship, human capital, operations, marketing, even real estate. Going to business school opened my eyes to all of the possible career paths ahead of me that I was “giving up” to go into the family business. When I graduated, I thought I would professionalize the business, make it saleable, and move on.
Within a few years, I realized I love what I do. I wouldn’t change my place or the path I took to arrive here.
I have more than doubled the size of our business to revenues over $13M annually. 85 people depend on me to make decisions that ensure that they can feed their families. My family relies on me to preserve and grow our largest asset and maintain our reputation within the community. The business gives my family a good, steady income. But the best part is that I have the autonomy to decide the strategic direction of our business and how to secure a future for all of our stakeholders.
Grocery retail is not a sexy industry. Being the little guy in a space dominated by giants makes you focus on what you do well and how you can compete. Even 10 years later, I think about the subject matter of classes I took at Wharton. I use so much of what I learned on a daily basis.
Sometimes I question myself. Am I less of an entrepreneur if my business doesn’t have the growth potential of a biotech startup? Am I less of an entrepreneur if I am working in an industry known for slow and steady versus flash and zing?
And while those questions sometimes lurk over my shoulder, I love the freedom of my closely held business. I can make decisions that may not be profitable in the short term. I can support charities or make decisions in the best interest of my employees. I have built and developed a saleable business…but I don’t want to sell.
I am an entrepreneur and I love it. And I am not looking for an exit any time soon…
Bio: Paula Janssen (WG’04) is the general manager and an owner of Janssen’s Market LLC, a gourmet supermarket located in Wilmington, Delaware. Paula is on the board of directors of the Delaware Food Industry Council and volunteers her time with several local non-profit organizations. Janssen’s Market has won several local awards including the Better Business Bureau Family Business Award for Delaware.