Skip to main content

Join Susan as she chats with Jen Pelka, the powerhouse Co-Founder and CEO of Une Femme. From her trailblazing stint as CEO and founder of the much-adored champagne bars, The Riddler, in vibrant cities like New York and San Francisco, Jen has plenty of wisdom to share.

-Jen Pelka

Raw And Real Entrepreneurship with Jen Pelka

Jen Pelka’s Bio

Jen Pelka is the Co-Founder & CEO of Une Femme Wines, which specializes in women-made Champagne & sparkling wines that give back to charities that benefit women. Previously, Jen was the CEO and founder of the beloved The Riddler Champagne bars in New York City and San Francisco, and the founder of Magnum PR, the leading San Francisco-based restaurant PR agency. Jen’s career in food and beverage began at Chef Daniel Boulud’s iconic New York Restaurant DANIEL, where she served for 5 years across a broad range of roles – kitchen stagier, Boulud’s Research Assistant, and eventually as the US Competition Director for the Bocuse d’Or under Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. She went on to lead influencer marketing, content strategy, and media relations in-house at OpenTable, Gilt Taste, and Tumblr. Jen has been named Forbes “30 Under 30” for Food & Wine, Details “Digital Maverick”, and a Cherry Bombe “It Girl.” She was a recurring guest as a secret diner on Season 1 of Bravo TV’s “Best New Restaurant”, and a guest on Season 6 of “Top Chef.” Jen won an IACP Award Winner for Best Culinary or Brand Site in 2012, and was a James Beard Award nominee for Best Food Coverage in a Food Publication. Jen’s early career was in the finance industry; she is an active angel investor with a passion for ensuring women have access to capital. She is an alumna of Stanford University and the London School of Economics, where she studied the Philosophy of Science.

Topics covered in the interview


Updating investors

The courage to try again

Follow Jen Pelka

Show Notes

Read Full Transcript

Susan Sly 00:03
This is Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, the show that brings the no nonsense truth of what is required to start, grow and scale your business. I am your host Susan Sly.

Susan Sly 00:17
Well, Hey, what is up Raw and Real Entrepreneurs wherever you are in the world, I hope you're having an amazing day. And my guest and I were just laughing at me actually, no, she wasn't laughing. She was laughing with me. And the day we're doing the show, it is Friday night on the East Coast, it's Friday afternoon for me. And we were talking about aging parents, were talking about proper pronunciation. And I was like, we just need to do the show and get the party started. So I know many of you listening know that I love wine. And I know you love wine too, because we talk about it on the show quite often. And I think at some point, one of my guests and I were talking about Let's just drink wine and do the show all the time. So that could happen. It's not happening right now if you're listening, but it could happen on a future date. But my guest today is the co founder and CEO of Une Femme wines. And if you are, right now France is not in the top 10 Sorry, you got knocked out of the top 10. So none of you are in France. But Canada, I think is number three right now. So if you are in Canada and you, like me, grew up in Canada, grew up speaking French, you know, it's Une Femme, just so we can pronounce it correctly. And Une Femme wines specializes in women made champagne and sparkling wine, like how delicious. They give back to charities that benefit women. Previously, this founder was the CEO and founder of the Beloved, the Riddler champagne bars in New York City in San Francisco. And I'm sure has stories about that. And the founder of Magnum PR the leading San Francisco based restaurant PR agency. She comes from a tremendous background in food and beverage, she's been featured as Forbes top 30 under 30. I was reading her bio and I'm going, good lord, Stanford London School of Economics. And yet she's humble. She's beautiful. If you can't see her right now she's absolutely glowing. And we have to talk about, you know, what's going on there. Maybe it's the wine, I don't know. But my guest today is the one and only Jen Pelka. So Jen, thank you for being on the show.

Jen Pelka 02:33
Oh, well, thank you so much for having me. It's such a joy to be here. And I'm happy that it's post five o'clock, somewhere. I am in fact drinking a glass of my wine. So cheers to that.

Susan Sly 02:46
You know, I'm going to, I'm going to hot yoga, even though it's 120 degrees here in Scottsdale today. I could, I could it's not humid enough. And I think I must be a sucker for punishment. But I will be having wine after the yoga. So

Jen Pelka 03:05
You hydrate before the wine.

Susan Sly 03:08
Don't drink wine and do hot yoga. That's gonna be messy, I've never done that nor would I. I want to jump in and ask you like, you know you, people can't see it. You literally have this glow about you. And we have this you know, Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, Obviously, we're going to talk about being an entrepreneur. I know earlier today, you mentioned you were, you have a funny story about fundraising. So is the glow from fundraising or is it-

Jen Pelka 03:37
we did have a good fundraising day today. I have done a lot of fundraising for this company, as well as for previous companies. And we did a very small bridge round today. And it went extremely well. So we set out to do a series A extension. So we had previously done a $10 million series A which was oversubscribed to 14 million. And then we just did a small extension because right now the economy is so challenging, and we just want to really make sure that our balance sheet is in the best possible position that it possibly can be as we're working towards profitability. So we, today, reached out to our current investors to raise a million. And it was oversubscribed in about four hours. And so I'm up to 1.175 in a very short period of time, and we'll get to one five by later today. And then we're closing it. But it was a very, very quick round. And it was fun to see so much support from our existing investor base, coming back to get back involved and it was a really nice feeling because you know, being an entrepreneur is not easy every day. But it's amazing when you have a really great group of supporters that come back to continuously support you and we're so so grateful. So perhaps that is contributing to the glow.

