Episode 99 – Coffee N5 – How Faith, Flexibility, and Passion Can Drive a Company With Jenny Goldfarb

On this episode of Coffee N° 5, we welcome food industry innovator Jenny Goldfarb. Jenny is the embodiment of the American dream: she started her business Unreal Deli in her tiny kitchen, and within just a few years became a massive success. She sits down with Lara to talk about what makes Unreal Deli different, incorporating her Jewish faith into her business, and how she landed a deal with Mark Cuban on Shark Tank.

What you’ll learn: 

  • How during the pandemic a massive pivot in her business — and how she stayed afloat during all the uncertainty
  • How Shark Tank helped and how she brought her tiny, one-woman business into the spotlight

Jenny Goldfarb, aka Mrs. Goldfarb, is the founder of Unreal Deli. With no experience in the food sector, let alone launching a company, she gave birth to this rapidly expanding business in her tiny kitchen while pregnant with her 3rd child. Jenny grew up on the Standard American Diet (SAD), and in her early 30s, learned about the plight of animals on factory farms, which led her to adopt a plant-based diet. After much trial and error she became a whiz in the plant-based kitchen and realized the thing she missed most after becoming vegan was premium NY-style deli meat. She sought to recreate a corned beef made from beets, chickpeas, tomatoes and high protein wheat. The recipe became such a hit that it encouraged her to produce her Corned Beef Reubens for Delis, Whole Foods, even Shark Tank, where she took on Mark Cuban as primary investor. The company then developed Unreal Roasted Turkey followed by Unreal Steak Slices. The Unreal Deli product line can now be found in thousands of restaurant and grocery locations nationwide with more to come.

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Lara Schmoisman  0:03  

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to coffee number five. Remember when I told you a long, long time ago that I almost didn’t do this podcast? I was afraid. I mean, radio was my first love. But also my, when I started talking with my friends, and I told them, I really want to do a podcast. I think I want to do this. I think I want to meet incredible people. Everyone told me Are you sure you want to do that? Why people would listen to you? Why? You have an accent? I don’t think you should do it. And it was tough. Honestly, I think even I cry a little. I was flirting with this idea. And I really want to do it. And I realized that, you know what, let’s just do it. What do I have to lose? I mean, it, it was my life, not theirs. And I’m so glad I did. Because this journey brought me to meet incredible people in an also incredible woman that they did the same. And today I want to, I brought actually I invited Jenny Goldfarb says right, yep. So Okay. Okay. And also, we know that we’re neighbors, which is awesome. But she has an incredible story. She’s a mother of three, which is the most important thing in the world, I’m sure. But also she came out with an idea that also people telling you that you were crazy, because your idea was a lot more out there than me doing a lot of podcast.


Jenny Goldfarb  1:37  

Crazy. I tried to bring a create, like a new line of food that didn’t even really exist that I know. Right?


Lara Schmoisman  1:43  

So you came up with this idea? And what did you bring it up to your husband? How was your first


Jenny Goldfarb  1:52  

step. So I was cooking vegan for quite a while because I saw so many of the benefits firsthand. Health animals, the planet, I mean, it’s like so overwhelmingly clear that if you can make it delicious, it’s an optimal way to eat. And so I was working for like, two or three years at that point, really exploring different kinds of plant based cookbooks. And I was making all sorts of different sometimes good, sometimes quite bad meals along the way. And at a certain point, I realized that I couldn’t find a good deli meat, couldn’t get by myself a good deli sandwich to save my life in the vegan or plant based or vegetarian space. And so I made a corned beef pastrami hybrid in my home kitchen, that I thought was only going to be for my friends and family. Uh huh. And then it was actually some of those friends and family that tasted it and said, This is so good. This is a business. And I tried to say to them, I’m a mom, I don’t know anything about the food business. Like, that’s not happening. I just made this delicious thing and enjoy it like End of story. But they pushed me hard enough and long enough that I said, maybe I could rent a tiny commercial kitchen and make it and actually sell it somewhere. And if I could sell to a few places, maybe that would be a template that I could then sell it to a lot more places. And so I took on this amazing feat, I actually had two little ones at the time, and I was pregnant with my third. And I rented this tiny commercial kitchen for $25 an hour, about a half hour from where I lived. So I dropped my two kids off at school, I pick up all the ingredients at my local regular grocery store. And I took my Vitamix and all these ingredients out to this town a half hour away where I’d cook, and then I’d wash all the dishes. And then in the days I wasn’t doing that I would drive around Los Angeles to try and sell it to the big iconic delis. Because I figured that if I could get good volume at just these local individual delis. These guys know corned beef better than anyone I could probably sell it anywhere. And that’s kind of happens.


