Written by: Christine Garcia
Dianna Rose is the CEO and founder of Jars of Delight, a zero-waste catering company that delivers their delicious and nutritious meals in reusable jars.
Dianna initially attended Hofstra University with no intention of pursuing a career in food. However, after taking a class in Community Health she soon realized how food was really connected to health and wellness, not to mention our community’s sustainability as well. She later ended up starting her business after her friend, who is a professional MMA fighter, reposted the meals she had prepared for him on his Instagram story. His followers soon gained interest in her meals and immediately began to ask where they could purchase the same meal in a jar. Two months later Dianna received her food handlers certificate and began working in a commercial kitchen. Now, four years later, Dianna’s business has gained so much momentum that it is contracted with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to prepare emergency meals for the city.
The process in which Dianna prepares her jars is simple yet with reasoning as she uses scientific techniques and strategies. In order to ensure that the food within the jar remains as fresh as possible while being transported to the customer, Dianna follows a special layering technique. She explains, “the less acidic foods are at the top, and our less porous foods at the bottom. Anything from kale to broccoli is at the bottom of the jars and we work our way up to grain and then to protein and then to dark leafy greens.” In addition to this special layering, Dianna also purchases organic produce locally and makes sure that any proteins used in her meals are sustainably raised with no antibiotics, also locally purchased in nearby farms.
Making such purchases essentially follows her company’s mission of “taking the sustainable path in a largely environmentally unfriendly industry.” When further elaborating on what this exactly means she explains how as a Black business owner “it is difficult to break into the industry at large.” However, she hopes that through the food she makes, as well as what she teaches others about sustainability through this food, will allow for our communities to become much better educated on the impact that sustainability has, not only within our personal lives, but on our Earth as well.
Her love for food however, personally came from her stepfather whois a professional chef. This love for food also came with a love for presentation. Dianna ultimately says, “we eat with our eyes first.” She says food is presented with the love and passion that was put into it and customers can definitely feel; that love, making presentation extremely important. In addition to being inspired by her stepfather, Dianna has also been heavily inspired by her family’s Jamaican culture which is surrounded by food. Not to mention that Dianna also grew up in Southeast, Queens where food giveaways regularly occur. Dianna also notes that she is inspired by Dawn Kelly, CEO and owner of The Nourish Spot.
Nevertheless, Dianna’s own attributes have greatly contributed to her success outside of the influences surrounding her. One of her biggest assets is that she is not afraid of failure. She believes “that is one of the biggest things as an entrepreneur that you have to get over because you’re going to fail at something and it’s just a matter of being able to look at what you failed at and pivot it into something great.” She even recalls a moment in which she experienced an extreme setback that almost resulted in being a failure had she not improvised. Dianna had essentially forgotten an important piece of equipment necessary for a large catering event. From then on she learned to list everything she needs for an event beforehand and check it off before she leaves. This experience, although a challenge, taught her a valuable lesson on being organized that will pay off for future events.
An additional setback that Dianna, as well as many other small businesses had to face this past year, was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and outbreak. Her small business went from catering large events to no longer being able to do that given the restrictions set in place by the city. Fortunately, her business was able to quickly pivot as they were able to apply and receive a contract to provide emergency meals for health workers. In Dianna’s words, they went “from jut your standard business catering events and organization catering events to more direct catering of local residents and through the New York City Department of Health Contract.
However, having these experiences are not the only things that have helped Dianna improve as a business owner. By working with the Tech Incubator at Queens College Dianna has been introduced to an abundant amount of resources. She says, “the accessibility to reach out to someone at the office or in the center has been phenomenal.” These resources have not only helped Dianna’s small business, but the small businesses that are recommended to work with ehr such as local farmers markets. For this reason she also says, “it’s really the circular economy that [the Tech Incubator is] helping to shape up for small businesses as wella s the ecosystem that you’re designing that has been phenomenal.”
In regards to branching out or trying new things, Dianna says, “there’s always opportunities to evolve into something better or different.” With her business specifically, Dianna is looking into creating her own dressings. She is also looking into developing scholarships for the students that intern with her in hopes of learning more about sustainability or food in general.
Ultimately, if she could go back and give her younger self a piece of advice, she would tell herself to “turn [her] passion into profits.” A lot fo the time students are pressured into going through with a career that serves them financially, but not emotionally in order to succeed with a solid path set in place. But, as Dianna says, “this is the era of creativity” which allows for people to easily find passion in the career they choose to pursue. She even says she thinks “it’’s really important to let the younger generation know that you can really bridge the gap between what you’re passionate about and what you’re doing to make a profit and a living.
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