EP 21 – From Pastry to Sales – Elise Schaefer

Presentation of the episode

On the 21th episode of the Virtual Selling podcast, our guest is Elise Schaefer, Sales Manager at Rollworks.

She tells us about her move from pastry to sales. Elise explains how she got her first job and progressed in her career.

About Elise Schaefer

To learn more about Elise Schaefer and Rollworks click on the links below :



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Hi, everybody. I’m very happy to be today with Elise Schaefer, Sales Manager at Rollworks. Hi Elisa. How are you doing?
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Great. How are you?

Fine. And we will talk a lot about your journey from pastry to a very nice position in sales today. But before could you introduce us to who is Rollworks and what you do?

Sure. So I’m Elise Schaefer, of course. So I work for NextRoll in the Roleworks product division. So next role is a company that really you know, as they say, they democratize advertising. So we have two different products. We’ve got Ad roll, which is, you know B to C and then we have role works, which is B2B. Role works, you know, also has the capability to do the advertising side, but it is an ABM platform. That is who Roleworks is.

And your background is not at all into ad tech and technology because you started a cursus more into pastry. Can you tell us a little bit about what you did five years ago?

Yeah, that’s always a really fun thing when someone peeks at my LinkedIn before they speak to me, whether it’s an interview process, whether I’m interviewing or they’re interviewing with me.
So I went to the cordon bleu in Minneapolis and graduated in my, you know, I think I was 21 or so 2021. And you know, I was in the pastry field for a minute. But there was a pay cap on the role that I was in. I’m in Omaha, Nebraska. So there’s not a lot that you can do to continue to further your career and you can be your own, you know, business owner, you’re own boss.
But even that only gets you so far. If your goal is to, you know, try to create more revenue for yourself, for your families. I was the north American Google data center pastry chef for Google and you know, they, I was making $16 an hour and 16, 50. I can’t recall exactly the number. And I knew, okay, this is a company I make between a 3% and a 5% raise every year.
And then they told me, okay, your role specifically has an $18 pay cap. And I said, okay. So I worked this job for however many years. I think at the time I’d actually done the math. I don’t recall now between a three to 5% raise and I hit that pay cap. And then what. And I had interviewed at a casino that was nearby because that would be, you know, in terms of financially, that would be like the most, you know, that would be the job that would pay me the most.
And when I was interviewing with the head chef, he was like, oh yeah, the pastry chef before you, he was working like 80/90 hours a week. And also we want to implement a new bread program. And he left because he wanted to spend time with family. And the pay was like 80 grand a year, which for me was like, oh my God, that’s so much money.
But he also in the same breath, he was saying that money. He was saying, oh yeah, the guy had like, no life, but he had family, which is why he left. So that what prompted me to get into pastry and I loved it. I still do.

Why at first you went to pastry? Because you were excited about pastry?

Yeah. Yeah. When I was little, I was one of those kids that would get in trouble for grabbing sticks of butter out of the refrigerator and eating it. And you know, I actually did go to a university here in the states for, I joke. I say it was about like five minutes. I went to university of Nebraska Omaha for think, I actually attended classes for about a semester.
And then I spent the rest of that year watching my favorite cartoon with my best friend and baking cookies and cakes and pies, and then selling them out of my dorm room with which is hilarious and great, but obviously not the, it was not the right college experience for me. So that’s, that’s actually, when I left and finally went to the Cordon Bleu, I was like, okay, I kind of blew it here. Knew where my real interests lied, but there’s lots of stories like that throughout my life, where I was just really, really drawn to baking whether it was kid or high school or college age.

Great. So I understand that you understood after some months into pastry that the most money you can make would be working 80 hours a week, which is too much. So you decided to change. And now we can say that you have achieved at least three or four times more money than the best chef you knew before reaching the end of their career. So what make you move and what was the move?