Susan Sly 04:59
You're Incredible, Jen. I mean, seriously, I love the transparency about doing the extension because one of the founders I interviewed on the show recently was talking about the season of No, when he's in Silicon Valley, he's already had a successful exit. He's on his second company, which usually beat like, funded like that. And he's like, it's the season of No, and I was reading CrunchBase this morning, and a lot of startups are doing debtbase if they can get it. We just did an extension at Radius. And you know, we have amazing investors that, you know, put in money and then one investor putting in like, 1.2. But it's, it's a crazy season to raise money. Let me ask you, when you did your A round, what year was that?

Jen Pelka 05:42
It was last year, in April. So 2022, in April, it was a very, very good time to raise money. And it was right before it became a very bad time to raise money. And we had previously done two friends and family rounds. And then we went out to do an institutional raise, we had a lot of interest. And we were super happy with our lead, who we ended up moving forward with. They're an amazing private equity firm. And we also got previous investors to invest back in again. And then we have paused on any kind of fundraising. Because the economy has been so challenging, and it has totally been a season of No. I have a lot of friends who are founders, who found it especially hard in the past year. But the way that we ended up doing our raise today, which we have done previously, and which really worked for us is well, first and foremost, we are very communicative with our investors. So on a very religious basis, send a monthly investor update to all of our investors, so small, private individuals, SPVs, our VC, our private equity fund, that's our lead, and then two private individuals who are also leads who are also in the board room with us. And every single month, we send, as I said, these very detailed investor updates, which I had not done with my previous companies. And I cannot recommend it more. Because we get so much incredibly positive feedback from our investors saying thank you so much for keeping me in the loop. And it's amazing to be along for the ride. And I think so many people who invest, especially as friends and family investors, or small Angel checks, do it to be part of something. And they're doing it to support the founders. And of course, they hope that they maybe pick one that is going to go to the moon. But I think that I have written myself many Angel checks. And I'm just shocked by how few actually send any updates like even an annual update. And I think it's the best tool for longevity of a company. And it provides so much rigor for us internally, as a team. Everybody on the team contributes to the investor updates. We have 12 people on our team. So we asked every single person to put in updates into them on a monthly basis. And then our investors know what's going on. They're able to help, we can ask for things, we can ask for support. And we had a huge, huge announcement today. And I coupled that with fundraise, so they went hand in hand. So we announced today that we got approved by a concessionaire called Levy. There are three national concessionaires there's Levy, Aramark and Delaware North. Levy oversees 364 stadiums around the US, including Chase center, Wrigley Field, Churchill Downs, Sofi stadium, Crypto Arena, like name your favorite arena, it's on the list, and we got approved as one of the wines at the stadiums. So we were able to say, hey, everybody with this massive news, and we're opening up another million dollars of allocation. This is, we believe the last chance any of you investors will have as private individuals to invest and to increase your equity stake in the company. And, like, let us know if you're interested. And we pre seeded that with some soft outreach to people we knew who would be interested. So we were like, we already have 400k committed, who else is interested. And then we sent a follow up three hours later saying we have 800 committed now. who's interested? Now by the time I got on this call, which was six hours into it, we had 1.2 basically committed. So we'll be able to wrap it up. And then this will be like a part of our story with our investors of like how cool it is that it happened to so quickly in this season when it is so hard. So I would encourage like, any entrepreneurs who are out there thinking about fundraising or thinking that they ever might. My biggest advice is send out a monthly investor update. In the beginning, it feels like a pain. But it becomes something that you can look back on and see all of your forward movement. And then when you do a fundraiser, couple it with early guaranteed interest so that people already know that people are in, and then create, like, some kind of FOMO around it, because then people will come in. And we're so so grateful to investor. So it was a good day.

Susan Sly 10:28
I got chills for you, because as you were sharing, and if people aren't seeing Jen's face, like when she's talking about her investors, she is lighting up. And I know, very similar story for us. It's, we do zoom meetings, and it's, we invite them and it's like a family reunion. And we, and one of our investors, he was a former SVP at Morgan Stanley. He's like, I've written a ton of Angel checks. You guys do zoom meetings, like I see your face, Susan, as a CEO, when you're reporting out, when you're talking about what's going on, you actually let us ask questions like, he's like, and the same thing, Jen, I have several companies I'm invested in now. And one I'm advising, but I will, some of them. I'll literally text the founder and be like, Hello, what's going on? You know, send it out. And I think sometimes for founders the reason they don't, is because they don't feel they have anything to say. So let me ask you. Have you ever sent out an update and you're like, there's nothing really new to report? What did you do?

