Baking a New Path for Herself

After several career pivots, Jane Gross has turned to selling cookies

| in Alumni, CAS, Features


When Jane Gross was a month away from graduating from BU, she met up with classmate Georgina (Lopez-Oña) Feigen at student-favorite Comm Ave dive bar the Dugout Cafe to discuss their future plans. “We were a little panicky,” Gross says. “We just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?’” 

Gross (’88) had worked at an art gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts for the past three years and decided her dream was to work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Back at the Dugout, Gross and Feigen (COM’88) sat in a dark booth and talked about their options. “We didn’t want to go back and live at home—I was from Philadelphia and she was from Miami and wanted to be a lawyer. We thought about maybe staying in Boston.” They decided to flip a coin. “Heads, we would stay and tails we were moving to Washington, D.C. It landed on tails, and we toasted to that.”

They moved to D.C. that summer. The decision to move launched a more than 30-year career during which Gross managed a D.C. dance studio, did marketing for a real estate firm, helped launch the first Cheesecake Factory location outside of California, worked in event production, and developed on-air promotions—the content television networks use to promote their programming—a circuitous path she describes as a series of “happy accidents.” Now she’s trying to start her next big thing: a bakery.

Happy Accidents

Jane Gross
Jane Gross (’88) and her “Cocoa Janes” and “Rosemary Janes”

Gross credits her liberal arts education with her success—and her nimbleness—throughout her career. “It gave me the foundation to do anything,” she says. “I remember when I was approaching graduation, lots of people kept asking, ‘Well, what are you going to do? You’re an English major—are you going to be a teacher?’ as if that was the only option. I was getting so frustrated because I knew I could do anything with my education. I think I’ve now proven that.”

Gross didn’t land the coveted job at the National Gallery (Feigen was soon hired as a paralegal, however, and is now an attorney), but says that the jobs she would go on to have gave her skills that helped her in each subsequent role—and in life—and allowed her to forge important connections. 

At the dance studio she managed, for example, she learned how to run a small business. “At 22, I was doing everything from payroll and hiring, to construction, painting the stairs and dealing with repairing the broken furnace,” she says. A dancer at the studio was the vice president of marketing at a real estate firm and helped Gross get a job on her team. In her next roles at the Cheesecake Factory, first as a hostess and then as a writer for the company newsletter, she got face time with the company’s founder—a connection that paid off later—and says she learned a lot about herself. “That’s where I learned that I could work with any kind of person and in high pressure situations, because having to tell hungry people they have to wait two hours for a table—that’s a life skill.”

One of Gross’ first happy accidents was an invitation to help produce the Victory Awards, a Kennedy Center event honoring people, including a number of celebrities, who have overcome physical adversity. “It was a live special and the President [George H.W. Bush] was there. They needed production people,” Gross says. “The associate producer on the program really took me under her wing. There I am backstage at the Kennedy Center going well, this is a far cry from my little dance studio. I came away from that thinking, ‘this is really fun.’” 

After the show, the associate producer took Gross aside. “She said, ‘You were great at your job. Why don’t you come to LA and find a job in television?’” Intrigued by the suggestion, Gross flew out to LA for a week to see if it felt like the right move.

Back in Washington, D.C., she met with the owner of the Cheesecake Factory, David Overton, and told him she was moving. Overton offered her a job at any of the LA locations. But when Gross asked if she could be put on the management track, Overton said no. “He looked me in the eye and said something like, ‘I won’t support that because you just did this other thing and you clearly have all this passion for it, and you loved it. And I think you should go for it.’ That was a real turning point for me.”

In LA, Gross worked part-time as a freelance production assistant making on-air promos, while also helping to train Cheesecake Factory staff at a new location in Brentwood. From there, she moved up in production jobs in on-air promos for a series of networks, including ABC, G4, and Nickelodeon.

“Most of the people that I’ve worked with [in on-air promotions] over the years, we have all fallen into it,” Gross says. “But there is this shared creative passion. It’s challenging—you’re taking somebody else’s work and you have to find the best moments and the best ways to make people want to watch that show.”

Baking a New Path

Cocoa Janes and Rosemary JanesGross looks back fondly on what she calls “this career I never knew I wanted” and muses about how her CAS education has stuck with her over the years. “I take it back to being an English major,” she says. “Any script for any promo that was going on the air at Hallmark Channel was coming to me first. There was a lot of editing of scripts, and a lot of writing and concepting.”

In July 2021, Gross was notified her role as senior vice president of on-air promotions for Crown Media, the parent company of Hallmark Channel, would be eliminated due to restructuring. She saw it as an opportunity for yet another career pivot. “After taking a deep breath, I thought okay, what do I love to do? I love to bake.”

Gross decided to get a cottage food license to start a cookie business, Rosemary Janes Sweet & Savories, from her home kitchen. For years, she had baked as a hobby and shared her creations with family, friends, and coworkers. “I would often bake for my crew, going back to my early days working at ABC. Those treats would get us through a long night shift in the edit bay,” Gross says. Two varieties of shortbread cookies—one flecked with rosemary and lavender and another made with dark cocoa—became favorites. Both are rimmed in sugar and topped with flaky Maldon sea salt. “You get the sweet, you get the salty. They’re both very layered.”

For now, she is selling those cookies, which she has named Rosemary Janes and Cocoa Janes,at KAFN Coffee Bar in Glendale, Calif., which is run by a friend of hers. She delivers a shipment of cookies every Friday and they have been selling out.

She is now thinking about the business’ future, including experimenting with new shortbread flavors. With the just cottage license, Gross is unable to ship her cookies, so she is looking into renting space at a commercial kitchen to ramp up production and open up more opportunities to grow.

“I keep saying my career has been one happy accident after another. So, who knows? Maybe this is my next big thing.”