Jeff Fenster: CEO of Everbowl and Author of Relationship Bank Account

Episode 414

We are joined by Jeff Fenster, CEO of the incredible and yummy brand Everbowl and Author of the new, best selling book Relationship Bank Account. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and creator of Everbowl as well as a pioneer in the quick-serve restaurant category. Started 7 years ago, Everbowl is a nationally recognized, rising-star within the sector, making healthy superfoods accessible and affordable for everyone. We speak about starting and growing Everbowl, plus his other venture, WeBuild Stuff. Plus we also get to hear all about, straight from the Author himself, about his new book, Relationship Bank Account. You are going to enjoy this episode filled with a lot of ideas and motivation. On this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow.

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Kara Goldin 0:00
I am unwilling to give up that I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be I want to be, you just want to make sure you will get knocked down. But just make sure you don’t get knocked down knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control. Hi, everyone and welcome to the Kara Goldin show. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders. We’ll talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time. Can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone. It’s Kara Goldin from the Kara Goldin show. And I’m so excited to have my next guest here. We have Jeff Fenster, who is, among other things, the CEO of ever bowl, also, we build stuff. And he’s also the author of the brand new, excellent book called relationship bank account, which will definitely talk to him a little bit more about that and get into some exclusive details or direct from the author by having him on here. So Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and a pioneer in the quick serve restaurant category, and as I mentioned, is the creator of every bowl, which he established in 2016. It’s a nationally recognized as a rising star within the sector, making healthy superfoods accessible and affordable for everybody. And as if he isn’t busy enough, he’s also built another incredible company that we’ll get to hear a lot more about today called we build stuff that really, really is super exciting, and is kind of one of those ideas that you say, of course, why didn’t I do that? More than anything? I think it’s it’s absolutely helping so many people. And so I love that he’s taken the time to do that. And then of course, relationship bank account, that book that I said, that is fairly new, and is really, really terrific. So we’re really excited to hear about all of this from Jeff today. So welcome.

Jeff Fenster 2:15
Thank you for having me, Kara. It’s an honor and privilege to be on your show, huge fan of you and your show, and all the cool stuff that you have done. And obviously I drink hence, probably three, four times a week. So thank you for your creation to the world. And thanks for having me.

Kara Goldin 2:30
I love it. So before we get into hearing about your brand, as I was doing research on you, you have an incredible background, you are in Southern California, but you became an entrepreneur, you didn’t start off being an entrepreneur, did you always think that you’d become an entrepreneur or write a book, I mean, was that on your bucket list, doing either of these things?

Jeff Fenster 2:55
Absolutely not, never even knew the word entrepreneur, went to law school to be a sports agent, and thought I was going to be the next Jerry Maguire. That was my my path out of college and where I wanted to go and so business owner entrepreneur was just for couldn’t couldn’t be further from reality for me, you know, back in 2004, when I when I graduated college, even the word entrepreneur wasn’t really well known. There were business owners and employees. And usually business owners either had a family business to walk into, or they had been doing their craft for 15 or 20 years. And then there was the few crazy people that might start a company with very little experience, but it wasn’t socially and societally accepted like it is today or even, you know, endorsed and promoted and cherished. So it was a different world back then, for me and my experience. My mom was a teacher, my dad was a doctor, so I didn’t grow up with any kind of business influence or entrepreneur influence. And even my mentors and close family friends. Most of them were just high level executives at companies and not even running their own. So no ABS for writing a book. Absolutely not. I hated English and incline score, and just never thought I was ever going to put pen to paper on that either. So it was funny how life, how life drives and what circumstances change and how that all evolves.

Kara Goldin 4:16
So did you grew up in Southern California?

Jeff Fenster 4:19
I did. Yeah. Born and raised in San Diego, first American in the family, parents and sister moved here from Canada. And so I got the privilege of growing up in one of the worst, worst environments ever, you know, 70 and Sunny 365 days a year.

Kara Goldin 4:35
So you went to law school, and you went with the idea that you become a sports agent. How did you get off that track?

Jeff Fenster 4:45
So I had a job lined up with Leigh Steinberg sports agency, and I was graduating my third year of law school, which is the last year of law school. ended up meeting the woman who is my wife Brittany and having a daughter and so when I was 20 I grabbed Were in law school at 24, when I was 24, and baby fiance and realize what was going to be required of the time commitment and the travel commitment and the life expectation of a young sports agent who’s breaking into the in, you know, breaking into the industry. This was before social media even so you had to physically be everywhere. And we didn’t have the kind of apps and internet like we do today. And so it was really, you are traveling and you are physically going to be waiting handed foot on all of your athletes and all of the entertainment that you are representing. And so I was going to be an absentee dad, an absentee husband, and I just didn’t really want to live that life. And so I graduated law school with six figures in law school loans, and no idea of what I was going to do with myself.