Jen Pelka 11:34
There are some months that feel lighter than others. But we, we always have a lot of forward movement. And I'm sure that those founders have a ton of things they're working on. They just don't realize how interesting they really are. I think that also a lot of founders, don't send them, one, because they don't think they have enough time. And two, sometimes they start feeling guilty that they haven't sent one recently enough, so then they're just like, oh, maybe I'll do it next month, maybe I'll do it quarterly, maybe I'll do it every six months, maybe I'll do it once a year. And it starts to feel like a monkey on your back. And I know with my previous companies, I did not let investors into as much information and I really wish I had and that was a huge learning for me. My previous, my previous companies, the Riddler, the champagne bars, I had to close because of COVID. And I had 33 investors, all of whom were women in San Francisco, 40 investors, all of whom were women in New York. And I'm so, so grateful to those communities, many of those women have actually invested in Une Femme, even though they lost all of their money in the Riddler. But we did have, as you can imagine, several investors who were really upset that they weren't kept in the loop earlier. And it was just a really big learning for me that if we were more transparent, we maybe could have asked for help earlier, or we maybe could have just made people feel like they knew what was going on earlier. And yeah, it's just one of my biggest learnings from those restaurants.

Susan Sly 13:18
Yeah, I appreciate the vulnerability. I grew up in the restaurant business. It's hard. That was our family business. And my dad made me promise. Before we went into the show, we were talking about our parents, I was telling about my dad, my dad listens to the show every week. So he likes when I mentioned him. His name's Joe. So he made me promise not to go into the restaurant business. He said be an entrepreneur, which is don't go into that business. And I love your transparency. It's like, yeah, we lost those businesses. How did you, when those businesses had to close like, did you like, how did you handle that? Like, emotionally physically, like-

Jen Pelka 14:04
I mean, it definitely took two full years for me to kind of get over it. And I would say, it still percolates a bit in the back of my mind. But it's incredibly emotional. It's you, I think you go through grief in the same way as losing someone really important to you. And you go through many stages, there are you know, there's seven stages, there's the anger, there's the denial, there's the bargaining. There's, you know, all of those components, because you put so much of your heart into your work. If you're an entrepreneur, you're not doing it because it's easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it. And you're, you're hopefully doing it from a place of passion. And I certainly was, and we also had so many incredible people in our community. We had, of course, our team, and all of those people lost their jobs. They worked really hard, especially through COVID putting themselves on the line and We had an amazing community of regular guests at the Riddler and still to this day people who reach out over Instagram or if I run into them who just say, oh my gosh, I miss the Riddler so much. Like restaurants become for people, places where they make memories and get engaged and get married and have just really wonderful moments. And restaurants are such an important fabric of our lives. And so I'm really touched whenever I hear somebody say how much they miss it. And now we hope that that spirit lives on with Une Femme, and that people can kind of bring that to their own homes into their own, you know, friend groups and families, but you can't really replace the restaurant like, they're, they're so special, they're really important to us.

Susan Sly 15:48
Yeah, it's, when I think about all the traveling I do and all the places I go and go back to like New York or Boston or like these major Atlanta. And all of my big memories are tied to nights out with colleagues, like at a restaurant to that, of course. And even though I'm going to Toronto in for an AI and data conference in October, and I'm like already thinking of my favorite restaurant there. And to your point you know, I'm so curious about this, because often times the statistics show that when a founder has had a business that, I don't like the word failure, but it's just, you know, it didn't go that they're so successful the second time, because they learned but yet, only a small percentage of them will have the guts to do it again. So where did that courage come from for you?

Jen Pelka 16:55
I'm not really sure where the courage came from, aside from my parents. Which is absolutely true. I think that that's definitely where it comes from. And in this case, my brother, my only sibling is my co founder and business partner. And thank God we have each other because on days when he wants to quit, I don't let him and on days when I want to quit, he doesn't let me. So you know, they don't come along too often. But, you know, there are some hard days for sure. And I think, having gone through the closure of another business, I, first of all, I fully appreciate how important it is to push forward and how serious my responsibility as a founder, especially as like the steward of other people's capital is. And also like, I don't like to not win. So my plan is for this company to do really, really, really well, it already does well. And I'd love for us to have a really, really, really remarkable story in the long term and have impact to a lot of people. But I think that the courage and the resilience really comes from just grit. And so much of that is a muscle that is built through perseverance, and trying and failing and getting back up and, and moving forward. And there's this incredible video of this artist, I don't know if you've ever seen it, I wish I knew his name. I'll send it to you so you can include it in the show notes. But it's a, he starts at the bottom of a staircase and keeps falling off and there's a trampoline below. And then he goes and the trampoline bounces him to the step right above, then the step right above, the step, he keeps falling off and then he goes to step below and step below. And then eventually he makes it to the top and it gives you the goosebumps every time and I think that that's what entrepreneurialism is all about that you're you know, you're climbing towards something but you will fall off course many times but each time those falls feel a little bit less awful. And each time you bounce back a little bit faster.

Susan Sly 19:13
When you write your New York Times bestseller, I just thought of it, A Little Less Awful could be like, what the heck! I am saying to my husband like, I have the worst book buying habit like, I'm old school. Yeah, okay, how bad is yours? Let's have a confessional in front of 1000s of people all over the world.

Jen Pelka 19:35
How many per week, is that what we're saying like, five ish per week?

Susan Sly 19:39
Audio or actual?

Jen Pelka 19:41
I never do audio. No, just actual books. I have a rule which is there are very few things I will buy no matter what and if I see or hear of a book that looks in any way interesting, I will buy it. Like if it takes my, and I buy it immediately because I will never regret having, you know, a massive collection of books. And I mean, this is, maybe this is part of where my resilience comes from, resiliency comes from. My husband and I lost our home to a wildfire 2020 In the midst of COVID. And so we lost all of our books, and all of our cookbooks and also everything else we owned. And that really puts things into perspective. And so now I just have a rule that if I want to book, I buy it.

