Englewood resident Joanna Parker cofounded Yumble, the kids’ meal service featuring healthy recipes that are easy and time-efficient to prepare. A mom of three, Parker was dealing with the daily challenge of finding smart, home-cooked options that her picky eaters would settle for. After perfecting a combo of meals that were both nutritious and enticing, Parker and her husband, David, decided to bring the convenience to the rest of the country! Now available in over 30 states, parents around the United States are finding that easy, healthy, and yummy meals are possible with Yumble. Jersey Bites had the chance to chat with Parker recently. We asked her about the start of the company, the idea behind the meals, and of course, Yumble’s appearance on Shark Tank!
Meet Joanna Parker
JerseyBites: How long have you lived in Englewood?
Joanna Parker: My husband actually grew up in Englewood. We live about two blocks from where his childhood home is. I’m from New York, so when we got married ten years ago we moved to Englewood.
How did you come up with the idea for Yumble?
Yumble was born at home, in the kitchen. I have three young kids, who were even younger at the time, and I found it really challenging to get healthy, yummy food that I was happy with—and that my kids were equally excited to eat—on the table every day. I felt like I was stressing about it a ton: half the time they would throw it on the floor and I would get frustrated, so it just became a daily battle. I talked to my friends and husband, David, who has experience in startups, about the issue and about my idea for a meal kit service. We decided to make it happen.
Yes to Yumble
Where did you get the name Yumble?
We played around with a lot of names after we decided to start a meal delivery service. We wanted something that didn’t have a specific meaning, that had something playful and fun about it, and had the word “yum” in it. Originally, we also came up with the idea of these characters called the “Yumbles” who were the creators of all the food for Yumble. We’ve started to bring them to life in a lot of our packaging and things like that, but their full story is still in the works.
What were you doing before Yumble?
When I first graduated college, I worked at Macy’s in their product development department. Then I transitioned into early childhood education, and I was a teacher for five years. After I had my second child, my first daughter, I was a stay-at-home mom for a little bit, and that’s what I was doing when I came up with Yumble.
Can you tell us a bit about your appearance on Shark Tank, in late 2018?
It was a really exciting experience! I’m very grateful that I did it with my husband, since it was like a roller coaster ride. It was thrilling and nerve-wracking. We did a lot of preparation before it, even though you can never really prepare for your actual moment in front of the Sharks. We had no idea how it was going to come out when the episode aired, so it was really exciting to watch it with our family and our team and see how it all came out. And we were really happy with the experience. The Sharks really loved our product and understood the concept. Bethenny [Frankel] definitely understood the struggle of being a busy parent and trying to put healthy food in front of your children. It was great to see that it resonated nicely with them.
Fun with Food
Does Yumble always have new recipes and meals in the works?
Yes. Because we’re dealing with kids, who often like to eat the same thing over and over again, we try to balance the menu so that we have some staples that are always available. But we also rotate some meals seasonally, sometimes with new and more adventurous types of meals. We are always trying to improve our recipes or make changes if necessary. So everything is always in the works, even in small ways.
Where do you get ideas or inspiration for new meals?
Most of my inspiration comes from my own children. That’s where my original idea came from, so it’s where I find what kids genuinely want. I play around in the kitchen a lot with my kids and try to watch how they engage with the food. I’m lucky because my children reflect some of the diversity of our customers, so I can really watch how different ages and genders interact with the food. I find that to be really helpful.
What else besides your children influences Yumble?
I often take a lot of inspiration from the way I grew up. We’re also very on top of looking at the latest trends in food and health, so we browse food trends on social media. I’m also taking a course in order to specialize as a youth nutrition specialist, so I get a lot of ideas for recipes and concepts and trends from that.
What do you think makes a truly great kids’ meal?
With Yumble, we like to say that every meal has “Yumble DNA,” which includes three different things: One is it’s well-balanced and has ingredients that parents can feel proud of. Second is that it’s yummy and delicious and that kids are excited to eat it. Third is that there’s an element of fun. Something Yumble takes very seriously is making sure that the meals are fun, which means that food might be on sticks, or it’s something handheld, so that it’s a little more of an exciting activity. Also, educating the kids about why the foods they’re eating are actually healthy is important for them. If they know why exactly what they’re eating is healthy, then they’ll be more interested in eating it.
What does it mean to you to be helping so many working families?
It’s funny, because I always say that Yumble has two missions. One of them is to make parents’ lives a little bit easier. I know that today there’s a rising number of dual-income households, along with rising demands on parents. It’s just getting increasingly more difficult and time-consuming and stressful, so it’s an amazing feeling every time I speak to customers and hear that we’ve changed their lives, that we’ve given them back time that they didn’t have, and that there’s so much less stress. So making parents’ lives easier is one of the most gratifying things Yumble does. But the second mission of Yumble, which is also really amazing, has always been about making healthy food accessible to all children. I think that when parents are really busy and stressed, it’s much easier to grab something processed or unhealthy. Making these healthy meals equally accessible and convenient while also helping kids develop healthy eating habits from a young age is really important to me.