Kara Goldin 5:41
And so what did you do? Well, I

Jeff Fenster 5:44
got I did what most people would do, I got a job. I got a job with ADP, the payroll company. And really quickly I was successful at ADP I understood solution based selling from my past in high school and college and all the internships and sales jobs I kind of had and telemarketing jobs I had done. So I was really good in the sales world and understanding solution based selling and how to make friends and use that as a platform to add value and figure out what products and services you can offer. And so through that in my network, my first six months at ADP in 2007, I was the number one sales rep in the country. And first to make President’s Club and I thought this is great. I’m working three days a week, I’m golfing two days a week, I’m home when I want to be home and make good money. My base pay was 38,000. But with commissions, I was over six figures in six months. And I thought this is the life and so I figured I’m going to be here forever. And when I signed my contract, they had told me that, you know, I tried to negotiate a higher base pay because $30,000 base pay in Southern California with $1,250 in law school loan payments, plus housing and just the cost of living in San Diego means I’m broke, and I’m not able to afford my life, let alone support my kid and my, my my fiance. So they said if you sell this amount, you will get a $17,000 base pay increase and go to 54,000 base plus all those commissions. And so I worked my tail off, hit it in January of 2008, six months after I started. And I went to my boss and said her name was Ashley and I said Ashley, I just achieved this milestone, when do I get the base pay increase? And she said you get it at the end of the fiscal year. It’ll start on the next calendar year. And I was like, okay, when’s that? And she said, the fiscal ends in June. So starting in July, you will get your base pay increase. And I said that’s not going to work for me. I just bought a house. We’ve literally just we had just closed on our new house. So I had sunk every dollar I had in the downpayment. This was after you know this was right in 2007 eight so right when housing prices were at all time highs as well prior to the great recession back then. My timing was perfect on that and buy high and in buy higher is the is not a great model. And I said listen, I need the money. And so my ego at being 24 and being so successful and being the number one sales were up and just having that competitive thing. I basically kind of threatened to quit if they wouldn’t give it to me. And I said there’s no way they’re gonna let Jeff Fenster walk out that door. I mean, I’m Jeff Fenster. Of course, yeah. And so they said, Jeff, you can quit if you want to, but we’re not giving you the base pay increase until the end of July. It’s just the way the company works. And so I went home, and I spoke to my fiancee and I said, Listen, I want to quit, I want to quit my job, I want to sell the house we just bought, I want to move you and our daughter into my parents house. And I want to start my own payroll company, because the idea of working in an organization that’s going to limit my growth, based on time and not based on performance, is an environment that just felt suffocating for me and something that I couldn’t survive. And I just kind of saw my future, I had one of those out of body moments where you kind of look 2030 years into the future of like, yeah, in two and a half more years, I will get that raise or promotion I earned because that’s how long it takes for the company to allow me to do it. And it’s not based on merit. It’s based on time. And she was my fiancee and supportive and loved me and she said, Honey, whatever you want to do, I’m in so I went back one more the next day. And I said Ashley, I’m seriously I’m gonna quit if you guys don’t do it. This is my last effort. She went to the manager because she didn’t want to lose me. And the manager said, Jeff, our hands are tied. This is a major global organization. We don’t change policy for one individual as much as we want to do it. We can’t. So I quit, sold my house, moved my daughter and fiance into my parents house and started my very first company out of my mom’s kitchen called HX which was a payroll company because I knew I could sell the product. I didn’t know how to do the business side but back then I figured I’ll figure it out. How hard could it be?

Kara Goldin 9:35
Of course and so you started I checks and and what happened?

Jeff Fenster 9:43
Well, fortunately I was really good in the sales side. So I sold a ton of clients and I brought over a lot of clients. And we grew really quickly ended up raising private equity capital and eight and eight and a half months after we started, scaled it ended up changing the name to canopy HR and sold the company At the end of 2010, beginning of 2011. And the timing was really good because what we we migrated from just being a payroll company, which is what I thought I was doing to being a technology company, and building the first single database, app driven HR platform, if you go back in time for those listening, back then HR departments was filing cabinets and employees would fill out a paper application when they were applying for jobs and the iPhone was just being born. So the birth of apps was just starting to happen. And so HR departments were very slow to, to modernize. And so you would have these employees that have paper applications for benefits paper applications when they applied for the job. And everything was just done in these filing cabinets. And we found a sweet spot to essentially digitize that entire experience and make it all accessible through a phone or through a computer. And so people could apply online and do these things that we take for granted today. But back then wasn’t so prevalent. And we were able to sell the company in 20, in 2011. But it was in the 2010, beginning of 2011. We closed it was just one of those experiences where I had no idea what being an entrepreneur meant. I had no idea what being a business owner meant. I thought it was really an easy undertaking. And I didn’t appreciate the brevity of what was in front of me.

Kara Goldin 11:14
Yeah, that’s wild. And so you took a little time after that.