Susan Sly 20:32
so okay, my sister from another mister so the, I keep saying to myself, I'm like, This is gonna be the trip that I go through the airport and I don't buy a book and you know, SFO they have Barbara's books like that don't even get me started. Like I, if I have a three hour layover, I'm like, Yes, I'm in Barbara's books like, so I carry this. Have a big like, purse I carry when I'm traveling. I've got a blanket. And I'm like, oh, there are no room for books. I came back from this trip, there was a gal from Nvidia who'd written two books. Of course, I bought her books. I bought two in the airports. I came back with four. Yeah, it's it. Yeah, I Yeah, totally.

Jen Pelka 21:13
How many books would you say you read in a year?

Susan Sly 21:18
Oh, well, in a month, I read somewhere from three to five.

Jen Pelka 21:25
Yeah, so a book a week?

Susan Sly 21:27
Yeah, I read two just because I am a runner. And so, and sometimes I will, depending on the book like, I'll even read a book twice if it's really good. And sometimes what I'll do is I'll buy the audio version if I like, want to read it again but run.

Jen Pelka 21:48
I listen to tons and tons of podcasts when I'm working out and when I'm cooking and driving and walking and things like that, but I should probably switch over to audiobooks because they're, you know, they're so fun.

Susan Sly 21:59
That you're gonna be buying 10 a week. So easy. Or facial, just bought a library. I know we're digressing. It's, the producer of the show, she's gonna be like, Jen needs to come back. You need to keep, now you guys need a book club, the entrepreneurial book club.

Jen Pelka 22:19
Oh, yeah, I would totally do that. We actually, we partnered with a book club called Zibby's books and it's founded by this amazing woman Zibby. She has an incredible store in Santa Monica. And she has an amazing publishing house and book club. And we just did our first book club collaboration with her called wine people. And we send out, from our website, you can purchase them a box of our sparkling wines and one of her books. So we'll have to send you on.

Susan Sly 22:52
A wine themed book club. I'm already thinking like, Under the Tuscan Sun, I'm thinking if that's entrepreneurship, yes. Where did the idea for Une Femme come from? So I'm envisioning like, the, you know, the restaurants had closed you're, you know, going through all the Elisabeth Kubler Ross stages of grief. And then it's like, but you have such an extensive background like recurring diner on top, you know, on all of these shows, right, and Food Network and like all of these cool things. So this is in your blood, clearly, you're going to do something in the sector. But how did it happen, the idea?

Jen Pelka 23:32
So we actually launched the brand at the Riddler when the Riddler was open at the end of 2019. And it started because as I mentioned, all of our investors were women and at the Riddler, the only wine that you could get was champagne or sparkling wine. We had no still wine. And we only had one beer, Miller Highlife, the champagne of beers. As you can imagine,

Susan Sly 23:57
that is the tagline. But I would disagree as- yes.

