University of Southern California

Hot Pockets: An Entrepreneur's Success Story
Chef America, Inc. Co-founder Shares His Journey Building a Family Business
May 8, 2012 • by News at Marshall

The USC Marshall Entrepreneur and Venture Management Association (EVMA) hosted Chef America, Inc. co-founder, David Merage, as part of its entrepreneur speakers’ series on April 5. Chef America, Inc. is a frozen food manufacturing company known for inventing products such as Hot Pockets, Lean Pockets and Croissant Pockets.

During the discussion, Merage emphasized the importance of not planning every single step of a business, but rather taking advantage of opportunities. Merage and his brother Paul initially launched their business in 1977, producing frozen Belgian waffles. Although neither brother had experience in the food industry, they bought cookbooks, experimented with recipes, and even took a trip to Belgium to conduct research.

Two years later, Chef America Inc. became the number one company for mass-producing frozen Belgian waffles in the world, according to Merage. As the company continued to expand, the Merage brothers decided that they wanted to create another product, and in 1980 introduced the Hot Pocket.

While Merage said he and his brother faced challenges with their business, they viewed every hurdle as an opportunity to improve and revamp—including a fire and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Merage charged students to find their passion: "You have to love and enjoy your work because if it feels like a chore for you, then it won’t be rewarding," he said.

According to Merage, the secret of success is:
  • Have a "can do" attitude
  • Be committed to your goals
  • Promote creativity
  • Treat people with respect
  • Have fun

EVMA is a USC Marshall student-run organization whose goal is to encourage and promote entrepreneurship.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.