Tips for Starting Your Own Business: Sarah Levy, Sarah's Pastries & Candies

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Sarah Levy at Oak Street store

Small businesses drive our economy.  They are apt to hire more workers than their corporate counterparts in a sluggish job market.  They are the vision for our future with cutting-edge ideas and passion.  Is it time for you to take a leap and implement your business plan for your own idea and stop applying on-line for the small number of jobs available at IBM and Kraft?


What does it take to start your own business?  Is it something that you've always wanted to do, but didn't know where to start? Do you have a product or service in mind that you are passionate about? Are you committed to making the sacrifices it takes to have a successful business?  There's always a risk when you start your own business, but so is working for someone else these days!


One of Chicago's successful small businesses is Sarah's Pastries & Candies ( which specializes in cakes, pastries and chocolate candies that make Chicago favorite, Fannie May, jealous!  Founder, Sarah Levy, started her company at the young age of 22 out of her mother's kitchen in Lincoln Park.  Always a lover of sweets, she was compelled to create a recipe for chocolate delights.


After receiving her degree from Northwestern University in Sociology, attending the French Pastry School, and interning at Spago's in Beverly Hills, she founded her company in 2004.  Sarah and her assistants, Alexa Sindelar and Rafael Ornelas made candies and pastries in her mom's kitchen and sold them to Whole Foods, Southport Groceries and Olivia's Foods.  Sarah spent 6 months attempting to get her candies into Whole Foods, but finally got them to carry her product in 17 stores!  She was on her way to a successful business.


After 1 ½ years of filling orders out of her mother's kitchen, Sarah started sharing a kitchen in Lyons, IL. In September, 2005, she opened her first retail location at 70 E Oak Street where patrons can be seen on the patio dipping chocolate pastries in their latte on a summer day.  Her next location was opened at Macy's on the corner of Wabash and Randolph where she is the only place left downtown to get a bakery cake.


One of her goals is to increase her wedding cake business, of which, she now averages eight a weekend.  Her clients include the Four Seasons, the Ritz Carlton and the Knickerbocker Hotel, along with numerous private clients.  Her candies will soon be available at the Indianapolis airport and her corporate gift baskets are popular with the corporate set.


Sarah offered the following tips for starting a business:


  • Keep your costs down when starting your business by starting it out of your home while you experiment with your product
  • Get a good relationship with a bank to support you during difficult cash flow periods
  • Don't be afraid of growth, just get the business and know you can fill the orders
  • Focus on a quality product and great customer service
  • Hire great people that will support your business and have a positive attitude
  • Don't spend money on PR, at least at the beginning, you are your best promoter of your product


Sarah last words to me were, "You make your business work.  You'd be amazed at what you can do!" These are words that we should all heed; inspiring words for an inspiring woman. Contact Sarah at or check out her website at






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  • Congrats, what a wonderful success story. As a person who owns their own consulting business I understand and applaud the success you have achieved.

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