Debra Sandler is the founder and CEO of Mavis Foods, a family business she started as a passion. Sandler and her daughter Kiah created a family legacy through a family recipe, Bazodee Caribbean sauces, as stated by Forbes. Sandler said she started the business out of her desire to build generational wealth.
Her business idea was formed after she had asked her aunt Mavis to show her how to cook and make some of the family sauces. “My role as a single mother is to make sure that I am building generational wealth,” Sandler told Forbes.
“We don’t always have it in black families,” she said. “I was a good earner, but especially as you get older, you start thinking about, ‘how do I set this thing up that all that I’ve earned long after I’m gone my great, great-grandchildren are benefiting in some way?”
Sandler started her career at Pepsi Co., working in marketing as a vice president. After 13 years at the beverage company, she was hired by Johnson and Johnson to launch Splenda, which led to a new division within the company to focus on nutrition.
She transitioned from vice president to president at the internal startup, and it was here that her fondness for business models emerged, according to Forbes. After a decade at Johnson and Johnson, Sandler left and went on to lead a North American confectionery business called Mars. She later transitioned to her first board governance position.
“That was always in my plan that I would do that,” she told Forbes. “I’m a planner, and slowly but surely, I built my board practice from my first board work in 2015 to now sitting on four corporate boards and one private board. When you first transition into board work, everybody tells you that it’ll take a while and don’t get discouraged. I did get my first board seat a little bit sooner than planned, but it was a good year before my second board, and then two years between the second and third boards.”
Sandler had gone from running a $4 billion business with 10 factories and 1000s of people to board work, and she had capacity. “I needed some of that capacity because my mom was elderly, and I needed to spend time with her. But I also still had capacity. And that’s when the idea for Bazodee came about, and Mavis Foods came about,” she explained.
She said spending more time with her family made her see the opportunity of the sauces she had had her whole life. Sandler’s aunt Mavis had made the sauces and sold them to her neighbors and friends. She would later show Sandler how to prepare the sauces. And as Sandler learned about the nuances of the spices used in the recipe, the idea for her business formed, according to Forbes.
Sandler said running her business keeps her current in the consumer package goods industry. At the same time, she is building a legacy for her daughter to continue the tradition.