Jen Pelka 24:03
Totally. But our you know, our wine list was hundreds of bottles of champagne. And it could be a bit intimidating. And so we started featuring a page that was women made wines, and those wines would outsell everything else. And I was like, why is there not a brand that's all about women made and gives back to charities that benefit women. And so we have this amazing woman Julie med V of the good name of V family in Champagne, who is a regular when she would come to the United States. She loved the Riddler and so through our friends who were wind distributors and importers, they were like why don't you do a project with Julie and she can do your house wine. So that was our first wine that we launched, that was an organic grower producer, Chardonnay forward champagne. She's a fifth generation wine producer and just such an incredible force of a woman. So that was our first wine and it really was meant to be our wine at the restaurants Like our like our truly our house wine. And from there we realized that our top selling wine was always whatever was a sparkling Rosae by the glass that was an affordable sparkling Rosae. No matter what we put on that would outsell everything else. And so I reached out to one of my favorite women winemakers in California, Samantha Shehan and asked her if we could collaborate on a sparkling Rose from California. So our first version of what's now called the Cali, which is our California sparkling Rosae was made by this amazing woman, Sam. And that is one of the wines for us that really took off. And so after we closed the Riddler, we still have this wine brand. And I said to my brother, who had been sort of like our CFO at the restaurants, I was like what if this, we make this a real company. And so the first year was really hard. It was just he and I, we were frankly, working on all of the closing documentation and the wind down process. At the Riddler we were fighting with one of our landlords, it was a really arduous process. And so he and I decided that we wanted to launch Une Femme as a company that would just be he and I. We wouldn't accept any outside money, outside from the small amount of investor checks we had received very, very early on from two private individuals. And that we would run it almost like a lifestyle business like, we would pair ourselves and we would run it in a really profitable way. And like we would grow low and slow. Then we were faced with an opportunity that we did not expect that really came to us through a combination of luck, and Right Place Right Time, which was my husband is a restaurantor, he has six Greek restaurants in San Francisco called Sula. Anybody who's listening who lives in San Francisco, will probably say, oh my god, I'm a regular to Sula. Everybody loves Sula in San Francisco. So the Delta Airlines team had been looking to partner with a restaurant after COVID to bring some surprise and delight to their customers. And so they reached out to the Sula team and Sula ended up doing all of the first class food from San Francisco on the long haul destinations. And in that process, I was involved in a little bit of the wining and dining and entertaining of the Delta team when they were coming to San Francisco. And my husband said, Do you want to just present your wines to them? And I was like, Oh, my God, I should totally Yes, show them the wine. So we introduced them to the wines in one of the meetings very casually. And they had an opportunity that October for the Breast Cancer Research Fund. Because every year they do a big partnership with the BCRF in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And they were like, can you do these minis, our little sparkling bottles onboard all the planes. And I was like, Sure, so they asked us to do 5000 cases in one month. And up until that point, we had only done 1600 cases in two years. So we had to scramble to figure it out. And we did. And so we figured that out. And then we worked over the next like, six months or so to develop a sparkling wine in Can, and Delta has a huge focus on sustainability. And so that was cans were really important to them. And they also have a huge commitment to diversity and inclusion and working with founders of companies that are you know, unusual. And certainly as a woman, it is unusual to be in a position to get to, to work with, you know, a company like Delta. And so we have grown our relationship with Delta over the past two and a half years. And we are now the sparkling wine on board every Delta plane in the world, which is wild, and we're so grateful for that partnership. We love working with them. And this October we're doing another special sparkling Rosae for them just for BCRF month. So we love working with them. And that has opened up so many doors for us. We know that you know 10s of millions, if not hundreds of millions of customers, see us on Delta each year. And we have a QR code on our cans. So a lot of people go to our website through the QR code and then that's opened up a lot of opportunities for us in the travel sector. So we have a big partnership with Marriott. We're in the Marriott Luxury Collection. So our wines are available by the glass at every Ritz Carlton in the US as well as St Regis JW and Autograph Collection hotels and then we have a big partnership with Kimpton. And on and on and on so we're now launching, I'm super excited. We're launching it every Neiman Marcus, which is so cool, so they're amazing. We're now at about 350 targets ccross the country, so anybody who has a target close to them, we're likely on shelves. And we're starting to get a lot of additional retail distribution across the US. So we have just launched with a handful of stores in Total Wine in California, and beyond and beyond. So

Susan Sly 30:17
It's incredible. And when you think about the like, you go from Neiman Marcus and the Ritz to target. Yeah.

Jen Pelka 30:26
It's pronounced Tarjay, No.

Susan Sly 30:28
We don't know. And I, it's true. So true. When Target came to Canada, being Canadian, we all were like, Tar-jay.

Jen Pelka 30:36
Yeah, I mean, I love Target. I've been a Target shopper since I was, you know, a kid. And I think that Target does such an incredible job with their merchandising around, you know, all of the household necessities of the highest quality and great value. But then also, they do such cool collaborations with fashion designers, with home interior designers. I'm a huge Joanna Gaines fan,

Susan Sly 31:03
I was just about to say magnolia. The Magnolia portion of the store, like in the candles, I was just in there the other day,

Jen Pelka 31:11
you can't possibly walk away without buying something. I mean, I think you know, it's like the funny thing about a Target run is you go in for like toothpaste, and you walk out $150 later with like, hopefully some Une Femme in your cart and definitely some Magnolia candles and you know, a cute bathing suit and some books, of course, like so many books. And then I love what they've done in the beauty aisle, I have so many friends who are beauty entrepreneurs who have been so supported by Target, and who have gotten such incredible brand extensions at Target. And it's so cool because it's a real discovery store. And for anybody who hasn't shopped the wine aisle at Target, they have really, really great wines. And they have a huge focus also on diversity and inclusion with really great brands. A lot of brands that we're friends with like Yes Way Rosé is women owned, two amazing women, McBride sisters, two amazing black women who are sisters. The team from Bev, also a female founder. So we've got a lot of friends on the shelves there.

Susan Sly 32:15
That's amazing. And I you know, I was writing down the Cali. So I'm going to order some of that, plus as again, because it's so darn hot here like, Rosé is my, especially or like if I'm in France like a Sancerre, it's a still wine but such a gorgeous wine when it's 120 degrees. So yes, in Arizona, you can drink sparkling Rosé all year round. Because

Jen Pelka 32:41
Well in France, you know, it's what's hot on hot days is that Piscene is what they call it, which is wine glass filled with it up top with ice, and then you pour your wine on top. So even the French drink their wine on ice sometimes.

Susan Sly 32:56
There you go. Yes, it's not gauche. Let's put it that way. One of the things you said, did you read Kara Golden's book when she was talking about building Hint?

Jen Pelka 33:08
Um, you know, I haven't read that book. But I should.

Susan Sly 33:12
So there's a point in the book, I can't believe I've read one you haven't read. So now we have our Jen and Susan book club, just you know, and yet, please text me any that you think I should read. I confess I bought Kara's book probably in an airport. And, Kara, it's interesting with Hint, because for that company, it's very similar that, you know, she was, she was like trying to get into whole foods, she was trying to you know, and then she finally gets into Whole Foods, and then it sells out. And they're like, You need to bring it back. And she's literally trying to do this out of her garage in San Francisco and trying to figure it out. Her husband sticking in. They both came out attack. And she's like, right. And in that moment. What do you, I mean, obviously, there's networking piece. Some people would call it luck, but you were prepared, because even though you hadn't been doing that kind of volume, I want to understand, Jen, because that was such a curious person. When they asked for that 5000 case order, like, break it down. What did you do? Other than yes, that's awesome. And now where do we get it? Like, how did that, How did you do it?

