Reporter World Forum

Paul Saginaw « Always looking forward »

Paul Saginaw, co-founder of the Zingerman’s business community, only started with a sandwich restaurant employing his partner and himself. Now, he has 17 partners, 12 businesses, more than 800 employees and generates over $68 million in annual sales. This ambitious and inspiring entrepreneur came to the local branding conference in order to explain his vision of business, deeply rooted to the local communities.


Why is it significant for you to be giving this speech in this the 12th edition of the WFRE focusing on the idea of super local?

It’s a great honour to be invited to this World Forum in Lille! We are small businesses, in a small town. So, the fact that somebody from outside the US knows that we exist is a really big deal. I’m really proud and surprised to be here. Being part of those different networking and sharing highly different experiences from all around the world is extremely inspiring!


With such a business growth, why did you choose to stay local?

For my partner and I, it was a “lifestyle choice”. I remember growing up, going to the small businesses, everybody knew your name and it was very friendly. For me, it seemed to be a very joyful way to live. This is why I wanted to create something in this perspective, by staying very local, in the same community. I’m also lucky to have found a partner who shares the same values.

So, we started from the premise that we had enough. From there, we were free from pressure and had the freedom to innovate and to be generous. We share the profit within the community.


How do you see your future?

That’s a good question, because I’m always looking forward. The goal, is not to look at the mistakes we made but, the joy we gave and everything we have accomplished so far. I care about people, and therefore, I tried to make more links in the community and make businesses better for people.


What do you stand for? What do you love in your job?

I do love my job and what I’m doing with my partners. I like to see the result of what we achieved with the multiple actors involved. I’m really ambitious about building unique and innovating businesses. I really like being able to look at what has been accomplished, all those jobs which have been created, those links that we created between people in the community.

In this business strategy we want the people to feel good. Then, I focus on what remains to be achieved and I try to be even more innovative. We created spiritual communities around the same values. Now, a lot of people come to look at our model and get inspired.


How do you choose among the people who want to join your business model, who could be good partners?

We interview the people to know if their business plan makes sense, if they share the same values. If everything seems good we say:  “ok let’s try it”. Of course, not everything succeeds but we learn from certain failures and as I said earlier, we look forward. It is not interesting to talk about your failures.