In today’s episode of the Brains Byte Back podcast, we speak with Bryan Janeczko, Co-Founder and CEO of Nunbelievable, a mission-based baked goods company striving to combat hunger in America; “one cookie at a time”.
Long-term listeners of Brains Byte Back will remember Janeczko from our episode back in 2020 titled “How Anyone Can Turn an Idea Into a Startup.” Janeczko kicks off the show by sharing what has been keeping him busy since we last spoke, and talks about his work with Nunbelievable.
He talks about how the company has a one-for-one giving model. While he admits the one-for-one giving model is no longer unique, Janeczko argues that Nunbelievable sets itself apart as a for-purpose business that combines the best of running a for-profit business and supporting a cause that people care about.
Janeczko goes on to add that their mission, to end hunger in America, is a major issue that everyone can get behind, regardless of their background or political affiliation.
To date, Nunbelievable’s one-for-one model has provided over a million meals to those in need. Janeczko also goes into detail about the company’s partnership with Feeding America, an organization that aims to eliminate poverty and reduce hunger, particularly in densely populated urban areas and communities of color.
And finally, we talk about the importance of conscious consumerism, and Janeczko shares why he believes it is important to be impact-focused and sustainable when it comes to business practices.
He points out that Gen Z is highly focused on the underlying mission of a company, and having a cause can help companies stand out when attracting talent. Additionally, Janeczko claims that having a mission can encourage employees to go the extra mile, and he is proud of the pool of talent at Nunbelievable, which ranges in age from 18 to 70 from all walks of life.
Alternatively, you can find a transcript below:
Bryan Janeczko: It’s really exciting to be back and in the three years since I’ve been on your show a lot has happened but for some of your folks who don’t have any history of Bryan Janeczko or my my background I’m a finance guy, turned entrepreneur. And what I mean by that is I was working at Morgan Stanley and that’s when my business partner and I had the idea for a healthy eating Completely self-service online meal, delivery solution. And this is back before we had Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and the proliferation of on-demand delivery services, but we wanted to create a model that was really the ultimate and convenience. And when I think about, you know, what prompted that it was just nutrition.
Bryan Janeczko: Took it back to seat to healthy living. While I was busy working long hours at the bank and I really wanted to do something about it and I thought if there were people like me there must be thousands of others who also wanted to eat better, but just we’re time-starved. And so that was really the catalyst for starting that first business, and so much more came out of that. But ultimately, we launched that business new kitchen, we grew that. And we sold that, and I’ll come back to that in a little while. But that really led to an amazing journey of social venture entrepreneurship and everything I’ve done.
Bryan Janeczko: Since selling New Kitchen, has really been about the betterment of people, and I was talking a little bit about this earlier today that the common thread with everything that I’ve done is really been about helping people at at its core. And what I mean by that is helping people move to next to uplift to elevate to find purpose and certainly in the case of New Kitchen to live a healthier life. And by doing that, I just think of that through everything I’ve done and specifically with starting and grow the next big venture that I invested my time. Money resources and was really a pioneering platform to help people start a business. It was an automated step-by-step plan and we had a great feature in the New York Times and we helped to elevate that unfortunately right around the time that I was speaking with you in 2020, the pandemic struck and we had a very difficult time and so there was some choices that we had to make. I was Managing another initiative, which is what I’m currently doing today and Nunbelievable. But we made the decision to not pursue that because the path, the profitability was quite long. And we didn’t have a proper distribution plan in place, certainly with the pandemic. So, I think with, with many businesses, we can talk about that, but there were a lot of learning from that and what I think about most is what I’m currently doing and how that really is a manifestation of everything that I’ve learned along the way, I’ll stop and take a breath. If there’s anything more I can do to clarify, ask away.
Samuel Brake Guia: No, I think I think you clarified a lot there and I have to say, from all the conversations I’ve had from you or with you. I mean, the last episode that we had, it was all about like, how anyone could produce a startup. So I really do get that vibe that you have that sensation and like underlying drive to help others. And like, you mentioned the last time we spoke, we had no idea of the storm that was around the corner and I’d be really curious to know like, for those who are long-term, listen, there’s a brain spike back and they’re probably just as curious as I am. Like what has transpired in your life since the last time we spoke in 2020?
Bryan Janeczko: Well to answer the first part of the question, but a statement you made about how easy it is to start a business. I firmly believe that today it is never, it has never been easier to start a business. I firmly believe that. However, I will also say that it’s never been harder to stay in business, there’s so many elements that we need to consider from technology distribution. While that may make it easier to start a business. I do think that what it, what it requires to stay in business really requires a lot of critical thought and appreciation, for all that, goes into it. And really aligning with the team that not only believes in in the mission and what you’re doing. But actually has the skill sets, take you there. But more on that later. So when we last talked, we were getting going with the business called Nunbelievable.