Jeff Fenster 11:19
Now Exactly. So while I had that company, what I like to do is I like to talk to my clients, I like to ask questions, that’s part of the salesman and me the solution based selling. And so fortunately, I started my company in in February of 2008, which was the, I think it was I think the day I signed paperwork, the great recession happened. So I broke the internet and broke the world with that. But what happened was, my companies, my clients, they I get paid based on how many employees they have. So the bigger they grow, the more money I make, and the more clients I bring on, the more money I make. So naturally, I would say, How do I sell more clients? And how do I help my current clients grow? And so when I would ask them, What is the number one challenge that you are dealing with today, the number one thing I kept hearing was, we can’t recruit talent. People who have jobs in 2008 and 2009 weren’t changing jobs because the economy was we were in a recession, and the economy was scary. So people were really hunkering down and holding on. And the pool of unemployed individuals was so large that to cipher through them and find the gems from all of the people applying, there was a full time gig that just most companies didn’t have the resources. So it was a real struggle. So I started a recruiting agency, just to help my current clients. If you were a canopy HR client, I gave you recruiting services as an additional add on. And in order to do that, it allowed me to grow my main business. And that was when I really started to dabble in a concept that I use heavily today called vertical integration. And I vertically integrated this recruiting arm into it. So when I sold canopy HR, I was left with this recruiting agency. And so I ran that for another eight months, and ended up selling that at the end of 11, beginning of 12. Wow, because I didn’t want to be in that business. So then I took a little bit of time off. But it was not immediately, I was able to take a few months off after that. My youngest was born in November of 2011. And so February of 2012, I remember I was doing some consulting work, and I got sent to London to help one of these companies that I was working with. And while I was there, I had a lot of we’ll call it airplane time, because back then airplanes didn’t just have movies for you to watch either. And I was I got sent by them. And they put me in a little coach seat with no no, no media on my plane. So I had a nice 18 hour trip from San Diego to Heathrow, just to think about my life. And as I’m in the airplane, I realized, you know, I don’t want to be gone from my daughter, I want to be home. The internet just made me money with with canopy, it’s a real thing. I’m gonna start a digital marketing agency. That’s what I’m going to do. And so I remember coming home and telling my wife and saying, Hey, I’m going to start a digital marketing agency. And she laughed, and she goes, Jeff, you don’t know how to use a computer? Like, how are you going to do that? Are you gonna do that? Yeah. But you don’t have to know. And that’s the beauty of what I learned from my last venture is I don’t have to know how to do everything. I need to have a vision as an entrepreneur and the founder, and I need to bring on and recruit talent around me who can do that. So I use relationship capital, which is, you know, relationship bank account is the name of my book. And one of the things I really leaned into is who I know and how I build those relationships. And so I reached out to a buddy, his name’s Pat Flynn. He at the time had a website still does called Smart Passive Income, where he showed how much money he made online and what he was doing. And I grew up with that. And I said, Pat, I want to pay you 10 grand a month to teach me how to make money on the internet. And he laughed and he said, Jeff, the name of my business is smart, passive income. So I can’t do that for you. It’s not very passive. But I can I suggest you talk to Neil Patel, and I said, Oh, who’s Neil? And he said, alright, well, you need to Google him. Or maybe he said, Bing him or whatever the top search engine was back in 2012. And I did and I was blown away. I’m like, Yes, this is the guy I need to work with. Like Neil is an expert. He’s world renowned, and he co founded these amazing technology products and With my sales background and my relationship capital and his expertise and his ability to execute on what I can bring in, we can make a lot of money together and build something really impactful. So Pat connected me to Neil. And I said, Okay, I have an opportunity. So here’s the here’s something. And this is a story I’ll share with the audience because we all look at life and say, you know, how this is lucky. How did that person get that luck? And, you know, I believe luck is formulaic. I think everything in life is formulaic. And so how do you make sure that you are successful when those opportunities come? Because they say what luck is when preparation meets opportunity. And so my opportunity was, I want to start digital marketing agency, and I want to partner with Neil Patel. Neil doesn’t know me. And there’s a million me’s trying to work with Neil. And there’s one, Neil so how can I stand out? What can I do differently? Well, if my if my secret sauce or my skill set that I’m bringing to the relationship is my relationship capital, my sales ability, I figured let me go sell us a contract for my first meeting. So I come to you with already a client so I can demonstrate my capabilities. And so I had just sold a company where I had 1000s of business owners as clients because I did their payroll and HR. So naturally, I can go back to them because I always treated them properly. And as I said, I made friends with them. And I asked them questions. So I went, and I went through my entire list of clients, I said, Okay, who’s not doing enough business online that could benefit from the new service I want to provide to them. And I found one, and they were doing about 30 million offline through catalog sales, because back then we were still using catalogs. And about only a million online. And I went to them and said, Listen, I want to bring in Neil Patel. Together, we’re going to be able to help you digitize your sales and bring them from offline to online and grow this entire avenue for you. And all I want you to do is pay me a commission, I want you to pay me a percentage of the growth that I bring to you. So you have zero risk. And they said that sounds wonderful. Okay, great. And they Googled Neil, and we’re blown away and said, yes. So the day I get my call with Neil, I say hey, Neil, nice to meet you. I’m Jeff. He goes Nice to meet you, Jeff. I’m Neil, we go through that little quick, five minute, who are you Where you from? And I said, well, great, Neil. Hey, I need your address. I have a check for you. And he says a check for what? And I’m like I sold our first client, I have a check for $150,000. Where do I send? And he’s like, what? And I’m like, Yeah, I sold our first client. Where do I send? And he goes, our first client, and what do you mean? And he was blown away? Like I now I have him? Curious, right? I changed the narrative from me, begging him to work with me to now me saying, Look, I already did this. Where do I send it? So I was going to pre fund the deal because I was going to pay Pat 10 grand a month to train me. So I figured let me just give it to Neil now. And if we can’t add the value, then that’s an investment. I’m willing to risk, right. That’s some that’s a risk I’m willing to take. So he laughed, and he said, Okay, I’ll fly out to San Diego and meet you and come meet this client don’t send a cheque anywhere. So he flew out, we ended up building a relationship and became friends. We met with the client, we ended up taking on the client, we ended up making the client millions of dollars through online sales, we made a ton of money. And we ended up partnering together and working with some of the biggest websites on the planet and built awesome relationships together over the next three and a half years. And I sold that to we sold off our clients in 2015. And then Neil spun up Neil Patel digital in 2016. And I took some time off again, to figure out what was next. And that was before evitable. That’s the memorable story.

