Progressive Thinker Justine Reichman, founder of NextGenChef, considers eating healthy a basic human right. NextGenChef is empowering the next generation of culinary innovators dedicated to regenerative practices and making nutritious food more affordable. Her San Francisco-based platform supports socially-minded entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch their businesses and begin creating greater access to quality food products. The expansive network offers real tools, including a directory of culinary mentors, help with research and development, and dynamic community events. Justine wants to change the conversation so that people everywhere demand a better food system.
Can you tell us more about your mission, purpose, and the work that you do?
The mission of NextGenChef is to create greater access to a healthy food system. We do this through a platform that connects and supports food and beverage entrepreneurs who build better-for-you food businesses. We connect food entrepreneurs with ventures, resources, thought leaders, and industry experts so that the entrepreneurs can gain insight into the information they need to be able to make more informed decisions. We help them to create better-for-you businesses resulting in greater access to healthy food. In addition, we educate consumers so they make more informed choices about food, which is better for the environment as well.
What are the challenges that your customers experience?
We look at our customers as our members. They are startups who are often faced with just getting out of the gate. They have an idea but don't know how to implement it and get to the next level. Another common challenge is that entrepreneurs think that they can create a business out of their kitchen, but they are not sure who the market is. We have people who are doing research and trying to understand what the future of food is. We help to demystify what the future of food looks like and the role that these founders are playing in it. We also share those findings with the end consumers so they better understand what they're consuming and, at the same time, create greater awareness on the part of food entrepreneurs.
You have a profound understanding of entrepreneurship and building connections. What do you enjoy helping people with the most?
I enjoy solving problems. When people say they can't do it, it's that either they don't know how to do it or they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then there's a way to fix the problems. Of course, some problems are not solvable, but then we adjust. I like to connect people with the resources that they need. If they don't have adequate information, I help them find it and connect those dots. I encourage them to surround themselves with the key experts and resources. Guiding people to take that vision from concept to purpose is my sweet spot. It's where I do my best work and it's what makes me the happiest.
A healthy and sustainable food system is something NextGenChef stands for. If you could give 3-5 tips on how socially-minded startups achieve that vision, what would that be?
Don't try to be everything to everyone is my first tip. We think about products from the soil to the shelf, from what you're creating to how you're packaging it. You will realize that not everything is going to be local, healthy, affordable, and regenerative. If you want to be local, then maybe stay in that niche and follow that. Start small and focus.
My second tip would be to follow your passion. If you're passionate about waste, be mindful of waste reduction. Whether it's about how you're building your product or how you're packaging your product, follow your vision and your passion. The other thing that I think is most important is to look at sustainability for the company, for you, and for the product. When you're focused solely on the product and not on yourself, that's not sustainable. Integrating sustainability into our daily lives both personally and professionally helps us build a more sustainable business and life. The last point is authenticity, which is a really important thing for businesses today more than ever.
Finally, can you share with our readers your next big goal or project?
Right now, we are working on Essential Ingredients, which is super exciting. It is a podcast that I'm launching where I get to talk to the founders, the thought leaders, and industry experts who are spearheading the future. It gives me great insights that I will be able to share with the community members of NextGenChef. Moreover, it allows me to connect those members with other founders and thought leaders so that they can build their businesses more sustainably and regeneratively and be able to connect, collaborate, and innovate together. As we think about the future of food, we're working towards our common goal of building a more sustainable and regenerative future. We've got kids and grandkids and the world is going to go on for a long time after us. We have to think long-term.