Lara Schmoisman  4:02  

Yeah, but also you had an incredible journey. You went to a TV show.


Jenny Goldfarb  4:09  

Yeah, so So after I was making it for quite a while on my own, got it into all the local delis. And then we got Whole Foods to take on a pre made sandwich with our meats. That’s of course because I emailed them 600 times and they finally responded and said, Okay, we’ll bring it in. Not to you know, overlook how hard the work is until you


Lara Schmoisman  4:30  

die. We’ll get to that we’ll get to that but okay, but anyway,


Jenny Goldfarb  4:34  

that’s what happens. And then after I had Whole Foods and the delis, I got myself a co Packer to actually cook it for me and I applied for shark tank and I wound up pretty quickly getting it through the casting director through the producers to actually get like a tape day and I brought my meats and my husband was in the on the Sony lot making sandwiches for the sharks and I was out there you know on stage by myself But feeding all the sharks, my sandwiches, and I was trying to get $100,000 for 10% of the business. And I wound up making a kind of unprecedented deal with Mark Cuban for 250,000 for 20% of the business, wow, more than double the cash I was asking for. And it was an extraordinary experience. But we came off of that and reality set in because at the time, we were only selling to restaurants and COVID Hit it was the very beginning of 2020. When COVID hit, we had a mad scramble to pivot into retail to be able to keep the business afloat and meet the customer where they were. So there were a lot of challenges along the way, as you can imagine, and still day to day. But I’m learning on the job. We’re growing our team, there are 10 of us now full time on the team. We have a big food manufacturer we have you know, we’re now in about 3000 stores as of today with many more to calm. I just had a meeting with Walmart a couple of weeks ago. And my husband will oftentimes say like, how was that? Was it hard for you at all regularly? Tell him the hardest thing was selling that first Deli in Studio City, California Arts deli, having the guts to cold call them and say can I bring you a sandwich and then sitting down with that deli owner making the pitch? So I always give like credit back to like, how did I even get the backbone to do any of this? Like the rest of the deals are easy.


Lara Schmoisman  6:27  

This is a thing. I mean, I just want to say I mean amazing that you got Shark Tank, but at the same time you started this this was your baby. And of course having that infusion of cash is wonderful. But and the knowledge that comes to work with Mark Cuban, yeah, and the support, but But how did you? I mean, how did you know that? Okay, I need to get a commercial kitchen to do this. How did I even because also starting the food business is super tricky. You have it goes inside your body. Yeah. So


Jenny Goldfarb  7:03  

I knew nothing. I didn’t know what does it have to get FDA regulated? Have they known not putting bad stuff in I mean, I had to learn everything on the job. And fortunately, I met people along the way that saw my passion and enthusiasm and willingness to learn maybe make a mistake, but really, like be a go getter. And people taught me and I had a lot of great mentorship and fact even when I rented that first tiny kitchen, the woman who owned the kitchen like was a great resource to me, like you never know who you’re gonna meet once you start like digging in and playing in that sandbox and like getting messy with it. So So yeah, I mean, I’m still learning on the job. You know, like now I’m dealing with things on like I did national distribution level and I’m learning the inner workings of all that but but yeah, at the time, it was perfect selling to the local delis because they didn’t have the kind of food safety standards. Like I remember when I delivered my first deli at that arts deli that first order I actually brought it in a suitcase because I didn’t have the right kind of coolers with wheels. So put on a suitcase and a belly undergoes you going on a trip? No, I just he goes Please don’t bring it in there again. I have no problem you know, learning everything on the job.


Lara Schmoisman  8:11  

So that’s so funny how your life changed since then.


Jenny Goldfarb  8:16  

So look, I mean, I went from being like not really a full stay at home mom always having like my own little side hustle like I was buying and selling jewelry. On the side to pay for my kids preschool. Like I always had a little something happening. But I was mostly driving my kids to and from school and like taking care of the house. And so my life has done like a one ad in that sense. My husband who works his own full time job fortunately now it’s home based since COVID. He now drives the kids to school picks him up every day. You know, it’s it’s that’s how like the home life has changed. And then as far as my work life, like, I just have this overwhelming feeling like I get to wake up every day and like live my like my dream. In fact, I have a girlfriend who has a podcast, her name is Kathy Heller, another wonderful show. And she says she has said on her show that there were so many different jobs she had that weren’t her dream. It was like the big companies dream or the guy she works for his dream but like, what really was going to be her dream in this world. And so so too, for me, I like that jewelry thing that wasn’t my dream. I helped my dad with one of his businesses when I was in my 20s That wasn’t my dream. So to know that I get to wake up and like live my dream and the world feels like the greatest blessing ever feels like I’m not even doing any work. And it’s like well how milestones just happen like on the way basically you know, so


