Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jill Donenfeld cherished the time spent with her family around the dinner table every night. Those times inspired her to launch The Dish's Dish--a customizable, health-conscious home chef service.
When Donenfeld moved to New York City to attend Barnard College she simultaneously immersed herself in the City's vibrant culinary scene. Just three days after graduation she began writing her business plan.
After garnering quite the following in NYC and the Hamptons, The Dish's Dish went bi-coastal in the fall of 2009--offering its services to Los Angeles residents too. Now only 25, Donenfeld's mission is to cultivate personal satisfaction and healthier living through home cooking.
Entrepreneur recently sat down with Donenfeld to chat about pursuing her passion, creating a brand and her decision to expand in the middle of a down economy.
You've created an entire lifestyle brand. Why do you think it's important to go beyond the in-home chef service?
This is a very 21st century business. Businesses, like people, need to operate on many different platforms to stay relevant. From Twitter to web videos to an e-mail newsletter, it's all about getting the message across in a way that will resonate with a wide variety of people. The weekly home chef service isn't for everyone--after all, we are only in LA and NYC at the moment. However, maybe someone wants to learn our once a week cooking technique to cook for themselves. So, we made a DVD series to sate that need.
Additionally, expanding the brand and myself-as-brand to encompass more of a general food knowledge/food world/food fun scope is something that feels true to myself and natural. If I was only working on the weekly home chef aspect, I'd be bored.
How do you market your home chef service?
Word of mouth is best for this type of service. It's all about getting a core group of happy people with big mouths. Satisfied clientele is always the best way to get more satisfied clientele.
Beyond that, we put postcards at places where our clientele might go--children's stores, yoga studios, hair salons, etc. I've also developed a few partnerships that match our brand--Equinox, CitiBabes, Homegrown LA and Quintessentially are a few. They help to get the word out to the right people and in return, their members get a little bonus.
You're only 25 years old but have already accomplished so much. Did you always know you wanted to be your own boss?
I've never ruled out working for someone else--I just had my own ideas first and was driven to act on them.
When I was 14 years old, I figured out one pattern for a sort of scarf-tank top on my grandmothers Singer sewing machine. I made about 50 in my bedroom and sold them to a boutique. So I guess there is sort of a precedent for working for myself. I've always liked to work and I've always liked to create. Sometimes working for someone else interferes with the creating part. So I guess it wouldn't be the most natural path for me.
What's the best part about owning your own business?
My business is my passion and that's essentially the best part. I truly believe that mindful eating will lead to a happier, healthier life. And I believe that cooking your meals once a week will aid in that consciousness. The weekly home chef service, and the greater message of the other outlets, point to this concept. It's uplifting to spread a message/system that is genuinely helping people lead more fulfilling lives.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who might be nervous to take the leap?
If you truly believe in your idea, you shouldn't be nervous. And if you are nervous, you're either not the right person to follow through or you should rethink your idea. No one should become an entrepreneur because they want to own their own business. You should become an entrepreneur by fault--because you have an idea that drives you and that needs to live. Then again, I'm only 25, so what do I know?
What does the future hold for The Dish's Dish?
The message is mindful eating for mindful living, so it's all about spreading that. The weekly home chef service will be available in many more cities. The DVD series will become a TV show. I have a few more shows in the works and some other tricks up my sleeve.