They weren’t even friends when they launched a 20-year partnership. “We didn’t know each other until we started the business,” said Susan Smederovac-Wilcox, who created The Herb Box with Becky J. Windels in 1995. “We heard about each other and met for breakfast. I said, ‘If you can cook it, I can sell it.’ We were very young and said, ‘Why not, we’ve got nothing to lose.’”
What blossomed was The Herb Box, a critically acclaimed catering company and casual dining establishment with two Scottsdale locations. The establishments serve some of the healthiest and most creative dishes in the Valley.
“The magic to our relationship is we each have equally impressive skill sets and they don’t cross whatsoever,” Smederovac-Wilcox said. “Not only do they not cross, we are not interested in each other’s piece of business.”
Windels takes care of the food. “I have a huge passion for being in the kitchen,” she said. “It’s my therapy. It’s my happy place.” Smederovac-Wilcox handles the business. “I thoroughly enjoy playing the big game,” she said, “and that’s the game of business.”
While she enjoys the game, Smederovac-Wilcox points out that it’s still a game mostly played by men. “We still have to deal with people who look at us as girls, not women in business,” she said. “The most common question we are asked is, ‘Are you two best friends?’ You’d never sit down with two businessmen and ask them if they were best friends. It would just be weird. We just have to go in there that much more sure of ourselves, that much more prepared and that much more driven.”
That drive had led the pair to create a recipe for success. Eight years after launching their prosperous catering company, their customers clamored for them to open a restaurant, sometimes sitting in the parking lot outside of the catering business, eating food from The Herb Box.
“Opening a door to wait for people to come in wasn’t something we wanted to do,” Smederovac-Wilcox. “We were pulled into this kicking and screaming. But we built the business by listening to what our customers were asking us to do.”
Now, the business partners have a goal to open at least 10 Herb Boxes, with two more in Arizona and the rest out of state. “We don’t want to lose who we are in the meantime,” Smederovac-Wilcox said. “We will continue to feed our customers really good food that keeps them very healthy.”