It was a desire to give the very best that led Sarah Meyer to develop ROE Caviar. Always on the hunt for an unusual, thoughtful, and delicious gift, Sarah began sleuthing out the best caviar in town. Thanks to some close connections and friends with a shared fondness for caviar, Sarah decided to take the leap and embark upon becoming a fine foods entrepreneur. Sarah has a background in film and production and was able to apply her savvy to build ROE into a booming business—sharing the delights of seasonal and everyday Caviar for all.
Melissa: Tell me how your business has shifted during this pandemic? What are you doing differently?
Sarah: I took over the company 4 months before COVID came about in the United States, it was a big shift for all of us. We were only doing one person in the office at the time, especially during the lockdown, and that one person was me. My team was incredibly flexible—I would pack up all the boxes and they would come to pick them up and deliver them where they need to go. March and April were difficult months for us, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to our business during that time. However, with that said, it was caviar and that was not the most important thing going on in a global pandemic. We were just trying to be as flexible as we could. I then saw a magical shift in May, and we started seeing people order around Mother’s Day for their mothers, grandmothers, and loved ones. With all of our orders if someone asks, we will write a hand-written note. We were reading these beautiful notes that people were writing for one another and there was so much love. Thankfully, that really set the stage for the upcoming months for us. People were trying to find something extraordinary to bring into their ordinary dinner – whatever it was that they were having.
In terms of my personal life – I have three children and my baby was about 8 months at the time, and we did not have anyone else in the house with us to help. We were working while she napped for 2-4 hours in the day. My husband was also working from home, so thankfully I had him here to support me. I had my husband helping with the business and my children also offered to help pack boxes with me. As hard of a time that it was, there was also a ton of silver linings of being together. I am fortunate that I am able to work from home and have everything here and not have to go anywhere.
Melissa: How did your path lead you to ROE? Did you always have a love for caviar? Tell us that story.
Sarah: I worked in film for my entire career—while in college, after college…etc. I worked on films, in production offices, as a production assistant, all different kinds of things. In college, I lived with two friends who are brothers, and they are Russian-American. Their dad was living in Russia half the time. We were college students and it’s not like we were doing anything fancy, but their dad would come back from Russia to visit with a tub of caviar. For breakfast, my roommates would toast a piece of white bread and put butter and a ton of caviar on there. I would do the same thing, not knowing the cost of it at all! Anyways, my background was in film, and I was in the industry for upwards of 12 years, and my boss at the time who is a dear friend of mine had an affinity for fine foods, it is truly the way to his heart. At the time I was looking for a gift for him and his wife, who knew everything about fancy food—really just the finer things in life. I went to go buy them a gift of caviar at a great, reputable place, and the list was so extensive. I didn’t want to ask any questions because I was embarrassed so I ended up walking out with nothing. I called my old roommate and asked if he could help me, and he guided me, and this kicked off this hobby of getting caviar for friends. I gave the caviar to my then boss and his wife and he then asked if I could help him get more! Then I was buying for myself, for friends…etc. as gifts. We kept saying to my friend that he needs to start a business, and he said that he wanted to start it with us.
I was still working in film very full time, and my friend was running the business while my husband created all the packaging and logos and we just set out to start this business. We started with just two sizes—the two larges—the 125gram and the 250 grams. We had no idea what we were doing but we got a lot of great traction with customers. At the beginning it was something that I got involved with during holiday times but was not involved in the day-to-day. I really loved the business, but I couldn’t put my all into it because I was working for someone else. However, I was also pregnant with my third child and I really felt like I needed a change. Fast forward, and I ended up buying out my partners because it was something I was talking about for so long and I felt we created something great that needed more of my full-time attention. I had no idea what I was doing at first but working in production allowed me to stay organized. I love learning new things, so I just went for it.
Melissa: Amazing! What a story. How do you get the word out there that caviar is normal to have say, on a Friday night with girlfriends and doesn’t need to be saved for special times like New Year’s Eve?
Sarah: It is really important to me that people understand that it does not need to be a fancy dinner. I am not a fancy person myself. I put it on a piece of toast with butter, it is the best way to eat it. It does not need to be in a crystal bowl. I want people to understand that it can be simple food. You can make a baked potato and put it on there.
Melissa: What is your go-to way for eating it?
Sarah: There are so many ways. On toast points or on potatoes. I love it on potato chips with crème fraiche. We sell ROE bites which are mini potato pancakes, and they are delish on there. We sell the things that make it easy to eat them. I eat it for breakfast more than I do anything else like on scrambled eggs or bagels. The simpler the better.
Melissa: Sounds yummy! What is the most unusual place you’ve eaten caviar?
Sarah: Camping for sure. There is something about the food that you eat camping, and to add caviar to anything is just so much fun. It is incredibly easy to travel with and it is spreadable.
Melissa: Camping and caviar…polar opposites! What was this holiday season like at home for you? In terms of your business and celebrating?
Sarah: I had my busiest year this year with work. Again, with COVID, keeping a minimal team in the office was a challenge. I learned a lot this holiday season as I did not expect to have as many sales as I did. A lot of my boxes and things come from faraway places and it was hard to clear customs and so I ended up for the first time ever selling out of things. The packaging is really beautiful, and we do these gift sets with a spoon and a little key to open the tin. We sold out of those and we just had to adapt to make things work. It was really about bringing the extraordinary into the ordinary.
People were trying to find something extraordinary to bring into their ordinary dinner – whatever it was that they were having.
Melissa: That should be a new tagline! You are only direct to consumer, right? Do you have a physical space?
Sarah: No physical space. We are online, and we sell through Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Williams Sonoma and we are in some great specialty shops in LA—Helen’s Wines and Lady & Larder.
Melissa: What are your next plans for ROE?
Sarah: We introduced smoked salmon over the holidays which has been hard to keep in stock. I searched high and low for the right salmon as I wanted it to be thin, smoky, and not overly fishy. Over the holidays, we introduced some holiday boxes, and we had a perishable box and a non-perishable box. I tried to do what I would have on Christmas morning with my family, and also a box for the first night of Hanukkah. I want to do more of those. I have a new artist series with this great local LA artist—she is fantastic and made two beautiful boxes for us for Valentine’s Day. I want to continue the artist collaborations.
Also, it is really important to me that our caviar is fully sustainable and to continue on that path and to bring in more of the health benefits that caviar has to offer. Caviar has a ton of vitamin D, omega-3s and protein. There is no sugar in caviar or the salmon either. You are eating great food and getting something great out of it.