Kara Goldin 18:13
That’s awesome that and that’s what I was gonna say. So you get to ever bowl, I feel like every great entrepreneur has this. This journey, this path that seems to non entrepreneurs is like a squiggly line, right? But it actually really does connect. So thank you for taking us through that. Because I feel like it makes a lot of sense, especially sort of given kind of, you know, what you know, is the market and the business that you should be going into and sort of, if you want to now touch on exactly what ever bowl is for those who are not familiar with it and how you decided to launch it?

Jeff Fenster 18:54
Yes. And I will just add one last bit. In 2012. I also started three other companies that were complete failures. So I don’t want everyone to hear this. And just think it always works, because it doesn’t. There were things I learned in the process of starting a digital marketing agency before that. And while I was doing that consulting work, I had started a few ventures and spent a lot of money on things that just did not pan out. But you see how quickly I move past those because that’s where I want to inspire others to understand that failure, you fail your way to success and failure isn’t the final, right. It’s just part of the process. And so that’s why I can tell you that story. And I don’t mention them, because that’s how much I don’t That’s how much I think about them now. But they were part of that process. And so as you’re going through and you stumble, just remember you keep running and finish the race and that stumble is just a little side blip that we only talked about briefly, but so 2015 I was kind of sitting at home figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up to two kids and a wife and I didn’t have any ideas at the time other than my own lifestyle and so I’m one of those people that really good to talk to but probably not the best to sit on a couch with because I’m high strung and In high energy, my wife kind of said to me after about six months, she said, Jeff, go do something you’re passionate about. You’re driving me crazy, sitting home all day. And so I looked at my life. And I said, Okay, what am I most passionate about? And outside of my family and outside of startups, which I really enjoy health and wellness was my biggest passion and helping an understanding why people aren’t living their best life, their best version of themselves. And so I said, Okay, well, I import ossai and the super foods into my house, I eat them regularly. There’s nowhere to get them in 2015 and 16. So I really enjoyed this product. And I’m like, Hey, these are really, really good. And everyone who’s come over has really enjoyed them. What if I started in a stable shop? And I knew nothing about restaurants and nothing about that food industry and no idea how I was going to make it work. But I said, Hey, you know what, I can do this. So that was kind of the impetus between for starting everybody was I wanted to help. I want to help solve the crisis in America of why we don’t eat, right, why we know, eating healthy is important. And we know what’s good for us. And we know what it does for longevity, but we still make that bad choice every day. And when you look at heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, etc. All of these conditions that plagues so many millions of Americans every single day, the science shows that 80% of these are delectable, or preventable with lifestyle choice. So if we don’t, if we move our bodies, and we eat differently, and we eat real food, we can delay or prevent 80% of these conditions. And that’s a staggering number. And so I said, Okay, I can choose to attack the problem with the fitness and movement side or the food side. And the thing is, I’m not a fitness trainer, and you can’t outwork a bad diet, we eat three to five times a day. And the average American doesn’t exercise, but they eat anyway. So if I can solve that one, I can help. And so I did some research, I did some homework, and the average American eats fast food 3.2 times a week. It’s a lot. And so when you look at that you like, okay, that’s where I need to be an ASA equals can be that point. And since nobody was eating them, and nobody, no one had them really they weren’t available, like the Jamba Juice is of the world and Tropical Smoothie cafes and smoothie kings, they didn’t offer these bowls. And you might have a few very, very, you know, specialty health restaurants where you could find them. I found a couple, you know, in my travels, but there was no one who had done it yet mainstream. And so I said, Okay, I’m going to take on that mission. You know, there was a few that had just kind of started in other parts of the country, but nothing in Southern California. And I said, Okay, so I went off to dinner with my high. Remember, it was a, it was August of 2016. And I was out to dinner with my mom and my dad, my wife and my kids. And that’s when I broke the news to them. And I liked telling the story, because I think it will resonate with so many others that have to tell their their support circle about what their crazy next venture is going to be. And I said, Listen, I’m gonna start, I’m gonna start a restaurant. And my dad said, Are you nuts? Nine out of 10 restaurants fail. Total. And my wife, my wife and mom both said, you know, you don’t know how to cook. And all you do in the kitchen is eat and make a mess. Like, how are you starting a restaurant? And I think this is important. You know, I’ll get into the story. But why do nine out of 10 restaurants fail, because nine out of 10 restaurants are started by chefs, which means they’re really good at making food, but they’re not really good at the business side yet. They don’t have that expertise. They know how to cook, they don’t know how to run a business. And I believe experience in your vertical or in your niche is the most overrated prerequisite to start a company or be successful because business is the same whether I own every bowl restaurant, a construction company, a payroll company, digital marketing agency, a CPG brand like hint, as long as my sales and I bring in more revenue than I spend. And I have understand all of my below line costs and my cogs and my my supply chain, and I can recruit amazing talent and I understand marketing. And I can put a business together and understand a p&l and a balance sheet and attract customers, investors and employees. I can be successful. So what we do is irrelevant at that moment, right? We can all figure that out. So I can hire a chef to work with me. Or a chef can hire someone like me to work with them. But that partnership is required if you don’t have all the skills yourself. And so I started everybody with no idea how to run a restaurant. And I found my location because I was visiting a client that I had for my digital marketing days that I just went to lunch with in Poway, California, which is a suburb of San Diego. And I went to Smoothie King to get a smoothie and the owner of the Smoothie King was literally moving equipment out of the restaurant like he was taking it to his van. And I said Are you close and he said, I’m closing at the end of the week. This was a Wednesday he was closing on Friday, he’s retiring. And I remember asking him, why didn’t you sell the business? And he said, I tried. I tried to sell it for too much. And it was a franchise and they were rules and I couldn’t get a buyer. So I’m just retiring and closing down and had been there for 20 years. So I figured well you know what, if a smoothie shop survived for 20 years, my location this could be a great location for me and so I called the landlord and you know, I signed a lease the very next day and when launched every bowl with no idea what the menu was going to be like, and no idea what or how it was going to I didn’t have a name at the time, to be honest. My first name was terrible, it was going to be called Thrive bowls. And I had no idea how what, where when all I knew is this was my location. And what I wanted to sell was including an OSI evil. And so we signed the lease and we ended up opening October of 2016. Obviously, figured out a better name for the brand, ever bulk and a better tagline. And our menu got developed over those three months while we were figuring it out and building it. And I, you know, I hired someone to build the store and October 2016, everyone was built, and everyone was a craft super food chain, where we focus on ice bowls, pitaya bowls, and a bunch of other super food bowls with the sole purpose of making healthy eating, affordable, filling, delicious and accessible. And the reason I say those four things very specifically and with intention is those are the four excuses we make to why we don’t eat healthy. Why you go to McDonald’s is because it’s either affordable, it’s filling is delicious, or it’s accessible. And those are the reasons why we don’t eat healthy and why we eat unhealthy. So if I can move everybody in front of the, the those same four excuses and say, Hey, you’re on a tight budget, go to every goal, you want a lot of food go to everybody, you want something that’s delicious, go to ever go and you only have 30 minutes, or you’re on a car car ride and you’re in the middle of nowhere, there has to be inevitable there. And that’s why we’re trying to scale so fast. And so that was the birth of every goal and the why behind it. And we launched

