Melissa Greenwald has met and done business in an energetic and enthusiastic manner with countless people since her career in the foodservice industry began in earnest back in 2005. But as the president of Greenwald Sales & Marketing, one person in particular stands above all in terms of responsibility for guiding and developing Greenwald into the successful business owner and manufacturers’ representative that she is today.
Her father, Tom Greenwald, began in the industry in 1971 as a dealer sales rep. In 1978, he began his career as a manufacturers’ rep, and 7 years later he and his partner, John Pusey, purchased Top O’ The Table Inc., an Ohio-based manufacturers’ rep firm. Tom served as the president and in 2008 sold Top O’ The Table to Zink Foodservice, another Ohio-based rep firm. He then started a consulting company, TMG Enterprises, and worked in the industry providing consulting services. He died in November of 2014.
“My dad was a huge influence on how I market my own business,” Melissa Greenwald says. “He was a great mentor, role model, best friend and dad. I don’t get to bounce ideas off him, but I use his strategies and mantras to guide this business.”
And guide it very well. So well, in fact, that Melissa Greenwald has garnered the Foodservice Equipment & Supplies 2022 Top Achiever — Manufacturers’ Representative Award. “I’m so humbled and so grateful to win this award,” Greenwald says. “It means the world to us as a young organization, and to have this under our belt is great for the organization. It’s beyond exciting.”
Based in Columbus, Ohio, and founded in 2017, Greenwald Sales & Marketing represents manufacturers of tabletop, smallwares and light equipment in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. One of the foundational pieces of Greenwald Sales & Marketing’s success in its five years of existence is its president’s adherence to two of Tom Greenwald’s tenets. “The first is that sales is pretty easy,” Melissa Greenwald says. “You just show up and follow up. And the second is that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I use that a lot for various things in business whether it’s showroom location, manufacturer-partner relationships or our own projects.”
Another trait Melissa Greenwald inherited from her father and one that she leverages very well is an exemplary expertise in the field of tabletop items and smallwares. “My dad’s business focused on that,” she says. “And that’s what I learned from. I’ve known that my whole life. I’ve always been a ‘plate-flipper.’ The first thing I do when I go somewhere is I flip the plate over to see who the manufacturer is, but just by looking at it, I usually know.”
While being able to quickly identify the maker of a given piece of china is something that Melissa Greenwald knows with a great deal of certainty, she also has dealt with an ample amount of uncertainty, such as in January 2017 when she left another firm and began her own business. “It was a big risk,” she says. “I took a big leap and a huge risk, but because of the relationships within the industry, we had success and hit the ground running with product portfolios and manufacturer partners.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made, but I can’t say that when I’m standing next to my husband because he was the best decision I’ve ever made,” Melissa Greenwald adds with a laugh. “But this was the best career decision I’ve made.”
Greenwald Sales & Marketing opened with Melissa Greenwald and one other coworker and two lines. Since then, it has blossomed into a staff of 10 people with 16 lines. “We operate on a system of core values, and we stay true to those core values,” she says. “The way we hire people and do business results in success. We operate with a higher level of integrity and professionalism.”
While Greenwald Sales & Marketing does operate within those parameters of integrity and professionalism, Melissa Greenwald and her staff also bring a strong element of humor to the business. Take, for example, a Feb. 5 tweet from the company’s Twitter handle @greenwald_sales. In honor of Ice Cream is for Breakfast Day (yes, that is a thing), Melissa Greenwald, sporting a pink bathrobe, snapped a selfie showcasing ice cream in a dish made by one of the factories the firm represents.
For Valentine’s Day, the firm’s Twitter account wished everyone love and happiness while posting adjoining pictures of a banana, strawberry and whipped cream treat in a tumbler along with two drinking glasses with strawberries and blueberries floating in an adult beverage.
“We embrace our social media presence,” Melissa Greenwald says. “We’ve created a fun, light-spirited presence. Our social media presence is that we’re fun, we’re happy, we’re engaging. That’s a competitive advantage for us. You can’t take yourself too seriously. You have to be vulnerable a little bit and be your true self with customers and partners. That builds trust, and trust is important when trying to sell product to somebody.”
Don’t mistake Melissa Greenwald’s willingness to have a little fun for a lack of focus, though. Nothing could be farther from the truth. “We do follow our core value system of operating with a high level of integrity and professionalism,” she adds. “Foodservice is a fun industry. We embrace Millennials as a generation full of talent, and we have taken folks of that generation and put them in positions of authority to make decisions. We give our Millennials authority on sales, social media, marketing and how we go to market.”
What Melissa Greenwald and her firm have done has not gone unnoticed. Just this year, for example, the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry presented her with the organization’s Tony Award, bestowed upon an individual MAFSI representative member who “has consistently performed and demonstrated sincere interest, effort and leadership and has given time to the welfare and progress of MAFSI. The winner of the award enhances the manufacturers’ agents’ function and position in the industry.”
A licensed attorney in Ohio, Melissa Greenwald also serves as a member of MAFSI’s board of directors. “It’s a way to give back to the industry, and I dedicate a lot of time and energy to MAFSI,” she says. “We wanted to provide that exposure at every level of our organization. The value of the conference is invaluable for networking, concepts and discussions for our sales force as we promote functions of the reps.”
Another way that Melissa Greenwald gives back is by serving as an excellent resource for those in the foodservice industry who have queries or are seeking professional advice. Have a question? She will rely on her experience and wisdom to answer it. “Whenever I can provide assistance to someone, I’m happy to do that,” she says. “I’m an open book and willing to share ideas and promote success stories so we can all be successful as rep organizations.”
Asked & Answered
What percentage of your time do you keep unscheduled (not counting when you are sleeping)?
I would say very little. Oh, gosh, probably less than 5%. I’m the mother of a two-year-old boy [Joseph], and I have to have time well slated out in order to accomplish a full work-life balance.
What’s the most important lesson you learned that you still use today?
The most important lesson is to always do the right thing. Do that and you
automatically create a path that results in success, excellence, trust and greatness.
If you could go back in time five or ten years, what decision would you make differently?
If I could go back 10 years ago, I would start my rep agency five years sooner than I actually did. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s been such a great journey and I would have liked that journey to start sooner. “But timing is everything, and everything happens for a reason. Our timing was perfect, and it could not have been better to have the success that we’ve had.
How do you stay inspired?
Every day what inspires me the most is to look into my son’s eyes and see his sparkle. That drives me and fuels me to have the passion to be successful and be a mentor and role model to him.