Episode 116
July 26, 2022

Jobs, Joy, and Joining Forces

with Jennifer Zeszut, Co-Founder and CEO of GOODLES

About this episode

Today, Lee is joined by Jennifer Zeszut, Co-founder and CEO of GOODLES. Reimagining everyone's beloved mac and cheese, GOODLES is reinventing the prepared pasta aisle, making macaroni nutrient-dense, protein-packed, and tasting as good as it feels to eat. In this episode, Jen shares with us her journey from growing up in the Bay Area, to becoming a buyer at Cost Plus World Market, to being offered $3M to start her first company Scout Labs, to becoming CEO of Cerebelly, to starting GOODLES in November 2020. She talks about a few lucky breaks she's encountered throughout her career journey, her experience with a very shady investor, her views on leadership, and why the way you do work matters.

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In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • (1:18) GOODLES is founded by an all-star team, including Jen Zeszut, the former CEO of Cerebelly, Deb Luster, the former Co-founder and President of Annie's, Paul Earle, a branding expert, and a former brand manager at Kraft, and Gal Gadot, an award-winning actress known for playing Wonder Woman.
  • (4:24) What it was like growing up in the Bay Area with a small family and how she became an assistant to CEOs at the age of 14.
  • (12:09) How after graduating from college she became a gourmet foods buyer at Cost Plus World Market, to then being offered $3M to start her first company, Scout Labs. 
  • (24:00) What she learned about herself as a leader, CEO, and how she carries that into her day-to-day life at GOODLES.
  • (32:00) Why she feels it's important for everyone to have joy when coming into work every day, and how if you don’t, maybe it's time to move on.
  • (44:45) Why she believes branding is based on the details, and how they created a fun phone tree…give it a try at 707-GOODLES.
  • (46:44) Why she decided to add a fourth skew right before launch.
  • (52:00) The advice she has for those not sure where to start, and how to keep going with joy.

To Find Out More:



“I didn't think about entrepreneurship for a really long time, but I was always a leader.”

“I always told my mom that ‘I was the leader of the ones who don't’”

“I learned that the day in and day out of running the operations of a restaurant was kind of boring.”

“It was like CEO training wheels, if the wheels fell off, at least I tried and learned.”                                       

“I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur and here I am four companies later.”

“I love the idea of just mobilizing all the forces to go after something.”

“What I learned is to be able to keep this alive and keep it all going, and somehow persist through really hard times, was an incredible realization of just how much strength that you can bring to a situation.”

“It's all about the comradery of this family that you create when you start a company and the bonds between one another.”

“I just wanna show the world that the way that you do work matters and the bonds that you create with your team, you can do and you can work miracles with that.”

“If it feels wrong and if I'm not happy and I don't have joy coming into work every single day, that's actually the wrong thing. It should change. It's not that I have to work harder, it's that it may not be the best fit.” 

“Being a CEO for hire is definitely a different thing because your job is to execute the wishes of the founders.”

“You set the tone and you set the culture.”

“We were looking for something that was fun and joyful and mac and cheese is kind of universal.”

“It's such a great conduit for this idea of putting little gooders out into the world and to make, be, and do gooder.”

“Brands are based on the details.”

“If we're not doing things that don’t get an ‘oh no you did not’ out of it then we're not hitting the mark.”

“I was less playing to win and more playing not to lose.”

“Stop being scared, be yourself and just shine your joy and your voice, it just gets better and better.” 

“You never know what is the ultimate thing you need, or if you're not sure what the big idea is, just go start doing some stuff and tune in to what parts you love and what parts bring you joy and the parts that you don't wanna replicate, you’ll find it.”

Read the transcript

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