Kara Goldin 26:29
I love it. So you said the word franchise, you had never worked in franchises. So in addition to launching a restaurant that you had never done, you also decided to start to basically build a company that was selling franchises to so how did you make that decision?

Jeff Fenster 26:53
So I actually was never going to franchise and when I started ever bought my, my entire answer to anyone said, Oh, you’re gonna frame because this was never, ever never, never, never never. And so I ended up opening 20 of my own locations, never franchised until COVID. And actually one of my private equity investors, Surya private equity, they invested in me in 2018. And the day he invested, you know, Aaron, he told me, he said, Jeff, I’m going to invest in you today because I know you will smarten up and realize the benefit of franchising his business, and I want to be involved when you do. And he wrote and I said, Aaron, I’ll take your money. I would love to have you as part of our team and family. But I never franchising. Fast forward till March 18 of 2020 after COVID. And I came to the realization he was right. And I was wrong. And I remember telling him Aaron, you’re right. And I’ll say it again here. Aaron, you were right. I was wrong, I smart. And we launched franchising in 2020, of, of after COVID, after we reopened after COVID. And now we have 370 stores around the country that are sold and franchisees and all these states. And so franchising was something that was never in the never on the horizon was actually the opposite of what we wanted to do. But how we vertically integrated the brand. And what we did to scale and grow so quickly changed the outcome to where franchising just made the most sense.

Kara Goldin 28:16
That’s awesome. So you just mentioned the word vertical integration. And I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about that and the importance of vertical integration.

