says Andrew Ly (B.S., '86), the CEO of Sugar
Bowl Bakery. "You might sell fat-free, low-carb items for the first
day and maybe the second, but it won't last. People who come into a
bakery are looking for taste."
For the past 20 years, the owner of one of the largest family-owned
and operated bakeries in Northern California has delivered just that.
Sugar Bowl sweets line the shelves of Bay Area retail stores, restaurants
and coffee shops, as well as Sam's Clubs and Costcos across the country.
Ly's recipe for success? "Work hard and intelligently, treat people
right and support the community."
Among the latter efforts, Sugar Bowl is a partnering company in SFSU's
new Family Business Center. Operated by the College of Business, the
center offers classes, workshops and retreats for those in family-owned
businesses. Sugar Bowl is providing financial support, advising and
suggestions concerning program planning.
Starting a business is never easy, but Ly had more than his share of
challenges. In 1975, he, his parents, four brothers and a sister made
their first of several unsuccessful attempts to flee their native Vietnam
by boat, witnessing the fatal shooting of a companion in the process.
Thanks to assistance from a Catholic charity, the Lys arrived in San
Francisco safely in 1979.
Sugar Bowl was born five years later when Ly and his brothers pooled
their savings to purchase a doughnut shop in San Francisco's Richmond
District. Ly was a bus boy, doughnut roller and delivery man. "I
did it all," he says.
While pursuing his degree in business administration at SFSU, Ly met
his future wife, Cindy, when they were assigned to work together on
a class project. Today they have two sons, ages 6 and 14.
Ly's four brothers hold key management positions in the bakery's six
retail stores. Among Sugar Bowl's 250 employees, you'll also find their
wives, a niece and nephew-in-law, and four nephews including Mark Ly
(B.S., '01), the director of sales and marketing.
Working with family is always challenging, says the CEO: "We all
have different philosophies. Most of the decisions are made without
consensus." Ly has found that communication and consideration of
personal feelings are the keys to avoiding meltdowns.
Although he envisions taking the company public someday, he'd like to
keep the business in the family. With nearly $36 million in sales this
year alone, this is likely one area where all the Lys can agree.
information on SFSU's Family Business Center: cob.sfsu.edu/fbc