Yeah. I have two daughters now at the time I just had one, but to be completely honest, there were times in my life working in bakeries, I was on food stamps.
I was on government assistance. At one point I was on Medicaid, which is, you know, in the states it’s like free health care because you don’t make enough money. And when I got a little bit older, I was able to be enrolled. You know, because I’m a good pastry chef. Like I’m not bad.
And, you know, be able to get some of the jobs that did pay better and did have health insurance and holidays and, you know, weekends off and things like that. But, you know, health insurance still isn’t good. You know, those are things when you are kind of on your own as an adult, it’s kinda like blahzay, like, oh, if it happens, it happens.
But you know, when you, when you’ve got a kid in the mix, you really have to be thoughtful about the career choices that you’re making. And, you know, my daughter at the time just had a lot of food allergies and eczema, and so we were always ending up at the doctor for one reason or another. And You know, it got to a point where I was like, you know, I’d like to take my daughter on a vacation or I’d like to buy a home some day or, you know, the health insurance thing obviously. And it became something where I just knew that I needed to make a change. And that I didn’t have to give up pastry completely to do that.
I actually still do pop-ups in Omaha. The pop-up is like, you bring all your stuff to like a space. I like doing them at dive bars. Cause I, I love dive bars. But, you know, I do like plated pastry is, or you know, different things, but yeah, I still do it, but I just, I knew I needed to leave because I think at some point you have to call a spade, a spade when it comes to doing what you need for your mental health. So you don’t have to worry about everything all the time.
That’s for sure. And so you moved to sales. Was it difficult to move from pastry to sales to find your first job in sales?

It was, in some ways to be fair, there’s not a lot of places in Omaha, Nebraska, there to work in sales. And if you want to work in a specific tech space, whether it’s SAS or otherwise. There’s even less. And so I had an interview at flywheel and I didn’t have any sales experience other than I had worked at old town, which is like a makeup store when I was like 19. And so they were like, we think you’re really nice, but you know, we’d like to see some more experience.
And that was for an account executive position and so I was like, okay, well then I’ll go get that experience and then I’ll come back and then I’ll work for you. And I had found, they called themselves Thrive at the time they were Dex Dex media, which is a yellow pages advertising and yellow pages in digital advertising.
They were just breaking into like SAS and kind of rebranding themselves at the time. So marketing automation software is what they were selling alongside their yellow pages, but that Salesforce was not a difficult one to get in. I think because it was very old school, it’s more, more like a call center.
But you know, getting into the actual you know, SAS companies that, like two or three of them that were here at the time, getting in there was really difficult. You had to know someone and also you still needed to, for the most part, know how to do the job already, which was okay. It’s a catch 22, right.

And how did you come to Sales? Is it because you met some sales guy at Google when you worked there or tech also? What gives you inspiration to make this change?

This is actually a fun story that I haven’t really talked about. I was actually supposed to open up a bakery in Omaha and ’cause in this area called Benson, which is, you know, kind of like this hip bar and restaurant area.
And you know, any restaurant owner knows, like when you start doing renovations before you open you have to kind of be careful. You can’t really pay yourself too much. And so I had no way of making savings. And so, you know, at the same time that. I hadn’t known that I needed to make savings.
I told myself, and this is this story, by the way, I was kind of in between me knowing for sure that I needed to leave and me actually starting sales. So I had started this job at decks and it was 60 grand a year, which I was like, oh my God, that’s. I’m like a millionaire. And when I got there, I was supposed to only in my head, I was like, okay, I’ll work here for, you know, six months while we do renovations in the restaurant and then I’ll be done.
And just something happened with the business partner while I was looking at the paperwork, looking at the things that they were suggesting. And I was like, you know, I’m not actually, like, we don’t actually have to do this yet. Nothing had actually started. And it just didn’t feel right. And so I pulled out and I said, you know, if I’m, if I’m going to do it, it has to be my way.
It has to be the right way. And it has to be fair and equitable for both of us. And it wasn’t for me at the time. And so I said, best of luck to you. I’m going to part ways and I wound up staying in sales and I think about, you know, eight months into that job. I had been promoted twice and my manager and I were having a conversation.
And she said, you know, you have to decide that you’re all in, because right now you’re a roller coaster. You go up, you go down and that’s pretty normal for sales. She said, once you decide that you’re all in. You can really make a career for yourself. And, you know, that’s when, you know, I got to a point where I realized like, okay, all the, all those worries that I just told you about Gabriel, all those things. I was like, okay, this is the moment that I need to decide. And so I made a decision and that’s the accumulation of all those worries that I’d had as a young mom and as someone who just wanted some nicer things for my daughter and some things that I just couldn’t afford. Yeah. So I made that decision and that’s really how I landed in it.
But I don’t talk about that too much. It’s kind of a bumpy story.

