Holy Family University Senior and Saxbys Inaugural Student Cafe Executive Officer Beth Montgomery Masterfully Handles What Life Serves Her

Four weeks into her college career as an 18-year-old freshman at Holy Family University in September 2019, while walking down a hallway in the Campus Center, Beth Montgomery suffered a stroke. In hindsight, that event, and her recovery from it, has played a big role in her success.

“I was on campus and walking down the hallway, and I started to limp, and I didn’t know why,” Montgomery said in remembering the setback.  “And throughout that day, I was feeling drowsy.  My hand wasn’t working properly.  I didn’t think anything of it. I was 18.” 

A call to the doctor put her in the hospital, where she spent the next two weeks, before moving onto rehabilitation for another two weeks where she relearned to walk.  

“That month-long experience was a pretty quick time to recover from a stroke, and it put me behind a semester, but it also made me realize my own strength and helped me decide that I didn’t want my college career to be sitting in the background.”

In fact, Montgomery credits the medical event with giving her the determination and resilience to pursue what has been the most challenging assignment of her life – a six-month internship as the inaugural Student Cafe Executive Officer (SCEO) of the newly launched Saxbys cafe that opened its doors on campus in August 2023.  The internship ended December 15, 2o23, just in time for the now 23-year-old Montgomery to receive her diploma in management marketing.  In addition to being trained and supported by Saxbys Founder & CEO Nick Bayer and her Head of Area Operations Sean Zamichieli, Montgomery drew a salary and received a full semester of credits while overseeing the cafe’s operations from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and growing a team.

Montgomery recently presented a review of her experience to a panel of 17 people, including Bayer, Holy Family President Dr. Anne Prisco, and a committee of Saxbys leaders, many of whom advanced from similar student roles at Saxbys cafes on other college campuses.

“I was so excited about the opportunity to give a presentation about what I had experienced in this role,” Montgomery said. “I like that Saxbys and the higher-ups wanted to hear both the pros and the cons, and my experience. I can’t believe I was given this chance to learn and grow, to be fully immersed in running a business. Because of my experience, Saxbys is now formulating a grand opening team. I love hearing that I left a mark on the program, that I left a mark on Holy Family. We now have a team of 17, and I played a part in developing each and every one of them.” 

The majority of those 17 have been cross-trained to perform all four roles within the cafe, and a new SCEO, senior Amiyah Lamar, will be taking over the leadership role.

“Beth’s recent presentation is the capstone project that every student CEO does at the end of a semester,” Bayer said.  “Students are required to review how they succeeded in incorporating Saxbys three pillars of success – Team Development, Community Leadership and Financial Management – and also how they applied principles that they learned in the classroom to the experience.  During her presentation, Beth did a tremendous job of articulating her experiences, but what really stood out to me was how optimistic and positive she remained throughout the process.  She was very humble and modest, and she tackled this tremendous challenge with great positivity. 

“What she did was so incredibly difficult,” he continued. “It’s probably the hardest internship she could have taken on.  The pressure of these tasks can so easily weigh you down, but her optimism emanated throughout her presentation.  It is arguably so much harder to fill the role as the inaugural CEO because you have to manage everything from scratch.  You have to follow the marketing plan, develop partnerships with the community, work within a budget that you inherit from the corporate leadership, and develop leaders among your peers. Everyone is looking at you.  I am looking at you. President Prisco is looking at you.  The campus community is looking at you.  Your family is looking at you. For many people, the pressure of this scrutiny would wear them down.  Beth battled through.  She stumbled, and she got back up.  She learned from both her failures and her successes. She developed a lot of leaders on her team, and she set that next team up for great success. It was a difficult, tremendous accomplishment that she should be applauded for.  I am very proud, along with Dr, Prisco, of this partnership and the outcome of this launch. We couldn’t have had better results, and an accomplishment like Beth’s would be celebrated by any leader, let alone for someone as young as she is.”

Now that the internship has ended, Montgomery is grateful for the support, mentoring and encouragement that she received and for accepting the personal challenge and broad responsibilities of the job that called upon her own understanding of financial intelligence, critical thinking, cultural agility and yes, resilience. It was experiential learning to the nth degree.

“I think Saxbys brings a really cool energy to Holy Family that we did not have before,” Montgomery said. “I am so glad I got to be a part of it. I think the campus has reacted so positively to Saxbys, and I am so happy to see that there are so many repeat guests who pop down, in between classes, to get a grilled cheese sandwich or a breakfast sandwich (or Beth’s favorite – a breakfast burrito). I learned so much about myself. Maybe that I don’t want to run a café, but that I definitely have an interest in the food service industry, and  I now have a leadership mindset.” 
Montgomery also learned, through a health challenge as a freshman and by surviving this intensely immersive experience, to take the limits off her life.

“I think I had the personality type to handle this job,” she said. “I can think in the moment, handle the stress, and come up with a solution and be accountable.  Everyone was so willing to learn and to keep pushing, keep going.  I love the connections that I made with my team members and the Saxbys team. My stroke is what put me on a path to put myself out there, to allow that strength to be a part of who I am. It is what helped me realize that I am capable of a lot.”



Jan Giel