Lara Schmoisman  9:40  

I always say that. To get your own dream you need to help other people’s dreams first. You learn so much from that and also it’s like good karma it’s like you put that


Jenny Goldfarb  9:52  

so with you Laura you’ve so got the key to success. So you know in in Torah, there’s an idea of giving 10


Lara Schmoisman  9:58  

Hi there You wake up from the same place, of course, but then


Jenny Goldfarb  10:02  

But then I definitely believe that 10% of our time, give it away. Yes, you don’t even you’re not thinking, Well, how’s this person going? Oh, no, no,


Lara Schmoisman  10:12  

no, you’re just sharing, you’re just giving it away whatever it is. So it time energy, you know, like, doing good interviews, like to being able to talk with my husband always tells me you’re the connector, you know, you’re always like, you know what those people say, I don’t mix or I don’t give advice, or I don’t help because I don’t want to make I was always the opposite. Like anyone needs to shy connect to the problem. And my husband was like, Why oh, is this you’re not you always get in trouble. So if he doesn’t work, and I was like, because you have to


Jenny Goldfarb  10:43  

give Oh, totally so important


Lara Schmoisman  10:46  

to give, because it comes back to you is the same about many people complain that they don’t getting things but because you’re not not asking for them.


Jenny Goldfarb  10:57  

Totally. So I’ll just give you one other thing that so the Zohar, speaking of like, we’re coming to the same place, one of like, the books of Jewish mysticism, talks about how we all have this, like, what’s called a left column, which is like the inclination to receive, like, we know that we have to get enough sleep, shower, eat enough food, take care of ourselves, right? Like, that’s gonna happen no matter what. But what we don’t physically feel is this is this what’s called the right column, which is the sharing and loving and giving. And so if it’s all left, if it’s all receiving, you’re out of balance, and you don’t have what’s called this magical circuitry. So if we know we’re gonna receive, we’re off to concentrate on that. But if we concentrate, I say, 10%. But you make it up as you go do the more the better. If we like work this muscle of giving as part of like a regular thing in our lives, it creates this magical circuitry for all of it to flow. So


Lara Schmoisman  11:51  

I think that’s part of her journey. I mean, and that’s why we are grow. I mean, I gotta go to a subject that lately is bothering me a lot like this culture of wanting thinking things fast. And the new generations more and more I see it, I have kids that they’re teenagers and adults. And I see there was a study, they are they that people think that they need to stay in one job, three months, and three months in a job, it’s not even enough for get train. So I understand that.


Jenny Goldfarb  12:22  

Right? That’s part of maybe when people aren’t living their dream, they’re like, Okay, do it for a quarter and then get out of there. If that’s not your dream, you know. So I think that there is some like, recognition that people want like to know that there’s like more substance here to these lives than to be like a cog in a wheel or sitting, you know, like, we were just talking about, you know, where you’re chained to the desk all day. People want to feel like they’re really living their purpose, and then you’re not working a day. But purpose


Lara Schmoisman  12:51  

doesn’t come out. I mean, and you’re the example doesn’t come in today. No, no. That’s why you need to make breaks. That’s right. You need to to have that experience. I mean, if I went fail so many things in my life, I wouldn’t you know, what I wanted


Jenny Goldfarb  13:09  

me to, you know, I had before I started this business, I had a food blog, because I was very passionate about having gone vegan, because I saw not only was it I got into it, because of the animals, I saw these videos that just broke my heart. But then after I started eating this way, my skin got better. My kids got less sick, I saw all these incredible benefits. So I wanted to share that with the world. So I made this vegan food blog. And I also there was all this passion and all this love. But there are a million other food blogs out begging for vegan food blogs even out there. So it didn’t do like anything great. I would make these big videos, we would get like 10 likes or so I’d be like I’m not making spending hours to get a few thumbs up. I’m not making any money off of this. So it was like a real failing. But I credit that for like, had I not been busy. And those cookbooks were, you know, trying to come up with my own recipes, getting it out there. I never would have found this little corridor that led to this unreal deli thing that came to that.


