Mom Next Door: Courtney Sinelli / Executive Vice President of Which Wich
Courtney Sinelli is a woman constantly in motion, often flitting from Which Wich’s Dallas headquarters to after-school pickup and delivering catering orders in a single afternoon. In 2003, the former journalist and lawyer founded the brand with her restaurateur husband of nearly 10 years, Jeff, and she’s lived and breathed all things Which Wich in every moment since. “We’re big believers in being the brand,” she says. “Our closet is yellow and black. I have yellow nail polish on right now!”
As executive vice president, Sinelli has been pivotal in growing the sandwich shop into a global empire. She oversees a multitude of special projects and runs Project PB&J, the company’s nonprofit organization. Most recently, she revamped the kids menu, a project sparked by her desire to provide better options for her own daughters: 7-year-old Story and 3-year-old Sky. (A children’s book to complement the new menu is in the works.)
It’s a full — at times exhausting — day-to-day, but a steadfast work ethic and relentless positive attitude propel her through it all. “There’s so much we can’t control,” she says. “So I try to keep improving at everything I do.”
What was the last thing you did before I called you?
I was delivering catering orders and got Starbucks on the way home.
Tell us about the new kids menu
I got other moms involved in the process and we brainstormed. Each sandwich comes with two healthy sides in a bento box.
Do the girls have a favorite item?
They love the Super Awesome Grilled Cheese and the Turkey Roll-Ups.
What’s Project PB&J all about?
It’s about a year and a half old now. We wanted to do something that allowed us to be hands-on in making a difference in our community and around the world. If you order a PB&J, one gets donated to the local community and one is allotted to a global fund. We help during natural disasters. We donate to a lot of homeless shelters, and we deliver to the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center every week. Last year, we broke the world record and made more than 26,000 PB&Js in one hour. We ended up donating to more than 20 charities throughout Dallas-Fort Worth.
What’s it like to work so closely with Jeff?
We get each other. We’ve been inseparable from the very beginning. We have opposite personalities so it works very well at the office. It takes both of us to run this thing well.
What do the girls think about the family business?
We involve them. They always ask if they can deliver sandwiches with me — if we’re doing a drop-off at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center. Occasionally, they go to the office with us on weekends. They know we’ve worked really hard for everything we have.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I’m not a morning person so I hit snooze. I wish school started at 9am.
What time does your alarm go off?
What’s the last thing you do before going to bed?
About a year ago, we started listening to a lullaby station on Pandora. We talk a little bit while we’re listening and the girls fall asleep. It’s my favorite time of the day — like all is well with the world.
What’s your favorite Which Wich?
I have two. The first is one I created and made Jeff put on the menu from day one: the Thank You Turkey. The other one is The Wicked.
What’s on your iPad/Kindle?
Unfortunately, I only get around to reading on airplanes. I’d rather sleep at this point in life. The book that I’ve had on my list is Life by Keith Richards. I like biographies.
I like Maroon 5 and hip-hop. We do a lot of dance parties around the house. I also like Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel.
Three things in your purse besides your cell phone and wallet
I always have baby wipes, lipstick, and a notepad. I’m constantly writing down ideas.
What’s one word to describe being the mom of two girls?
Happy. I’m so grateful and content all of the time. I had a brain tumor seven years ago. Thankfully, it was benign. But since then I feel like I’m so lucky to have every single day. Most people that have a brain tumor don’t get good news. Every day is like winning the lottery.
Three words to describe yourself
Loyal, hardworking and happy
One thing you can’t live without
Un-sweetened iced black tea
Favorite way to spend you time
Tennis. I’m a former competitive tennis player and just recently got back into it. It’s fun to rediscover something you’re good at.
How do you manage to keep everything balanced?
I just do my best every day. I don’t want to be at the office all day and miss out on getting them from school, so I’ve arranged it so that I can be there. It’s not easy, but it’s what I need to do. We have a great nanny and I couldn’t do this without her, but I don’t want her to be the one raising them. I want there to be a parent here as much as possible.
What’s your number one rule for the girls?
Be kind. I’m not a big rule person, but I want them to be kind to everyone.
Favorite meal to cook at home
I’m not a chef, but I’m pretty good at pancakes and eggs.
If you could invite anyone over for dinner, who would it be?
As far as celebrities go, it would probably be a mixture of journalists and rock stars — Anderson Cooper and Adam Levine.
Favorite places to frequent
We love going to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center [in Glen Rose], Coyote Drive-In [in Fort Worth] and the Dallas World Aquarium. [Jeff and I] like going to Dallas Mavericks games.
Good habit you’d like to pass on to the girls
Working hard. We don’t ever sit still, but it’s a constant choice. We’re always working hard at something. I hope they’re that way too.
Any bad habits?
I’m such a worrier.
The hardest part about being a mom
Best part about being a mom
Experiencing this unfathomable, fierce, infinite, all-consuming and completely crazy love — just watching the two magical humans that we somehow created in awe.
Last gift you gave
My kids each have a Lovie — one’s a cheetah and one’s a giraffe — so we always give a cheetah and a giraffe to our friends’ babies in a heart-shaped box with a book called Much Loved.
Last gift you received
I got a singing telegram for my birthday.
Most treasured gift you’ve ever received
Jeff gave me a Chanel Comète ring when Sky was born. It’s my favorite thing and will belong to her someday.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Besides the obvious like being able to cure disease and world peace? To not need sleep.
Favorite vacation destination
Anywhere with palm trees