Bryan Janeczko: Nunbelievable is on a mission-based baked goods business and what’s really special about that business is the fact that we have a one-for-one giving model and while that particular aspect of a model isn’t so unique. I believe that what we’re doing is unique in the fact that we are what I would call a for-purpose business and for purpose.
Bryan Janeczko: I think you’ve nailed it. But more important than that is really addressing hunger. So we support Feeding America and a few other charities that provide hunger relief across the US. And with, every cookie pack that’s sold. We provide a meal to someone in need through, in this case, feeding America. And while that may not be unique in above itself, what I think is unique is, how also part of our brand DNA is not just this one for one model, but it’s recruiting people who believe in this mission. And I have to tell you that has been a very powerful tool for, for bringing people into our Nunbelievable world. And I’ll tell you, the reason that that’s so important is recruiting, can be really difficult as you may, or may not have experienced, but if you’re hiring people, there are a lot of options out there. I know the economy may be teetering on recession right now and then downturn things, do shift.
Bryan Janeczko: But there’s a lot of opportunity for people to work in other places and what better rallying cause than a mission that people care about. Because if you’re gonna come to work every day knowing that you’re going to be doing something better for the world better for the planet, isn’t that a whole lot better? So that’s element number two. So the first is that one for one giving all the second is the fact that we track people to the business that believe in the mission and then we volunteer. We’re always every month, every quarter we’re going out to support the organizations that we care for whether it’s city relief in New York. There’s there’s the Hunger Children’s Funding California where we were recently out last month or of course working with Feeding America or even world vision. They’re a number of partners we work with and then finally we donate product
Bryan Janeczko: So a lot of opportunities to donate products because who doesn’t love a cookie, right? So I think we’ve really combined some pretty interesting elements here and I’ve really coined the term for purpose. I shouldn’t say I coined it, There was I had a conversation with a fellow who mentioned this concept and what I’d like to think I’m doing is helping elevate it and bring it to life because I do think that brands, in particular, consumer brands, have a purpose and they should, they should align themselves with the cause that people care about.
Bryan Janeczko: So, all of that to say, I believe that we’re on the precipice of what the future of CpG of brands products represents. It’s not just starting a company with the business to promote another cookie, or another product. It’s about aligning with the cause that people care about while delivering an amazing experience. And that’s what I think we do. And I think we do it quite well. So that is what really I’ve been up to a hundred percent. Since we last spoke in 2020, This is my core focus.
Samuel Brake Guia: I can tell you are super passionate about it and I have to say, I will take you up on that offer. I would love to try some of those cookies.
Bryan Janeczko: Yes.
Samuel Brake Guia: I mean, like you said, Who doesn’t love a cookie? I’m not gonna turn down cookies. I’d be crazy, not to accept that. So I would. Yeah, I’d love to try that. And also, I just think that I’m, it’s, it’s really cool that. Like you said, you’re just very focused and driven with this underlying mission and Nunbelievable. I want to know. Where did that game name? Come from? That sounds. So it’s great, like I’m lost for words.
Bryan Janeczko: All right, Nunbelievable was originally inspired by Tony Robbins. He actually helped a group of nuns who were being evicted from a mission in the neighborhood in San Francisco. And what I loved about the story was the fact that these women devoted their lives to feeding those in need. And every penny they got really went to serve that purpose and they didn’t pay the rent and they’re being evicted and so Tony bought them a mission. And I remember reading the story and just recognizing the power of giving back and the power of that inspiration and we have a relationship with Tony Robbins and so he
Bryan Janeczko: Provided the seed funding for Nunbelievable, which is incredible. But what we wanted to do was not just sort of a neighborhood. We wanted to serve the entire country. We wanted to make sure that we could make a difference in every community in the United States. And so, we focused on partnering with Feeding America, a very reputable nationally, recognized organization, and then my co-founder. And he has a lot of experience and is no stranger to hunger. He comes from Zimbabwe where his family experienced famine and drought. So, this is personal for him. So, combining that with my experience in business building and creating better for you products, I thought was a no-brainer. So coming to market with that idea, the support of feeding America, and really attempting to make a difference in a meaningful way. It was really the catalyst for that and when I think of Nunbelievable today, what the brand stands for today.