Jen Pelka 34:24
Yeah, luckily, my brother, as I said, Who's my co founder is a real ops expert. He's there behind the scene. He's our CFO, he runs everything on ops, finance, budgeting, logistics, compliance, whereas I'm much more focused on you know, getting the sale, so I got the sale. So he largely was the one who figured it out. But we just called him so many favors. We called everybody we knew in Napa Valley who might know anything about where to get 5000 cases of these miniature bottles. We talked to all of our friends who were vineyard sources who might have access to the grapes in the, and like still wine that we needed. And we, we, you know, honestly, some of the hardest parts of that is really around packaging, which is for a bottle of wine is not just like the exterior box, it's the glass. It's the label. In the case of a champagne bottle, it's a cork, it's a, it's a foil, it's the little piece of wire around it, it's the little cap on top. So it's all of those components. And, you know, in all of this cases, we truly, you know, we stepped back, put together a list of all of the component parts that we needed. Everybody we possibly knew, and put a plan together and just called everybody we possibly could. The crazier story was when we were working to do our cans on Delta, and we had gotten approved but not officially approved. But in order to hit their deadline, we had to bring all of these printed cans into the United States. And this was during the time that all of the boats were stuck in the like, in the Panama Canal. So we ended up chartering a plane from Dubai, and putting the cans on the plane and bringing them across. And we hadn't closed our Series A yet. So my brother put millions of dollars worth of cans on his credit card. And we don't even really know how he got approved for that amount of money on his credit card. But somehow it went through and thank God, Delta actually picked up the order and thank God, our Series A came through, because we would have been in a real pickle, but I wouldn't advise it, but it worked out in the end.

Susan Sly 36:54
Yeah, that's a sleepless night or three, right?

Jen Pelka 36:56
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Because also, what would we have done with these cans? If

Susan Sly 37:03
That's a big party. Burning Man and sell them. That's all, That was my first thought, I don't know. The only reason I thought that is Brett Martin, who I had on the show, we're supposed to meet up in New York. And he's like, Sorry, I've been at Burning Man. I've been like, that's just why I thought of that. That would, that would be when I would probably recommend.

Jen Pelka 37:25
I think you can't even sell them there. Because everything has to be bartered. So I guess we could barter them for like a bus. And then we could drive the bus home and then we could sell the bus? Like that's how I would think about, but that probably wouldn't be enough money.

Susan Sly 37:37
No, no. Your brother is, he must be calm under pressure.

Jen Pelka 37:45
He is extremely organized. And he is like a dog with a bone. Like he won't stop until the project is finished. So he is, he likes pressure in moments like that. And yeah, he gets really level headed and just really, really focuses until something is completely finished.

Susan Sly 38:09
And he may show you something different because you know, you've known each other your entire life. But outwardly he sounds to me like he's the guy like, Okay, we'll figure it out. But behind closed doors, you know.

Jen Pelka 38:19
Yeah, absolutely. Of course, of course. And we always do. That's the thing is like, we always figure it out. So

Susan Sly 38:30
I mean, thinking about this journey you've gone through, and I'm so in awe of how far you've come from, you know, essentially creating your house wine in 2019, shutting down the Riddler, going through that, going through the grieving process to now Delta, Ritz Carlton, Target, like the whole list. And when you think of it, Jen, that's a very short period of time. Like, it's crazy.

Jen Pelka 38:56
We do hear this from people, especially people in the wine world, like our distributor tells us all the time, like, wow, this is pretty unusual. But I don't know, we just swing for the fences. Like my, the next things that I want to do, and if anybody's listening and has connections, I will you know, take you to your whatever, you know, eras tour or Beyonce show or whatever you want. But the three places I want to be, I want to be at Yankee Stadium, I want to be at the White House and I want to get this wine on the moon.

Susan Sly 39:27
So I can help you with the first one easily.

Jen Pelka 39:30
Oh, great. Great, great, great. Yeah. Oh, tell me, you know, are you a Taylor Swift person or Beyonce person? Or anything else?

Susan Sly 39:40
Beyonce. I love Taylor. Hey, I'm so impressed with Taylor. I think it's just because I'm 50 and I'm kind of like, you know, Destiny's Child and, I don't think you're ready for this jelly. Yeah. Um, I was watching, I was watching the second Sex and the City movie for the like, 50 Millions time the other day on the peloton, and I just need, every time I'm getting ready to go to New York, I need my fashion inspiration. So that's my go to. That's like, now everyone in all the countries that listen know this so anyhow, I you know, and Liza Minnelli is in that one and she's doing the cover of single ladies. Right? So yeah, I'm like any Beyonce song and I'm all, I keep listening every single day to break my soul every single day.

Jen Pelka 40:28
Amazing. Yeah. So I mean, she is a force. This year has been so amazing seeing, you know, Beyonce, T Swift, Greta, like the effect of women on the economy. And then you look at everything that's happening this year, the celebration of 50 years of equal prize money at the US Open, everything that's happening in the US Women's Soccer, everything that's happening with the LPGA. I mean, I think the world is finally waking up to the buying power of women. And for us, we know 80% of wine purchases are made by women. And there is just so much power.

