As 2020 dawned Michele Roesch ’22 found that her business, Brasserie Bar and Bistro in Camillus, was truly hitting its stride. The restaurant, which Roesch co-owns with her mother, Nora, had been open for a little more than five years. It had met its financial targets and put in place a talented, cohesive staff. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Suddenly Roesch, like so many others in the famously competitive and unpredictable industry, had to completely rethink her business model in order to keep her customers and employees safe. She vividly remembers spending Easter of 2020 at the brasserie with her staff, carefully preparing takeout meals and delivering them to hungry patrons patiently waiting in their cars, many of them eager for a sense of normalcy at a deeply unsettling time.
In the nearly two years that have passed since then, Roesch has had the opportunity to reflect on what has helped Brasserie Bar and Bistro survive the global health crisis when so many other restaurants sadly did not. It’s clear that the experience she and her mother had accrued since opening the business in July of 2015 played a significant role in its success. So did Roesch’s time as a student in Le Moyne’s MBA Program in the Madden School of Business. The Central New York native has always loved learning., and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. But it wasn’t until she and her mother had founded their business, and Roesch had enrolled in the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program, that she realized how much she missed being in the classroom.
After researching various programs, she enrolled in Le Moyne and immediately knew she’d found the right fit. Not only were her classes thought provoking and challenging, but they were applicable. She could immediately put the lessons she learned on the Heights – about building team morale, focusing on your organization’s mission and thinking creatively – into practice as a business owner. In the meantime, the brasserie has continued to adapt and to model success. It has the distinction of being one of the few restaurants in the area to offer full benefits to its employees and was selected to host Sen. Charles Schumer when he came to Central New York to announce a $25 billion restaurant relief program.
“I’ve learned two especially important lessons throughout this challenging time,” she says. “The first is that to be successful you have to stay on your toes and be adaptable. The second is that the core of any business is its team and the relationships that sustain it. If you lose sight of either one of those things, it could mean the difference between success and failure, especially in this industry.
“Beyond that, you have to keep learning and growing.”
This is part of a series of stories on students pursuing a graduate degree from the Madden School of Business.