Photo courtesy Joanna Parker ’05
This past December, Parker and her husband, David Parker SEAS’04, appeared on the ABC reality show looking for investors for Yumble, their kids’ meal delivery service. When they filmed the show last summer, Yumble had customers in 26 states, with hopes of expanding nationwide. The experience was nerve-wracking — the harsh lights, the high-pressure pitch. They also had two “sharks” arguing about whether their business could be successful.
In the end, investor and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel signed on for Yumble — and the Parkers left Shark Tank with a $500,000 deal. (Frankel took a 6 percent stake in the company.)
The couple, who live in Englewood, N.J., created Yumble out of personal frustration. After graduating from the College with a degree in art history, Joanna took a job at Macy’s in product development, then spent a few years as an early childhood teacher. Six years ago, when the second of her three children was born, she became a stay-at-home mom.
“I found it challenging to get healthy food in front of my kids every day,” she says. David wondered if other parents felt the same way. After posting anonymously to a Facebook group, Joanna found she wasn’t alone. In fact, after she asked the group if they would be interested in meals delivered straight to their doors, strangers started asking her to cook meals for their children.
With that, Panda Plates was born, and Joanna began sending kids’ meals locally to parents in need of a quick, healthy option. After 18 months and with the business booming, she needed help. So at the end of 2016, David, who has an M.B.A. from Harvard, stepped in to lend a hand. The Parkers reached out to HelloFresh co-founder Dan Treiman, and he officially came on board at the end of 2016. By June 2017, the company had rebranded and kicked off as Yumble.
By the time of the Parkers’ Shark Tank appearance, Yumble was delivering as many as 24 meals per week, at about $7 per meal, to 26 states. The investment from Frankel will help the Parkers as they take Yumble nationwide in 2019.
Joanna is hoping that delivery expansion is just the start. In addition to wanting kids to have healthy food, she wants American families to change the way they think about family dinners. Each Yumble delivery comes with activity sheets or trivia cards. “Kids’ eating time is a stressful time of day,” Joanna says, “and we think we can turn it into an exciting and dynamic time.”
Liam Boylan-Pett ’08 is a leadership gift officer in Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development. He founded Løpe Magazine and has written for publications such as The Undefeated, Bleacher Report and Runner’s World.