By: Kelsey Juntwait
“When you start a food business, you need to be either completely naive, or a little crazy,” Paul Majcherczyk tells me laughing. “And we were definitely a little of both.” Jess Gebel added. Paul and Jess co-founded Fabalish, an organic and plant-based food company that specializes in utilizing aquafaba, the product of boiling chickpeas. Their foods are healthy and nutritious without ever skimping on flavor.
Jess describes herself as a first-generation American who primarily grew up on fast food. “My parents were just working a lot,” she tells me. She explains that in her early twenties, she suffered from an array of illnesses and ailments, and finding a diagnosis and cure for them was harder than anticipated. She then turned to her upbringing— specifically, the nourishment she had been feeding her body over the past twenty-some years. “I quickly learned that food was a key factor in healing a lot of my issues.”
She has a fascinating story going forward— from being a private natural foods chef in Miami, to building a repertoire at the farmer’s markets in Florida, to competing on the Food Network show Cooks vs. Cons (she won, by the way), to attending the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, to now co-owning Fabalish. What was simply a feat to better her own body turned into a lifelong passion and a now booming business with her husband Paul.
It was never Paul’s plan to move over into the food business world, but as Jess’ passion grew, Paul knew he would be her perfect partner— Paul in the business seat while Jess took the more creative and social role. “We had no idea what we were doing, and it felt very overwhelming at first,” Paul notes as he recalls quitting the job he’s known for awhile. Coming from two completely different backgrounds, they created a perfect team, although they’re quick to remind me that, of course, they still fight!
Paul tells me that he came across Hudson Kitchen while googling how to start a food business. Luckily enough, we were offering a Food Business Bootcamp in the upcoming weeks. “The timing was perfect. I was in the middle of basically figuring out how to do this. Neither of us had any experience in starting an actual food business.”
While Paul felt as though the entire Bootcamp was helpful, there was one aspect of it that really stood out. “It gave us comfort knowing that we weren’t alone,” he shares. “The subject matter itself was very useful, but the most important thing was just meeting people in a similar position.” He went on to tell me how useful and memorable the speakers were. “Djenaba actually helped us get into our first store- The Green Grape!”
The networking that started at the Bootcamp has since continued. The pair still keeps in contact with the people they’ve met through other Hudson Kitchen events and workshops. “You begin to rely on your network,” Paul notes.
Another thing that the Bootcamp stressed was the importance of Demos. “No amount of marketing is going to take the place of people actually trying the product. And then over time, word will spread.” And that’s exactly what happened. Paul and Jess both agree that demos are what builds their customer base.
Less than a year after taking the Bootcamp, and the two now have products in over 30 stores in and around New York City. And the company keeps growing. They stress that in order to have a successful food business, you need to really believe in your product, take advantage of your network, and to “never look back.” And, most importantly, to take a “staycation” every now and then to keep you from going too crazy.