And so you understood that you were good for sales at this time also because you already had two promotions after a few months, and you have no background in sales. What do you see makes you a good sales person without background?

I, you know, my dad is a business owner and my mom had shifted to a contracting position after like 13 years at a company. And, you know, as a kid, just seeing how hard the two of them worked. And of course, like growing up there were landlines. And so the phone was always ringing. Someone was always trying to sell something, whether it was the general telemarketers everyone’s parents gets to, you know, maybe the ones that were actually trying to sell my dad something more specific. He’s an electrical engineer. And I think for me, that always connected to me because it was really, it was really disruptive. It was annoying. No one likes telemarketers. But I think as a kid, I had always wished that they would just get to the point faster. And then as an adult and as a parent, I was thinking about, there’s this thing when you’re parenting and you tell your kid no.
But if you don’t explain why then why would they listen to you? And it’s a very basic thing and it works with, it’s not just children, it’s like basic human interaction. And I think I realized when I was on the sales floor, that I just wanted people to do what I would want them to do for me or what I would want, what I would have wanted for my parents when I was younger.
And so I just ran a very honest sales process. I was myself and anytime someone told me you know, say it’s specifically like this, you know, read the script. I would, you know, figure out what the script was, what the messaging was behind it. And then not use it. I would use my own vocabulary, so it sounded like me.
And if my clients needed education, I would just tell them, I would teach them all the things I had just learned in my training about marketing and anything that I knew that they needed to know in order to know that they were making the best decision for themselves.
And I think that’s what made a really big difference. I wasn’t taught a formal methodology in that sales org, but I figured out pretty quickly that no one wants to make a decision if they feel like you’re twisting their arm. And so, you know, all I needed to do was make sure that they had everything that they needed to feel like they were really making the right decision for their business because. They were small business owners. And as much as they’re buying with their business wallet, their business wallet is pretty close to their own wallet at that SMB size for how small they were. So I think, I think that’s what made the biggest difference on that sales floor for


So it’s really authenticity and empathy, I would say.


So after deciding to stay into sales and to be all in and having some more months in Decks, you came back to flywheel.

Yeah, it was getting to be around Christmas time and I had known someone that worked there in the customer success department.
And we were at a Christmas party and he said, you know, we’re hiring again. And so I spruced up my resume and I reapplied and that’s how I ended up just getting back into their interview rooms in their conference rooms.

And so you got the job this time.

Yeah, it was a very awkward interview. I think I actually was a well-known weird, a pretty small company. I think I did the finger gun. I don’t know if the French people do that. During my interview, I was so awkward. But yeah, they hired me.

Great. And there, you had a nice career and evolved after two years, less than two years, two to a team lead and then to sales manager. Can you tell us a little bit about this experience? I’m sure it was a foundation experience for you.

