RousseauDEGREES: B.A. in English; M.B.A., Babson College

JOB TITLE: President, Beyond the Shaker

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: I’d have to say four years of rugby! The men’s rugby team in the mid-to-late ’90s was a tight group. In fact, that’s also true of the women’s rugby team. All of us were (and still are) great friends.

How did you come to own a sea salt company? While earning my M.B.A. from Babson, I was seeking out a small-company acquisition. I looked at many different businesses in a wide range of industries and spent the better part of two years searching and analyzing different opportunities. I met with business owners to learn from them, and I met with business brokers to uncover additional opportunities. I almost gave up because I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Feeling a bit dejected, I decided to pivot my search from established businesses for sale to start-ups for sale. Beyond the Shaker was a start-up, and it hit every criterion that I was looking for in a small business. I immediately engaged the owners and flew out to Michigan, where the business was located, to meet with them and to learn the daily operations. When I returned home, we finished negotiations, completed the necessary paperwork, and shortly afterward I packed up their small warehouse and moved the business to Massachusetts.

What should the everyday consumer know about salt? Toss the table salt! Table salt is mass produced and refined, but don’t let the word “refined” fool you. Refined salt contains additives and chemicals to prevent it from caking or clumping. It also has a higher sodium content, and all the wonderful, natural minerals are stripped during the refining process. Not to mention the taste; you may think salt is salt, but it’s not. If you compare table salt with Fleur de Sel or Cyprus Flake, it’s likely you’ll toss the shaker and embrace a world of salt that you didn’t even know existed.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I love playing with amazing ingredients every day. It’s incredibly fun and rewarding to mix herbs and spices from around the world with beautiful crystals of sea salt, creating a new salt blend that is unique to Beyond the Shaker. I also enjoy seeing meaningful growth. When I took over the business, the majority of the revenue was via e-commerce. I decided to spend my time focusing on the wholesale side, and that is the primary driver of revenue today. We successfully completed some large purchase orders with TJ Maxx, and we are part of the Whole Foods family. As exciting as that might be, future growth is always on my mind, and that’s what keeps me up at night.

What is your favorite salt to use when you cook? Why? That’s tough because there are so many different applications depending on what you’re cooking, what you’re in the mood for, etc. I will say that I use Jalapeno Fiesta on almost everything since I love spicy foods. I also love to use smoked salts; it’s a really fun and easy way to change the flavor profile of something you might eat often like roasted veggies. These salts we primarily use as “finishing salts” – just a little sprinkle atop your dinner before you eat. When we “pre-salt” our food (before cooking), it’s exclusively Himalayan Pink since it’s pure with high salinity, which means a little bit goes a long way, and you can keep your sodium intake low.

Was there a Trinity professor who was particularly influential? If so, who was it, and why? For me there were many, and it’s difficult to remember all of their names since I graduated in ’99. Off the top of my head, Ron Thomas made me a better student, and Hugh Ogden helped with poetry and creativity.

How did your experiences at Trinity prepare you for what you do today? As a liberal arts student, taking classes in English, science, economics, theater, etc., I constantly had to change focus and wear a different hat. One moment I would be reading a Shakespearean sonnet, and the next I would be reading a textbook for physics or economics. I think that prepared me to wear many hats today. In a typical day, I will analyze my accounting reports, work on new label designs, answer calls from prospects and customers, and work on new marketing materials. Obviously I don’t get all this done every single day, but I’m constantly jumping from one project to another and need to change focus pretty quickly.