Jeff Fenster 28:26
Sure, so being an entrepreneur, if you asked a lot of entrepreneurs like what does it mean to be an entrepreneur, I summed it down to one simple definition, you’re a problem solver. That is all we are. And if you’re not understanding that when you start your own company, you are going to have an onslaught of just problems to solve forever. In the day you stop having problems to solve, congratulations, you either sold the business or you’re out of business. That’s it. But there will always be problems and challenges. And our job is to always find solutions and grow and survive in those examples. And the number two, part of being an entrepreneur, your problem solver. And the number one rule is entrepreneurs stay in business today. It’s your job. If you stay in business today, and you stay and you do that enough days, you have a successful company. And so vertical integration allows you to kind of dance between those two very effectively what that means is you take your most common problems, the most common challenges your organization faces, and you figure out how you can integrate a solution into your ecosystem. One example of that is McDonald’s. They are they have they sell hamburgers, they have their own cattle farm. So instead of buying, you know beef from all these vendors and suppliers around the country, they started their own cattle farm where they’re buying from themselves that’s vertically integrating their cattle into their organization. So forever bull. We built the first location in October of 2016. It cost me just under $300,000 to build and I wanted to build 100 of these myself and self funded and that’s a lot of money. And so restaurants are really expensive, and they’re scary proposition so I So I had a problem. And I wrote my problem on the board. And I said, my problem is restaurants cost too much money, how do I solve the problem? And this is an exercise that everyone should do, which is when you have a problem, write it down. But before you quickly solve it, start to think about all the reasons that problem exists. And can we make the problem dissolve? Or can we solve the problem? Because those are the two applications, right? For example, all those conditions I mentioned, we can find cures or treatments for them, or we can not ever have the condition to begin with? Which would you rather? So would I rather solve the problem that restaurants are so expensive, or would I rather make it to a restaurants aren’t so expensive, so I have no problem solving. And I chose that one, I said, I want to make it to where restaurants aren’t so expensive to build. And I don’t want to solve the problem of raising a bunch of money or just dealing with it. So I realized, Hey, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m gonna start a construction company whose sole purpose is to build edibles, and vertically integrate my build outs into my organization. I don’t know anything about construction, I don’t even put Legos together, my kids know, come come holidays and birthdays, if it doesn’t come pre assembled, mom does it or it doesn’t doesn’t happen. And so I started a construction company called rebuilt stuff we built and we built ever. And the idea was, let’s bring the cost down. Because I don’t need to make money that we build, I need to save money. And by saving money, we build what that are by saving money on the build outs, that cost savings is the profit that most people would think about with construction. And I’m going to get better at it. And I’m going to control the outcome. And we’re going to learn this process. And so over the duration of you know, those coming years, we build as built every single ever bowl. And as a result, vertically integrated this, this component and my cost to build are never go went from 300. And something they’re just under 300,000 to 100,000. And now I can build two or three ever bowls for the price of one. And all of a sudden, that makes me very competitive, that makes me very disruptive. And now my competition is going to spend 300 grand, I’m going to spend 100 grand, I’ll build three for the price of one and on the market. It also makes me very attractive for franchisees. And as a result of that the Weibo brand is itself protects my investment in my business, because the capital requirement to open the stores is way less, which means if I choose a bad store, I take less risk for every store. So it keeps me in business longer. And it solved my problems, especially once we hit COVID. And you couldn’t hire contractors because they were so busy or you couldn’t find products and because of supply chain issues. I didn’t slow down because I control my own people. Yeah, we also gives you opportunity. Because I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a business owner. So think about what that now gives me is I don’t have to build for other people, but I can. And so I was working with Shaq trying to get him to open ever bowls. And in the process of that it ended up not working out after a year and a half of working together trying to figure out how to get him to open every bowls. He had just started his own concept called big chicken and big chickens a chicken sandwich place. Not I wouldn’t consider it like a Chick fil A, it’s more of a dine in Chick fil A experience. So a higher end Chick fil A experience. And he said, Jeff, ultimately, I’m building my own brand. My team doesn’t want us to invest into another concept right now. So we’re going to pass but could you help me build big chicken? And I said yes. And so we built started doing some r&d. We started working with Shaq and we ended up building out big chicken for him. So now we partner with Shaq and build big chicken. Drew Brees is one of our biggest franchisees and he has a bunch of other concepts. So when he heard and he’s an investor in every bowl, so when he heard that we were now building for Shaq, he said, Well wait, Jeff, I have concepts. And so then we started building his concept, stretch zone and walk ons and these other brands. And then from there, we started getting third other third party brands to take us on Capri oddities and wings zone and all these other brands. And so now what started as a cost savings vertically integrated problem to solve for ever bowl has turned into a revenue generating cash flow, increasing my EBITA and giving me another opportunity to build another company on the side. And so that whole idea of vertical integration that was one of the companies that we started to solve, but you can see how all of a sudden I turned a problem, which is restaurants cost too much money into its own business unit as a result. And I didn’t know that at the time. I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. And that’s the power of vertical integration. McDonald’s is the largest toy distributor in the world because they distribute so many toys with the Happy Meal. They have chicken farms all over the world because of the chicken nuggets. They own some of the most real estate in the world them in the church, I think battle one and two for most real estate on because they actually own the land roll the McDonald’s are and you can start to understand that vertical integration can really take your business to a whole nother level. And so the last you know, and I don’t want to go too far down this path, but I love it. You know another element was I import super foods from around the world. So I eat from Brazil Patidar from Nicaragua and Vietnam and I was running into in 2017 the same challenges if I was finding middlemen and middlemen suppliers that I had to buy from, it became expensive. And there was no differentiator between me and now the plethora of Asa evil shops that started popping up between 1718 and 19. And so I went down to Brazil, and I met the local locals, myself, and I made relationships down in Brazil, and I started my own company called unevolved products. And we started importing our own superfoods. And by doing that, we started to control our own supply chain at the restaurant level. Now we bring in our own superfoods, and I sell them to my stores, and my stores then can sell them. So instead of buying from someone else we’re buying from ourselves. And I get to have economies of scale, I get to buy volume, I get to start manufacturing my own flavors, and it makes it unique. No one else has ever both flavors only ever pulled us. And now we’re building our brand, we’re not just a reseller of the same product that everyone else is doing. And they started to give us more enterprise value with the organization. But it also again, it vertically integrated a component which gave me options. And those options is how you stay in business and survive. And so when COVID hit, and it was March 18 2020, and I temporarily laid off over 500 employees, and we shut down 28 stores. And we didn’t know what we were going to do. You know, I’m in California. So on March 19, we had no business, me and my executives, we got together in our office and we said what, what what are we going to do? Right problem? We’re out of business, how do we solve it. And so we looked at what we had, and I had 1000s and 1000s of pounds of ice and Pitaya and all these ingredients. But I had no store. And I looked at what was available, people were starting to eat, people started to eat, but they were ordering delivery and eating from home. And so we spun up a company, a Shopify site called Laser bowls. And we started selling bowls direct to consumers and mailing them or driving them in a van and dropping them off and using our product to sell direct to consumer. And that was our first taste into that. And it started to go really well. By the end of March, we were doing pretty good numbers. And we had so many clients around our customers around our 28 stores that we could market to but all of a sudden people from outside of the area where we had store started to reach out. And we realized this could be a national opportunity because at that time I had stores just in California and Arizona. And so I reached out to through my relationship capital going back to the book again of my network and saying how can I get on QVC? How can I start getting that attention nationally. And so I use the relate played the phone game relationship game to get myself in front of a buyer at QVC. I show them that this is who we are we control our supply chain. Here’s our product, I sent it to him, and they loved it. And so we got our first airing on QVC in June of 2020. And we sold out in seven minutes. And they asked us back and we sold out again and we sold out again. And so we sold out 17 Straight times on QVC and where they’re plant based Product of the Year in 2021. And, you know, turned again, what was used to be just a problem solving thing. But you know, we did over eight and a half million dollars on sales just on QVC alone, selling direct to consumer. And now we knew we had this new market, we got to introduce every bowl into markets where we had no stores, and the plethora of franchise requests started coming in. And then it was like Well, now that we started franchising, we had all this attention nationally, and people have saying, hey, we want to open an ever bull in

Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, all these areas where we didn’t have edibles before. And so we started selling franchises, because we are vertically integrated machine where we will not only give you the front end restaurant that you are buying, but we will do all your buildings. So you don’t have to worry about hiring a GC and going through that process with turnkey the store for you at a much more cost effective rate will provide you the super foods that you know and love and control your supply chain. And basically do that. And as a result of those things. Everybody really exploded and took off.

Kara Goldin 38:44
That’s amazing. And the brands just I mean it, it expands when you do one thing, but I find is that the rest starts to pick up as well. Right? I mean, it’s like you said it might have been on hiatus for a minute, with more than a minute with COVID. But it ultimately expanded the brand because she just kept hustling. And for lack of a better term. I mean, you were just like figuring it out, and figuring out how to monetize all of this, which is really what your book talks about, which is absolutely incredible. So it’s a frozen product that right I mean when you went to QVC I mean that’s incredible. So it’s frozen

Jeff Fenster 39:25
and we ship it on ice. Yeah, it is frozen process product.

Kara Goldin 39:30
Yeah. So which has its own challenges I’m sure. I’ve that’s one that I have have not done. One of the thing one of the things I wanted to ask you about. So being an entrepreneur is super tough. I read a piece where you talked about your five minute pity party on those on those bad days, right. I loved this response. Can you share that what that is?

Jeff Fenster 39:54
So I think people tend to fall in one or two camps either it’s something bad happens and we play, we stay and play victim forever, right? Oh my gosh COVID ruined my business 20 stores, I did all this hard work, pour me pour my team. And I cry and I stay there forever. Or we go the other side where we play tough, tough cumin. And we say, oh, it’s not going to affect me I’m going to overcome. The challenge with both of those is, it’s too extreme. If you live there in the pity, victim side forever, you can’t start solving the problem. And if you play tough human, where you’re not going to accept the fact that something bad did happen and give that emotion the time it needs. It’s going to build up and eventually you’re going to have some effect by we don’t know when or where or how. But you need to have a good blend. And so what I found is when something bad happens, like COVID, and I make the phone call, we do a zoom, we lay off everybody, I go home, and I feel like a victim poor me, why me? Why is this happening to me, the world’s not fair, etcetera, etcetera. I need to give that emotion the time it needs so I can process it and understand that I gave it its minutes. But the idea is minutes and moments, not days, not weeks, not months. So I set a timer on my phone for five minutes. And for five minutes, I scream I cry I curse I hit the wall, I jump up and down i i played that played the part, I have my pity moments and I call it my pity party. You know, I do it for five minutes. Because after five minutes, no one’s coming to save me. No one’s gonna know start over. Oh, poor Jeff, you know what we’re going to undo COVID Because it was unfair for you life as I teach my kids. Life is not meant to be fair. We all have circumstances, we all have good days, bad days and unlucky. It’s what you do with those things. So when that alarm goes off, after five minutes, I’ve given it to five minutes, I cried, I screamed, I cursed I went through the motions I had to go through. But now what I have to solve it, I have to climb back up the mountain. And so at the end of those five minutes, I’ve given the emotion it needed the time it needed to air it out and have it I’ve already been a victim. Now, I don’t have to do it again, I was already crying, I don’t have to do it again. Now it’s what’s next? What do we do in this moment to get out of the hole unknowing, or solve the problem that we are now dealing with or climb the mountain that’s in front of us. And so I think that it’s really worked well for me, because in the olden days, I tried to play tough guy. And it would creep up the anxiety would creep up, I’d wake up in the middle of night with sweats. And, you know, I bottled it all up. And eventually when you bottle up all of that and it comes under pressure, it pops when you least expect it or at least want it to. And so I found that by giving myself a five minute pity party, I didn’t live there too long. And you know, one of my mentors taught me minutes and moments over over days, weeks and months is a better thing. So, you know, we’re all human. And I have bad days, like everybody, I have those moments that and I just try to shrink it down. And so by setting the alarm, I know I get to do it. And I recommend everyone try it. You know, it might not work for everybody. But I can tell you it. It’s amazing what it does for your psyche and your emotional state as well as your confidence state. Because once that alarm goes off, you’re ready, like you’ve had that time, you know, you’ve done it. And you just maybe need more than five minutes. Maybe it’s an hour. I mean, it’s different for everybody, but pick a time and when the timer goes off. That’s it. The game is over. Yeah, it was done. Let’s move forward.