Bryan Janeczko: We have Non-gmo products. We have none of the bad stuff. So we have a little fun with the brand. So while it’s a very serious cause we like to make sure that we are also being somewhat playful in terms of just in the every day, because we need to have some fun in life because there’s a lot of serious things going on and we need to pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the world. However, that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the delicious moment. And our mantra has really become. Our goal is to end hunger, in the most delicious way.
Samuel Brake Guia: You know, I get that playful vibe from it, I really like that and that’s kind of why I want to ask, but I never would have predicted a story like that behind the name.
Bryan Janeczko: But right, yeah, exactly. And we, we pre-launch with Tony Robbins on stage in Las Vegas, before we even had a product just to see would people even resonate with the concept and of course they did. And today we’ve been able to provide over a million meals to feed those in need. And so, for us, it’s pretty powerful and where I’m going to go with this, certainly, in the future is feeding America recently received some funding to actually eliminate poverty in certain segments of the population. So,
Bryan Janeczko: I believe hunger may always be with us to some extent, but I do think there’s a lot of systemic poverty that if we systemic poverty, which leads to food insecurity. So, if we can address that, I think we can actually solve the hunger crisis, and I’m really excited because our partner feeding America has really evaluated, a lot of programs across the country that can work in particular, in areas of the country. High urban areas, densely populated areas in particular communities of color where hunger is more acute. So they’ve got a number of programs in place. And so they believe in the next five. To ten years, they could actually reduce the amount of poverty in some of these communities, by more than 50%. So I think that’s a pretty awesome place to be. So if we start with, let’s give a person a meal when they’re in need, that’s great with the one for one model, but how do we follow that up and actually attempt to solve the hunger crisis? So I really love the fact that there is attention on this as well. So we’re
Bryan Janeczko: Part of that. So while you’re enjoying your amazing cookie that experience, you can know that you’re helping to solve a really challenging problem.
Samuel Brake Guia: That’s amazing. And you know I did have some more questions. I was gonna ask you more about like and conscious consumerism and being impact phone at focused and sustainable business habits. And by all means, if you have more to speak about on this, then don’t let me stop you. But I did want to cool back to something you mentioned earlier, which really stuck out for me about how you make your mission part of your hiring process. Like, people have to be on board. And I know this a bit of a curveball, but I’d love to know, like, How have you found that impacting, your hiring process? If you found, you’ve got more applicants as a result?
Bryan Janeczko: we have people coming to us, and so, I would like to think and I believe I’ve been hiring people for 20 years now. that the fact we have a mission has improved and brought us incredible candidates, because everybody in this case cares about this, cause And so I think it is a real advantage for any company. And in this particular day and age retaining talent is absolutely critical. We all may be familiar with the cost of hiring recruiting hiring training. There’s a lot of hard dollar costs and time involved with that. So if you’re constantly turning staff, that can be really challenging for your business. So,
Bryan Janeczko: Having this particular element as part of our brand platform, the fact that you know, we give the one for one. We have the one for one model. We volunteer, we donate products. That’s, that’s really important in. People are attracted to that. So, when we put out an ad for a job, or a spec, or whatever channel we use, we find that the responses are overwhelmingly positive. And what I’m particularly interested in is, is how many people right, cover letters. Now, that’s not something I’ve really experienced in the last few years. I know we’ve had an amazing job market and so maybe people didn’t feel the need. But what I loved was, how many people wrote these amazing stories about why they wanted to work for us? Why they want to be part of the Nunbelievable story? The fact that yes, it’s an emerging brand, it’s better for you, but they also felt that what we’re trying to do is make a difference.
Samuel Brake Guia: That makes sense. And one of the reasons I asked that is because I have seen statistics that say that Gen Z, is so focused on the underlying mission of the company. So I can imagine at this point it’s probably something that really helps you stand out when it comes to attracting talent, I know that I personally would be attracted to that.
Bryan Janeczko: Yeah. Yeah. But definitely, Gen Z are very much focused on anything that they do. Long-term has to be really attached to a cause or the focus is a very different work ethic from let’s say, Gen Xers. For example, I I know there’s a lot of generational differences and we’ve got folks as young as I think 1819 and as old as 65 70 on our teams that we really run the gamut in terms of age ranges generations, if you will, whether regardless of what you may categorize, folks, what we have a master’s that is an amazing pool of talent that really brings together. The best I think of all worlds and we do all align it align around that cause because that is what really galvanizes us to go that extra mile.
