Equipped to Lead and Succeed

A Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley

by Alyssa Aninag

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Mary Clark Bartlett, University of San Francisco School of Management alumna, is the founder and CEO of Epicurean Group, a green-certified food service management company. Bartlett recently received the 2014 Woman of Influence award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal and was chosen for her business acumen and success.

The awards were given to 100 women in the Silicon Valley who are committed to making the Silicon Valley business community better. Bartlett, and the work she has done through Epicurean Group, was recognized for supporting the environment, providing healthy food for their clients, and encouraging sustainability in the Bay Area community.

During the past decade, she has grown her green-certified food contracting company to 450 employees, with operations at more than 35 restaurants on tech and university campuses. She also established Los Altos’ GreenTown Co-Op, which supplies compostable take-out containers to Bay Area restaurants at a discount, supporting a larger statewide plan to achieve zero waste. Her five-year goal is to double the company in size.

Bartlett attributes USF as the backbone of her success. “Majoring in economics really opened my eyes to understand what can be done. Learning supply and demand was essential, it’s so important to have that background -- especially in the field I’m in. I found economics and marketing so fascinating and coming out of USF I felt equipped to be able to move forward.”

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Epicurean Group

Bartlett’s personal values concerning education are evident in Epicurean Group’s values: to promote high achievement through advanced education and mentoring. Bartlett states, “We give our employees the opportunity to get an education by encouraging them to enroll in a class and covering the cost of their education. Oftentimes they’re learning English as a second language, so they’re taking writing and English courses. Other times, they’re learning accounting processes and math. We also encourage them to have a tutor in order to pass the class with a B or better.” Epicurean Group aims to create an atmosphere that encourages all employees to make positive changes. Bartlett says that an essential part of this learning cycle is learning how to fail.“I always say ‘fail forward.’ I want to emphasize the word forward because if you’re not moving towards something, you’re stagnant. You can’t stay rigid. If you are, you probably aren’t taking risks. In order to take risks you have to fail forward. Education is at the core, it’s what fuels the fire. Having a culinary background coupled with leadership is such a great foundation. It’s an enlightening experience, knowing that you have that solid education behind you.”

Epicurean Group advocates and is committed to socially responsible and environmentally sustainable food practices. “We have great relationships with suppliers,” says Bartlett. “Other food companies are only seeking the best prices in order to get rebates. But not us. We go directly to local sources. Yes, the quality food does cost more, but if you understand their economics and learn how to negotiate, it’s a win win for both parties. Food that is in season actually costs less. Knowing the pricing and margins, all these things we’re experts at, they have to do with education.”

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“We’re changing one environment - the food environment. We know that everyone is not ready to make that change and we understand that their agenda is not our agenda. But we’re willing to listen to those who believe their values match our values. A lot of meticulous details and a lot of work go into a movement to change hearts and minds. But at the very core of our mission and values is the belief that quality education makes for better professionals and better people.”

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