Yeah. You know, I think a lot of what got me there. So I already had some, I call it sales boot camp working in a call center. That’s very like you know, high pressure, high stakes, like their performance plans were less performance plans and more like perform or someone else will, and you can go perform somewhere else. And so when I got onto that sales floor, I had a lot of drive already, whether it was personal or whether it was just kind of a foundation that was set from a previous sales org. And I actually came in at an entry-level SDR position because they were hiring for their first SDR team.
And I’ll take a step back. It’ll kind of be like a break. Everyone who’s been in SDR knows that that’s not the case. It’s a very hard job, but it got me another skill set that I didn’t have really from my previous position. So what happened there is that, you know, we were very small.
I want think our sales team might’ve maybe somewhere between like 15 to 20 people when we had started. And I realized pretty quickly that there were a lot of things that we didn’t have. And a lot of it had to do with we just weren’t in that hiring stage yet. So sales operations, initially, we didn’t have it. Marketing operations was whoever on the marketing team happens to know about that tool and could help you, or you just get pointed to, you know, the software support team for that company. And, my colleague Kelsey Stokes actually got promoted from account executive into sales operations, and she was just one person.

And I realized pretty quickly that she was getting bogged down with tickets. And as an SDR team, there were all sorts of routing issues that we would deal with. And so I wound up taking a bunch of HubSpot courses, sales enablement certifications, just anything that I could get my hands on in the HubSpot academy that I thought would be relevant, I was taking it. And you know, all that context meant that I was also able to get to know our marketing partners better. And so I would just ask them questions. You know, what wound up happening is that, you know the team scaled and you know, I think we were at like 16 people by the time I became a sales manager or 16 people on the SDR team, excuse me, by the time I became a sales manager, but a lot of what got me that sales manager role was all those courses that I was taking and all the help that I was giving the sales org. And I think when you’re at that stage of a startup. Everyone needs all the help they can get. And it can certainly be bad for some people, cause they take too much on, but as long as you’re not taking on too much and also give you the opportunity to do things and learn things and get your hands into projects that you wouldn’t otherwise get elsewhere. And I think, you know, that’s really what happened between, you know, me getting me going from SDR to getting into management at flywheel. All the contexts that I had to the business even in the backend, like all the workflows and HubSpot I got to a point where I was just, I knew that we needed a new routing workflow, so I would build one and then I’d send it to sales ops, and then I’d say, Hey, does this look good?
And she would say, yeah, that looks great. Thank you for doing that. And other times she would say actually there’s something missing here. And she would teach me. And then the next time I would just do that instead. And so that’s really how all that knowledge came to be about.

But did you have time to learn on the Hubspot academia during your free time, was it easy with your daughters or did you do that at work or… How did you manage to learn while working and having your kids or two kids also?

Yeah. Some of it I did at home, but most of it I just did at work. I would like over lunch or something, I just kind of be hanging out at my desk and passively, like watching the videos and taking in the material. And, other times, you know, I had a leader that encouraged me when he eventually figured out that I was doing this, cause I, I didn’t really tell people I was doing it. I just was doing it. He started encouraging me to do it. And then would, you know, tell me to set aside maybe like 30 minutes to an hour each week to work on it.

And in terms of salary you made an increase from decks to flywheel and from SDR to sales manager. Can you tell us about those raises?

Yeah, it was actually a step back into SDR. And in SDR these are our Midwest pay and also you know, for anyone listening this was back in like 2018.
So things are different now. Right. But I think I was making around, I think 45 OTE as an SDR. And then when I got into sales management, it was one 20. And so I was holy cow, like that’s, that was an insane difference for me. I mean, that was life changing. And you know, it also gave me more stock options, which at the time I had befriended someone in finance. I had to call and be like, what is this? Like, I don’t know what this is. I’m from kitchens. Like you have to teach me. But yeah, it was a very, very big deal.

And after flywheel, you went to another company and we were already in the middle of the pandemic at this time.