Bryan Janeczko: We may have talked about this before. I’ve certainly talked about it in previous interviews about how easy it is. When you start a business or when you hit a wall, You’ve hired, someone you’re really stuck. It’s easy to quit. Anyone can quit and people may not fault you for quitting and Fine. But what I do think, we have an obligation to do. Are look for challenges, look for, you know, solutions to challenging problems. Can we climb over that mountain meet, if the blast to hold that mountain. How are we gonna get across that mountain? Because if we do, you know, we’re gonna be able to be in a much better place and I find that people more willing to problem solve and take ownership and so, yes, absolutely. It’s been a boon for, I think, recruiting for retaining talent, and making sure during those difficult times. That is that that’s our North Star. That’s our aligning our aligning focus. For sure.
Samuel Brake Guia: Them. I love that and I have to say I really want to make the most of this opportunity with you because I’ve hosted almost 150 episodes of the podcast now and I can say I’ve never had someone on before who has built a business like this like around cookies. For example I find it fascinating and I really want to know like what surprised you the most about building this business. And what have you learned throughout this process?
Bryan Janeczko: Well, I will say that. While we may have started in cookies, I wouldn’t view us as a cookie business and I say that because
Bryan Janeczko: We’re a snack goods business and snacking was really my key motivator for launching in this particular area and within snacking, cookies is one of the fastest growing categories and for many reasons in particular ones that resonated closely with me. I just thought that was the best place to go. So we had market insights and consumer research, but what cookies may have been, what we started with and that is what our model currently is known for there is every opportunity for us to move into all kinds of adjacent snacking categories. I look at what Mondelez has done, you may know is one of the largest snack goods companies in the world, they own Cadburys, they only Oreo cookie. They own all kinds of different products, but this is how people are eating. So this is really leaning into a macro consumer trend of, instead, of eating three large meals a day, you’re finding a lot of people snacking in between having little by little indulgences if you will, that’s how people are eating. So we’re really playing into that trend. So that was, I think the important.
Bryan Janeczko: Part here and that was really critical for me wanting to lean into that. But also it lent itself. Well, to a one-for-one giving model and so it just seemed like a perfect marriage. Your answer the question, Sam.
Samuel Brake Guia: That’s fantastic. Yeah, yeah, no, I did. And I think there’s so much. This conversation has been unique and it’s so fantastic. Having you on. And you know what Bryan, I’m more than happy to have you on. Again, may we touch base in a year and but let’s see. It’ll be fun to say like Get some predictions going. I want to know what’s on the horizon for you and you folks at Nunbelievable.
Bryan Janeczko: It’s a great question. What’s unique about this platform relative to what? I’ve been involved with before and and I’ve Co-founder advised multiple many, many companies here, I think I’ve just talked about to my first one and then one that was very impactful for me, where there were some lessons learned, but there have been others along the way as well.
Bryan Janeczko: All follow the path of better for you and in my mind of helping people and so, when I think of Nunbelievable in the future of where we’re going right now, numbly little I believe has the opportunity to really be the leading mission-based baked goods company. So when I talk about being at the precipice of four purpose, we are there and we are that company. And we recently signed a deal with a very large marketing strategist. Right now, to help us as we shift into retail, we’re about 2,000 stores across the US and we’re available on Amazon, but this shift to this new strategist. Could easily 10x 100x our stores in the next 12 to 18 months. So, I expect certainly within the next 24 months for everyone, across the US, to, really know who Nunbelievable is and know what our mission is. And when they see us on that store, shall that, they’re gonna pick us up and purchase us because not only do we taste good, but we’re actually working to end hunger in the most delicious way.
Samuel Brake Guia: Fantastic. Well, I hope everyone listening goes and checks all the work that you’ve been doing out but definitely Nunbelievable and if people do want to check out Nunbelievable try it or keep up with you, how can they what’s the best way for them to do that, right?
Bryan Janeczko: I have a LinkedIn profile people are certainly. Welcome to follow me there, but I also am happy to, you know, people reach out to me. I respond. So I will definitely respond to messages. Look, I I think we all owe it to ourselves to the planets who are our brothers and sisters here and planet Earth to, to do something better. And I believe that if you’re going to launch a business, think about something that’s important to you. That’s important that other people can get behind because I do believe that is how you’re going to build a meaningful and enduring business, that can be here for the long term and make a difference.
Samuel Brake Guia: Fantastic. Well, I hope today’s podcast brings Nunbelievable to some new folks that have not heard of it and I really hope that it does help you bring you one step forward in your mission. And I just want to say Brian, thank you so much for joining me today. I love, I’d love to have you on again, sometime soon or at least within a year or so and we can see how things are progressing. But until then all the best.
Disclosure: This episode includes a client of an Espacio portfolio company