Kara Goldin 43:13
So interesting. When you close your eyes, and you think about all of your experiences, your brands, the services that you’ve built, what are you most proud of? I feel like as a as a founder and entrepreneur, you never get credit for it. All right, you’re you’re dealing with, you know, every day, it’s people. They want to know what the benefits are of the company, they want to know, why aren’t they getting the raise? Right? You know, all of these things, right? As Steve Jobs I’ve talked about this a million times on on this podcast. But you know, Steve Jobs went into this rant, if you haven’t seen it on this one video where he talks about the coffeemaker and like air, you know, it’s like everybody wants the right beans, and the when the coffeemaker breaks, it’s like, I’ve got to make sure that just, of course, that’s not really what he’s known for at all, but he has to make sure that you know, everyone comes to him as as the person that’s, that’s fixing it that’s going to make it happen, especially if you’re successful. So what what do you think? What are you most proud of that you’ve been able to accomplish?

Jeff Fenster 44:26
I think I’m most proud of that. I’ve figured out for myself how to be the best version of myself today. And I believe success is formulaic. And I’m an ordinary guy. I don’t have Steve Jobs intelligence or Mark Zuckerberg intelligence. I’m not seven foot like Shaq or throw a football like Drew Brees. I’m an ordinary guy, but I figured out what extra stuff I need to do everyday to generate extraordinary results and be the best version of myself. And that I’m most proud of because I think that that’s a struggle for a lot of people that I mentor and people on the ground that always come to me and ask me like, how do I find my purpose? How do I find that? How do I do this? And they’re struggling to find that formula for themselves. And so I’m, I think, regardless of the money I’ve made, or the businesses I’ve created, or all of this, or the failures, I’ve had, all those things along the journey for me, it’s about I know what Jeff Fenster needs to do every day to be successful. And so I’m most proud of the fact that I can stay in that truth and do it, and commit to it and be consistent. And that’s what I think is what I hope that my kids see from it, not the glitz and the glamour, not the 100 hour weeks and the sacrifices, you know, most people who aren’t entrepreneurs, they see the results that successful viewers get, but they don’t see all the sacrifice and hours and, and things that go on to the coffeemaker example that are required to achieve those. And so I think it’s important that if everyone understands, like, Hey, if you figure out your formula for success, whatever that means, and success is personal, it’s not a financial thing for everybody. It’s not a spiritual thing for everybody. It’s not a relationship thing for everybody. But it could be whatever those are, whatever makes success, whatever, if you define what success means to me what, and then you figure out what formula you have to do to do that on a daily basis and understand that it’s not the result or the destination. It’s the journey, it’s the process. And if you enjoy a love that if you find a way to love that, and you find a way to be the best version of yourself doing that, then you should be proud and you’re successful. And so I love what I do every day, and I get to do with incredible humans, and I’m most grateful and proud of that.

Kara Goldin 46:33
Yeah, no, I love that. Well, thank you so much, Jeff, this is awesome. And so many great nuggets of wisdom that you shared with us. And we’ll have all the info in the in the show notes too. But every bowl, everyone needs to go find not only the restaurants, but the products. We build stuff if you’re looking to build stuff out. Talk to Jeff about that, too. And also his book, like I said, is so inspiring and informative, as well. And really, whether you’re an entrepreneur in the making or an existing entrepreneur, I really think it’s the kind of book that really helps you think about okay, yeah, this is sort of what I need to make adjustments doing in order to go out and make it happen. So thank you so much, Jeff Fenster, appreciate it and have a great rest of the week, everyone.

Jeff Fenster 47:25
Thanks for having me.

Kara Goldin 47:27
Thanks again for listening to the Kara Goldin show. If you would, please give us a review. And feel free to share this podcast with others who would benefit and of course, feel free to subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode of our podcast. Just a reminder that I can be found on all platforms at Kara Goldin. And if you want to hear more about my journey, I hope you will have a listen. Or pick up a copy of my book on daunted which I share my journey, including founding and building hint. We are here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And thanks everyone for listening. Have a great rest of the week, and 2023 and goodbye for now. Before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. Successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara Goldin and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara Goldin. Thanks for listening