Lara Schmoisman  14:06  

I mean, it happened to me also, you have to know when you say enough is enough. I tried in work. I had this podcast and I had another podcast in Spanish. It became very much yeah, I just could not handle that. And I realized at some point that Spanish wasn’t my first language anymore. I work 100% In English, my knowledge is in English, like even I was having hard time talking about business in Spanish. And the only Spanish that I could connect with us Hispanic because the rest of the Hispanic wall was so different. I said, You know what, I need to stop this. And I learn I learned a lot from it.


Jenny Goldfarb  14:52  

Wonderful. I’m happy to hear that. Yeah, you got to know those boundaries. You know and know when you’re pushing yourself too much and where to focus that no GE but it all comes with time and with failure and you know, pressing at it. So


Lara Schmoisman  15:04  

you need to celebrate the failures too, because there’s a lesson there. Sure, sure. So let me ask you a question. Let’s go back to your corned beef. Yeah. Did you have to change the recipe over time? Yeah,


Jenny Goldfarb  15:20  

over time, we definitely had to change the recipe. Once you start scaling up, and you’re using different kinds of ingredients coming in, like mass form, not from the local grocery store anymore. Yeah, you have to change ingredients. Now, it was very important to us, because when I first made this meat, I was doing it using whole vegetables, like I would literally put beets into my Vitamix and get it into like, a vegetable smoothie. And then we would pair that with protein rich grains and spices. So we still do all of that. But there are a number of ingredients. Like for instance, we were using sherry wine vinegar, sherry wine, and then we found that like, it’s very expensive, we wanted the meat to be kosher, and it would have to be very specific over what was kosher. And so we wound up finding that you could use apple cider vinegar instead of sherry wine and big savings just from that alone. So a number of things like that over the years.


Lara Schmoisman  16:12  

Totally. So if today you need to start again your business. Yeah, knowing what do you know today? Yeah, what would you do first study the indoor HMM


Jenny Goldfarb  16:23  

INTERESTING. You know, I really have this overwhelming feeling when I think back at it like I was so guided by you know, if you want to call it God or the universe or whatever, that there was like something bigger at play because truly everything I really do feel like happened to at its proper time. I mean, sure, there were like mistakes that I made that I would love to avoid. But I think back of those earliest days, like when I was cooking it myself I would make 12 of these loaves, you could say and there were always enough orders for this well, but there were never too many orders like like the universe has your back. You go in and like make this endeavor. Yeah, were there mistakes are there things that could have correct Sure. But like in general, I went in it we went into it with an open heart and willingness to work and roll my sleeves up and really show put love into it and so too, you know, God meets you there and then helps you grow that not get overwhelmed and and helps it all flow. Really.


Lara Schmoisman  17:22  

Yeah, I truly believe that but it’s also about creating building relationships. Because knowing you I’m sure that you’re building your relationship with Overlake relationship with that Dalai first and then


Jenny Goldfarb  17:37  

gently with him. Yeah, caring about you know, even like the assistants or the secretaries or the lady who answers the phone at the deli like showing everyone like respect and some kindness like it goes so far you don’t even realize so yes, something for example,


Lara Schmoisman  17:54  

I learned from having kids that your best friend is not the principal at the school


Jenny Goldfarb  17:59  

is the office ladies, huh? Yeah, good call totally.


Lara Schmoisman  18:03  

So I will make myself a note that once a year I will come up with bagels or something for the office. So they know me by name, right? And they know it didn’t happen much but the data you need something you can pick out a loan and they will know who you are there is a single relationship that you need to have with your vendors.


Jenny Goldfarb  18:28  

Yeah, so I love having a food business in general because it allows you to so easily you know, send a care package deal so you know, because even someone who has like the biggest company and the most success everyone still has a curious palette to try something delicious. And so I actually had some other sales jobs earlier in my career. And even for those one of them was in music for instance, I would literally ship like a box of homemade cookies to like the ad executive that I wanted to hear my songs even though it wasn’t selling cookies, I was selling music. But the point is that to have a little food item to help you open the door is very wise. Always you


Lara Schmoisman  19:07  

see the math of raps always coming coming with our Starbucks for the olives, right? There is a something in the food and that connection. I mean, Jewish woman so nowadays that in every celebration we eat. Exactly, exactly. So Jedi, thank you so much for having


Jenny Goldfarb  19:27  

so much wine. I’m so proud of you and so excited for what you’re building here.


Lara Schmoisman  19:32  

I’m proud of you. I mean to you, you’re on your journey, but thank you so no one. Okay, I hope to see you guys next week with Coffee Number Five.



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