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“If you don’t go through the grit and the really trying times, you’re not going to really succeed.” with Joanna Parker and Phil Laboon

Any successful entrepreneur will say that if you don’t go through the grit and the really trying times, you’re not going to really succeed. The experience of actually getting my hands dirty was the only way that I would have been able to learn the business and make it successful. Now I can appreciate what […]


Any successful entrepreneur will say that if you don’t go through the grit and the really trying times, you’re not going to really succeed. The experience of actually getting my hands dirty was the only way that I would have been able to learn the business and make it successful. Now I can appreciate what my employees do because I understand each of their roles a little bit.

I had the pleasure of interviewingJoanna Parker, a mom of three and co-founder of Yumble. She is determined to make parents’ lives simpler by helping them teach their children healthy and happy eating habits that will last a lifetime. After graduating from Columbia College, Joanna began her career in product development at Macy’s and later transitioned into early-childhood education. Five years into teaching, she became a mom of two and soon left teaching to become a stay-at-home mom, later adding one more child to her growing family. It was during this time, while Joanna was busy with her growing family, that she realized how frustrating and stressful it was to prepare, cook, and clean up from kids’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. “I knew there had to be a better way and I was passionate about solving this incessant pain point for parents everywhere,” she said of her time as a stay-at-home mom. She soon began cooking and preparing meals for families in her neighborhood, and over two years created what would later become Yumble. Now available in 38 states and recently aired nationally on Shark Tank, Yumble, is positioned to deliver healthy and delicious ready-to-eat meals to hundreds of millions of American families.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Yumble was born out of my own personal pain point. At that time, I was a stay-at-home mom. Before that, I was a product development manager at Macy’s, then an early childhood educator. I took some time off when my kids were born and found it extremely frustrating, challenging, and time-consuming to put healthy food in front of them every single day. When I mentioned this to [my husband] David for about the hundredth time of complaining about it, he said, “Why don’t you do something about it?”

So I posted anonymously on a Facebook mommy group if anybody wanted me to make their kids dinner for the week and was bombarded with “yes, yes, yes!” The people in these groups didn’t know who I was. They didn’t even know what I was making. No one even asked about a menu. They just started pouring their hearts out about how much they hated mealtime stress and were really looking for a solution. Ever since that initial post, it’s been a word-of-mouth kind of viral experience.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

For about the first six months, I wore every single hat. I cooked. I packaged. I delivered. I sourced. I was the customer service manager, representative — everything! It was around the clock. I went from being a stay-at-home mom, very available to my three children, to literally having a 24-hours-a-day job, six days a week.
 
 Figuring out that balance was certainly my biggest challenge. I never imagined how much energy, time, and commitment something like this would demand. But I will say that every part of the job that I used to do — whether it was standing in the freezer, unpacking ice packs for our deliveries, or packing and loading pallets in the warehouse, or hand-delivering packages to customers myself — it’s made me a much better manager. I understand every aspect of the business because I did every part of it.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I knew I was helping all these other parents and children, and every single time I would speak to a customer (and I still do today; I spend a good portion of each of my days on the phone with customers), that’s why I do it — hearing how life-changing this product is for them, that they’ve gotten back their sanity because of it. They spend happier moments with their children. It makes it all worthwhile. Now that my kids are a little bit older, I think they’re having a real appreciation for how hard their mom and dad work.

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

Any successful entrepreneur will say that if you don’t go through the grit and the really trying times, you’re not going to really succeed. The experience of actually getting my hands dirty was the only way that I would have been able to learn the business and make it successful. Now I can appreciate what my employees do because I understand each of their roles a little bit.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started Yumble and it was still a one-woman-show, I was scrambling to get all the cooking and prep work done before morning so I could turn my house back into a “home,” instead of the Yumble factory floor. I finished ahead of schedule one night and decided to package the orders right then, instead of waiting until morning, after my kids left for school. As I finished packaging the hundred or so orders, I went to the refrigerator and realized that there was no way I could fit them all in. I had to unpack everything, put it all back in bulk-sized containers, and repack the entire shipment the next day.

I learned very quickly that operations is critical in a business like this. Mapping out the needs and demands from a sourcing standpoint, as well as storage and capacity, are integral to the success of the operations.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When I tell people that we’re a ready-made meal subscription service, a lot of people will react with, “oh, that’s such a crowded space.” But when I tell them that it’s for children, their reaction automatically changes. It’s such a needed service. A lot of other subscriptions are sort of what I like to think of as a luxury, but I think Yumble is actually solving a real pain in parents’ lives on a daily basis
 
 Parents today have more and more responsibilities with the rise of dual-income households. What’s expected of parents in terms of how you raise and educate your children is more demanding than it has ever been. So being able to help parents, I think, is something that really sets Yumble apart. 
 
 Yumble is also fun and engaging for kids. It was always on our minds and it was always a challenge, but something that we always stay focused on was how to keep a product that’s both very functional but also fun. I don’t know any other brands, especially in our space, that focus on this like we do.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The most important thing is to have efficient time management and really stick to the structure that you set up. In addition to time management, from Friday evening to Saturday evening, I shut off completely. I put my phone away. I put my computer away and really unplug. It allows me to recharge and be present with my children in a way that I can’t really be the other six days of the week. So my advice would be when you’re in it, be really in it, but allow yourself time away from it because it actually clears your head.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It’s really hard to find one person because it takes a village but I would definitely have to say my husband David. He encouraged me when I came up with the idea. He pushed me to pursue it. He supports me both at home and at work. If he didn’t, I don’t think that I’d be half as successful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Working with local and national charities will be a growing focus for Yumble as we continue to expand our reach nationally. In the short term, our focus is on the nutritional education we provide to busy families on the needs of young kids.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. There will be lows. Every startup has its highs and lows (it’s a roller coaster ride), and they are both inevitable. It is super important to know that (and remember it!) so that when you are experiencing more challenging times, you know that it’s normal and part of the course and to just strategically and patiently make your way through it up to the next high point.

2. Listen more. There are so many people who have so much knowledge and experience to share. Some of the best pieces of advice I received came from off-the-cuff conversations with people in different industries. Being a strong listener and talking less will, in the end, be an enormous source of education.

3. Celebrate wins. Because highs and lows are inevitable, it is really important to celebrate wins. Celebrate them for yourself because you’ll need that positivity next time there is an obstacle, but also take the time to celebrate your team. Making your team feel appreciated and recognizing their importance will be better for morale and, in turn, for the company’s success. At Yumble team meetings each week, we have “Shout Outs,” announcing publicly to the entire team something remarkable that an individual accomplished the prior week.

4. Shut off occasionally. Some of my deepest insights and most important business decisions have come during my “off” time. As a founder, there is never really downtime, but forcing yourself to shut off, leave the office environment for a few days, and get out of the weeds for a bit opens your mind and psyche to big-picture thinking. Your company’s success is dependent on the founder’s vision and strategies, so this “break” is not indulgent, it’s critical. Just this past November, David and I went to Paris for four days and came back with our entire 2019 strategy planned out!

5. Forget the NOs. When starting a company, you will receive more “Nos” than anything else. It will range from “No, we don’t want to invest” to “No, you can’t build a business this way.” Don’t listen to the NOs and stay focused on solving the problem you know exists.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Studies show that what and how a child eats at a young age strongly impacts their health later in life. It is because of this that parents are becoming more and more conscientious of what they put into their children’s growing bodies. Helping to educate parents about the nutritional content of what they serve their families is something that’s very important to me.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/yumblekids/
https://www.instagram.com/yumblekids/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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