Meet Karen Schulz – Founder of Gramma Napoli’s Marinara Sauce

By | August 5, 2013

For years, Karen Schulz dreamed about starting a business around a cherished family recipe.

But it took 12 years for that dream to come true. She left a job planning events for Mercedes-Benz to start her family, not knowing if or when she would ever launch her venture.

“The hardest part was putting my dream on hold,” admits Karen, adding that she felt lucky to be able to stay at home with her kids.

Karen said she enjoyed feeding her family spaghetti and meat balls or stuffed shells covered with the

sauce her ‘Gramma Napoli’ had taught her to make. The kids gobbled it up and Karen’s friends always raved about it. The sauce has a fresh, light crispy taste like Italy, not overly sweet or too “tomato-ee”.

‘Gramma Napoli’ kept the recipe for marinara sauce a secret. She never came to visit without a pot of the coveted sauce and other homemade Italian treats. Gramma Napoli taught Karen how to prepare her Italian dishes and eventually shared the sauce recipe with her. The recipe is written on an olive oil-stained yellow index card. When she was 25, Karen’s grandmother passed away, leaving Karen to carry on the sauce-making tradition.

A few years ago, Karen started to think seriously about making spaghetti sauce.

She shared her plans with a friend who owns a gourmet food store in town. Her friend June, owner of June and Ho’s gourmet food store, not only provided guidance, but agreed to sell the sauce in her store.

“June got me to cross the line in the sand,” said Karen.

The first step: bring samples of the sauce to the store for a taste test.

When customers thought the sauce was amazing, June placed the first order. Her store is the perfect place for the homemade sauce because June’s store, on Purchase Street in Rye, NY caters to busy, sophisticated moms who

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want fresh and healthy food for their families. Order in hand, Karen had to make and deliver the sauce.

After shopping for jars at the local Ace Hardware, Karen asked another friend to help design the labels. Tina J, a talented graphic designer from New Orleans, combined a favorite old photo of Gramma Napoli with Karen’s tag line – “cooked with love– to create the label.

After nearly 13 years of thinking about it, Karen delivered her first dozen jars of Gramma Napoli sauce to June and Ho on October 27, 2010. The combination of supportive friends and happy customers, have kept the orders coming in.

“It was weird to think of others eating my Gramma’s sauce that has been such an institution in my family,” admits Karen. She said she loves that her kids are seeing her pursue a business venture she enjoys so much. “It’s been a very fluid and organic (process),” she said.

So, what’s next for Karen and this delicious sauce?

Karen is thinking about writing a cookbook featuring Gramma Napoli’s Italian specialties.

“I’m still in the germination phase, but it’s great to realize a small part of my idea from years ago,” she said. Right now, she only sells the sauce in Rye, NY. But, she may expand her distribution area or try selling it online.

At some point, the whole country may soon be enjoying Gramma Napoli’s secret sauce.

For questions or to order, email Karen at: [email protected]

Holly Hurd
Since founding, Holly Hurd has become a sought-after expert in the field of entrepreneurism. She recently spoke at the Women and the Entrepreneurial Spirit Conference in New York City, numerous CT venues, and has been featured in the New Canaan/Darien Magazine. Hurd has always been at the forefront of entrepreneurism. When she was only twenty-five, she was featured in Futures Magazine, USA Today and in Fortune‘s People to Watch column for her exceptional work managing her own fund on Wall Street. She has put her exciting life experiences to excellent use by creating, a resource and showcase for mom created ventures.