Yes. Yep. So after flywheel we were actually acquired by WP engine in 2019.
And so I spent a lot of time working with WP engine. They were more like mid-market enterprises, whereas like flywheel, we were more SMB. And so I got to spend a lot of time working in managing teams on the WP engine side, and then assisted with the you know, the acquisition, the merger, whether it was like merging the systems, the HubSpot workflows were quite a project to be honest. But the methodologies that each team was using. And that was, you know, probably one of the more important projects I’ve had in my career, because it was like getting to work for a completely different company. And then also I was able to take one system that I already knew. And then another system that I taught myself quickly and then got to project, manage that with senior leadership and I think it gave me a platform that would have been difficult to have otherwise, but you know, I had WP engine after flywheel, of course, that, that merger and acquisition.
And then after that I actually left to go be head of business development at a French company called 360 learning, which you told me you’re familiar with.

I know it. It’s a great e-learning company in France.

Yes, of course. Yeah. It’s such a cool product and, you know, it’s interesting.
I didn’t really have any preference at the time the company that I had gone to tool-wise like what I was selling specifically or who I was selling to. And when 360 learning came along just then, the organization was just incredibly impressive in terms of how they communicate with each other. And the software itself is very sleek and, when it comes to remote onboarding and learning. I mean, it’s incredibly impressive. But yeah, that’s how I landed at 360 learning as head of business development and just helped to build out their different top of funnel teams. You know, working with demand gen and some of the routing that was happening, worked on you know, helping them understand, like, what are the KPIs that we need to focus on and how do we create a baseline of like, this is what good is.
And as well as you know, obviously you want to figure out like a lead scoring matrix and all of that stuff. That’s the work that I did there.

That’s interesting, but what is also interesting is that you are not working anymore for an Omaha Nebraska company, but for a Paris company or New York at this time, I believe.
So what made this change possible? Working from home? Forgetting about the boundaries with a virtual setting and the pandemic.

Yeah. You hit the nail on the head there. And I’ve mentioned that I’m in Omaha, Nebraska. There’s like, you can work for WP engine or you can work for toast. And as far as SAS products, that’s it. And I remember at the beginning of the pandemic I was panicking a little bit.
Because at that time I wasn’t just focused on getting to work remotely from home. I was thinking, oh my God, I know that I’m good at what I do. And I know I’m ready for another challenge. I can’t move, you know, I can’t take my daughters away from where we live now.
And did I stunt my career and that was at the very beginning of the pandemic. And as a pandemic moved on and people realized this whole time, when we’ve been saying that you can’t work remotely, sales aren’t successful remotely. Many companies realize that’s actually the opposite. Some sales teams, you know, depending on the leadership and of course, you know, how everything else is functioning, but some sales teams are significantly more successful remote, but you know, companies being open to remote work that allowed me to interview for companies, I would have never, ever had the opportunity interview for. And it also helped me network. I think I would not be, you know, getting to work with any of the caliber of people, because you can recruit from literally anywhere. You can go recruit the best talent from anywhere. There’s no boundaries. And so I think it’s made a significant change for me and who I can work with, whether it’s who’s hiring me or who I’m hiring. And it’s been, it’s been amazing.

It’s been a change also in terms of salaries again, because it increased again.

Yes. Yeah, like I said I’m in Omaha, Nebraska cost of living. You know, I don’t know what the stat is now, at one point they said it’s the best cost of living in the states or whatever.
And you know, I’m getting paid San Francisco salaries or like New York based salaries. And, I didn’t have to twist an arm to do it. The company is just we don’t care where you live. We’re going to pay you what we budgeted, what we know is fair because we also want the best talent.
And it’s been, you know, I’ve more than doubled the salary that I had when I initially went into sales management when I was getting paid a Omaha Nebraska sales manager salary. So it’s life changing to say the least.

Yeah. It’s almost a 20 time increase from pastry to what you have today, which is extraordinary.

Well I was able to buy a house. So it’s been a wild ride for sure.

Great. This episode was much longer than usual, but it was a very nice journey and stories. So thanks a lot Elise. This episode of the virtual thing podcast is over. Thanks for sticking around.
Join us twice a week for a new episode with new stories and challenges of giant in the field. If you enjoyed today’s episode. We are always listening to your feedback, share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don’t miss any episode.
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