Susan Sly 41:08
Unless you're a woman sending your husband to go get your wine.

Jen Pelka 41:11
That's right. But you're probably telling him which ones you want, and dictating, you know, the purchase that's actually being made.

Susan Sly 41:21
Oh, 100% we're seeing it in AI. So the, I was telling Jen, I just got back from the Voice and AI conference in DC. And I'm speaking there. And I'm just like, like, next week, I'm speaking at Fashion Week. And it's the future of women in AI then I am going to Austin. I don't even know where I'm going, to Austin the following week. And there's this women in AI are having a moment and I got off stage. And I have, once we, at some point when we exit the the AI company that I co founded with five guys. So it's like having five brothers. It's like bananas, and beautiful and crazy. So I have my idea for my next company, which will be women funded women founders. So I come off the stage, Jen, and I come out. And you know, all these women were talking and you know, one woman's like undergrad from Harvard, and she has her MBA from MIT. She's like Sloan. Anyway, so I'm telling her about this idea. She's like, I want to fund it. I'm like, Dude, it's a PowerPoint right now. But thank you, you know, I've been it's, you know, like, we're having our moment female founded, female funded. And it's about damn time, right? Like, when you think about it,

Jen Pelka 42:33
it is so true. Well, please keep me informed when you're raising because I am super interested to know,

Susan Sly 42:41
I can talk to you offline now. I'm gonna, in front of all the viewers, listeners, longtime listeners. So the connection I'm getting is shown. I'm a big believer in network. And the, I don't believe in luck, I believe in your network. And so your network grows because you're a good person. And you like, I just do things for people, I don't ask for anything in return. But when you say Yankee Stadium, if you're a longtime listener of the show like, now I don't know, 350 shows, you'll know who I'm going to introduce her to. He's one of my closest friends. And so that's going to happen as soon as we're off the show. So I've got one final question for you. Like, what does your day look like? I mean, seriously,

Jen Pelka 43:24
oh my god, like so different every single day.

Susan Sly 43:27
Because you're not just the CEO, you're the CSO, you're the chief CXO, you're like the CMO like, because you have a small lean team, which I so am in awe of, but what does your day look like?

Jen Pelka 43:40
So I travel a ton just like you do so excluding travel days, When I am home, my husband and I recently moved to Sonoma, which we love so much. And we switched from living in a 800 square foot apartment in San Francisco to an acre in Sonoma. So I love to start my morning pretty early. I love like a six o'clock ish. I don't use an alarm clock, but I naturally kind of wake up early. I love to get up, make the coffee and go read outside. We have a little pond in our, in our, I guess you would call it a backyard. And so I love to sit by the pond and watch all the birds. We have so many amazing birds in the morning. We've quail, we have owls, we have hawks, we have hummingbirds. We have so many amazing birds. So I love to sit out there and on a great day I'll get to read for a full hour, if not I try to get at least 15 minutes and I read everything from novels to nonfiction. I try to read novels in the morning now just to like clear my mind and then if I have enough time, I'll go for a walk. We have beautiful vineyards across the street from our house. So I'll do about a 45 minute walk through those vineyards and I always listen to a podcast, I tend to listen in the morning to either armchair expert with Dax Shepard, or I love smartlist. I also love how I built this, I love Rich Roll, like, you know any of those kinds of podcasts. And then I come back, take shower, and get ready. And then I'm on my computer like all day long, so I tend to get a little drowned in my inbox. So I like to clear out my inbox as best as I can in the morning. And then I'm on Zoom calls, like all day long, back to back to back. I've increasingly tried to work my day and my week, so that I'm doing as many sales meetings as I possibly can, and with as many large opportunities as possible. So like, I'm really trying to focus on fortune 500 companies, household name brands, best in category brands that we can build partnerships with. I also, of course, spend a lot of time with our team. So I spent a lot of time especially with our executive team, which is our Chief Sales Officer, our CMO, and my brother, our COO. But I also spend a lot of time in like individual or team related meetings. I also take calls regularly with other entrepreneurs, I very much agree with you that like your network is your net worth. And I've found some of my greatest sales leads through direct competitors who have introduced me to places where they have great relationships, and I do the same. And so yeah, I do that, I generally end my day at five or six o'clock. I like to spend about an hour in the garden, we have insane gardens in Sonoma, so we just had this crazy tomato harvest, and we had 19 different varietals of tomatoes, we were a little overextended on the tomatoes. But I spend time in the garden. And then I cook for dinner. And I love to cook with my husband and for my husband, we have a wood burning fireplace in our kitchen. So we'll do like, a steak in the fireplace or a whole fish. And like a beautiful fresh veggie situation. Like a beautiful salad. We open of course, a nice bottle of wine. And then we talk for an hour or two or three hours. And most of the time we end our night like, watching a movie. But on some nights, we'll play cards, we play a lot of gin rummy. And then like a lot of times, we also have friends over for dinner parties, like we like to do one or two, at least dinner parties a week, we, for the first time have a guest room so people stay over because you know, we don't want anybody driving home after. So that's super fun. And we don't yet have any pets. But we are soon getting chickens. So that's going to be a whole set of responsibilities. And we are also going to get a dog or maybe two. So that's gonna be a whole new thing. So the one thing that I haven't figured out how to really, really work into my day aside from walks is like hardcore working out. And that's sort of the next phase now that we're out in Sonoma, of figuring out how to get that in. But I've made like huge strides on the sort of mental health and physical health side in general. But that's one piece where I like I'm still trying to wedge that end and not legit, like, make it a ritualized priority.

