Joe Maroun ’89 Turns Baking into a Multi-Million Dollar Wholesale Business

Joe Maroun ’89 Turns Baking into a Multi-Million Dollar Wholesale Business

In a recent CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn and early investor in Facebook described Silicon Valley as “a living network of knowledge” where you can “connect yourself to central nodes in the network.”

Joe Maroun is one of those central nodes in the Silicon Valley baking industry. Maroun ’89 majored in business at Menlo College, and transformed pita bread, bagels, bagel thins, sandwich thins, and other bread products into a multi-million dollar national wholesale business.

At Menlo College, he interned at the Hyatt Hotels under the tutelage of Chuck Vanderlip, who was a long—standing Professor of Marketing at Menlo. Maroun was offered a job at Hyatt, but his sense of family duty pulled him to work in his father’s business.

His father, Joe Maroun Sr., a retired Pan Am pilot, and mother Carmen started Caravan Bakery in 1975. In 1980, they added a deli in Redwood City. Maroun witnessed first-hand what was required to expand a business. He also understood the meaning of family. Maroun joined the family business upon graduation with the commitment to his family to grow the business.

After specialized learning at the American Institute of Baking, Maroun met Len Helfich at Thomas’ Products, bakers of the original Thomas English Muffins, and a 20+ year mentorship in baking was formed. Selling to major grocery stores such as Safeway, Maroun employed 400 people and grew the size of the manufacturing operation to keep up with demand. By the 2000s, Maroun’s wholesale pita bread, bagel, Boboli, military, Hispanic bread product, and frozen dough business was part of a market nearing $80 million in annual national sales.

His advice for entrepreneurs is to “Commit to what you’re doing, learn to sacrifice, and do the hard work. Failure will happen. You might have family issues or partnership disagreements. Don’t beat yourself up. Understand the issues at hand and have a plan A, B…and C. Earn respect from your employees and do not act like you’re above them. The people who work for you can make or break you.”

Maroun sold his business in 2010 to two private equity firms, but he didn’t stay unemployed for long. After consulting in the bakery space for several years, he opened two Posh Bagel retail stores in Castro Valley and Mountain View in 2015. He noted, “As long as you have fire in the belly and can be a productive member of society and provide jobs, you can wake up every morning feeling you have made difference.”

Maroun now has introduced his son J.C. to the business. J.C. will start attending Menlo College in the fall, concentrating in entrepreneurship. He is also learning about business from the ground up, and is described by Maroun as “my eyes” in the day-to-day management of the new businesses.

J.C. isn’t sure where he’ll end up in business, but he’s looking forward to Menlo’s small campus, personal atmosphere, and great professors. While at Menlo College, J.C. might also try his hand at an internship in different field.

Maroun recalled his favorite professor, Donna Little. “Professor Little is very smart. Her two accounting courses and her business classes made a huge impression on me.” Maroun graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and remembers, “Since I was always looking for an angle, she used to tease me that I was going to be a rich man, or I’d end up in jail. I couldn’t let her down, so I made sure to be honest and successful!”