Susan Sly 48:40
Yeah, definitely. And tmy mind goes to the tomatoes, because growing up in Ontario, Canada, I know what you mean about being overextended on your tomatoes. And every year growing up, there was always a period of time, it was like, eggs and tomatoes for breakfast. And for lunch, you're gonna have like, you know, a tomato and cheese sandwich and then it's dinner is gonna be fried green tomatoes or homemade spaghetti sauce, or it's gonna be like tomatoes all day every day because it's Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's,

Jen Pelka 49:11
you know, you can't eat too many BLTs, you can't eat too many tomato and burrata salads or. And then we also like, froze so many of them. We peeled so many, we give so many away. You know,

Susan Sly 49:25
When you have your chickens, I used to keep chickens, they will help with offload some of that stuff from the garden, which will be, It'll be incredibly helpful for you for sure. Well, Jen, I want to- go ahead, yeah.

Jen Pelka 49:39
I did a quick check. And we got two more checks while I was on the phone, a 25k Check and then 20k Check. So I think that puts us over 1.2. So we've got to get to 1.5 by the end of the day, which I'm certain we will.

Susan Sly 49:53
Well yes, we will and I'm going to introduce you to the Yankee Stadium connection. Mystery Yankees stadium which is bananas. But anyway, for everyone listening, this is the power of putting it out there. Who do you want to meet? Where do you want to be connected to? Because those and all those desires, if they live inside you, they'll never live externally and you won't achieve your dreams, right? And that's why it's so important to constantly be putting it out there, putting it out there, putting it out there. And so Jen, I want to thank you so much for being here on the show. I feel like I've met someone I've known my entire life and I want to celebrate you. I'm so excited for you. And let's get you into Yankee Stadium.

Jen Pelka 50:36
Oh, heck, yes.

Susan Sly 50:39
All right. Let's do we're gonna make

Jen Pelka 50:43
we're gonna see Beyonce. We're going to see Beyonce right after.

Susan Sly 50:46
You know we should do well, let's do this. Hold on. I'm grabbing my phone. We're so yeah,

Jen Pelka 50:51
let's mark the moment.

Susan Sly 50:53
Oh, no, something even better. All right. Let's see if he's gonna pick up. He's on the East Coast.

Jen Pelka 51:00
Oh my god. Let's see. You can tell him we're already at Chase center.

Susan Sly 51:07
It's Friday night and his wife might be making him go to something on Broadway, which he. He saw Hamilton like 50 times. Like the original. Oh, he'll text me in five minutes. So anyway, everyone I am calling Brandon Steiner for Jen, Mr. Yankee stadium. And he's been on the show a couple of times. He sold dirt from Yankee Stadium and he made millions of dollars. Then he went back and sold seats for Yankee stadium, has hung out with Jeter, he had retail stores in Yankee stadium. So that's what we're calling, he's gonna call me back in five minutes, but we're not gonna stay on the air for that. Anyway, all of you Raw and Real Entrepreneurs, everywhere around the world. If you have enjoyed this show, hopefully as much as I have so fun. tag Jen and I. So on social, it'll all be in the show notes. But on Instagram, it's unefemmewines pronounce it correctly, friends. And that's a great way to tag her. I've already followed her on Instagram, make sure you're following me on Instagram @Susansly and on the show, and please tag us, share. We would love a five star review whatever country you're in, and order some wine, go to and order your wine. So and Jen will send you a tomato.

Jen Pelka 52:24
That's right.

Susan Sly 52:28
A tomate for you and a tomato for you. All right, and thanks so much for being here.

Jen Pelka 52:33
Oh, thank you so much, and we really appreciate it.

Susan Sly 52:38
All right, everyone. God bless. Go rock your day. And I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 52:45
Hey, this is the Susan and thanks so much for listening to this episode on Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. If this episode or any episode has been helpful to you, you've gotten at least one solid tip from myself or my guests, I would love it if you would leave a five star review where ever you listen to podcasts. After you leave your review, go ahead and email Let us know where you left a review. And if I read your review on air, you could get a $50 amazon gift card and we would so appreciate it because reviews do help boost the show and get this message all over the world. If you're interested in any of the resources we discussed on the show, go to That's where all the show notes live. And with that, go out there rock your day, God bless and I will see you in the next episode.

Susan Sly 53:39
Are you currently an employee looking to start your own business? Maybe you've been thinking about it for a while and you're just not sure where to start? Well my course Employee to Entrepreneur combines my decades of experience as an entrepreneur with proven methods, techniques and skills to help you take that leap and start your own business. This course is self paced, Learn on Demand and comes with an incredible workbook. And that will allow you to go through this content piece by piece by piece, absorb it, take action and then go on to the next module. So check out my course on Employee to Entrepreneurship.

Follow Susan Sly

Check on previous episodes

Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

More posts by Susan Sly