Enterprising women: Hip Chick Farms


Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the Hip Chick Farms, of course.

Former Chez Panisse chef Jen Johnson and superstar event planner and non-profit exec Serafina Palandech hatched their sustainable, healthy business when Johnson’s healthy creations for her private chef clients, The Gettys, were a hit with kids.

Now, the dynamic, do-gooding duo lives on a family farm in Sebastopol, California, with their daughter Rubyrose and a menagerie of furry friends.

Serafina shared the secret sauce that’s made Hip Chick Farms a health food store sensation.

What do you do and why?

Along with partner, Jen, we own and operate Hip Chick Farms, a producer of organic, non-GMO, humanely-raised frozen chicken products: chicken meatballs, chicken fingers and chicken wings. Our chicken is sourced from Mary’s Chicken, a producer of humanely-raised, organic, free-range, non-GMO, antibiotic-free chicken. Each package is made fresh in small batches, then fast frozen to preserve taste and texture. Our products are available in more than 250 natural foods stores, supermarkets and gourmet shops throughout the western United States, including Whole Foods stores in the Northwest, Northern California, and Southern Pacific regions.

What did you do before you started your company?

I was a non-profit executive, project manager, strategic planner and event organizer for more than 15 years, helping nonprofit organizations access private funding streams through event production and management, donor cultivation, corporate support and in-kind partnerships. Just prior to launching Hip Chick Farms, I ran Tugboat Events, a boutique event production company, which produced charity events for organizations in the Bay Area.

How did you come up with the idea for your company?

For the last 20 years, my partner, Jen, worked as a professional chef, first for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse for 10 years, then for the last 10 years as executive private chef for Ann and Gordon Getty.

When Mrs. Getty started a Montessori school in her home, Jen’s role expanded to cooking a family-style lunch for around 25 children every day. The kids in the school loved her food, and when they went home at night, they would ask their moms for Chef Jen’s Chicken Fingers. The moms started asking Jen for her products because they felt good serving their kids food that was so lovingly prepared and made with impeccable ingredients.

What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company? What would you tell a young entrepreneur in turn?

Business should be an opportunity to express your values, not compromise them. You have to align your heart and your head — do the work you love while being the person you want to be. As soon as you start compromising either one — doing something you don’t like, or acting in a way that is outside your nature — then you are not aligned. We have two goals at Hip Chick Farms. First, to provide delicious, thoughtful, natural and nutritious chicken products for all members of the family; and second, to build a business that models our values and reflects the beliefs of our family, including donating to the community and raising awareness about humanely farmed animals. Entrepreneurs succeed when their work and their values are aligned.

What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?

In both of the businesses I started, Hip Chick Farms and Tugboat Events, I was lucky to let my business be a vehicle for furthering my values. Before, I helped non-profits raise money and expand their good work in the world. Now, I’m helping busy families enjoy good, organic, wholesome food that is super-convenient while respecting the environment with organic and sustainable food production and supporting local farmers and suppliers. Our values-based mission and business model is not only key to our business success, but also to our personal fulfillment.

What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?

Building good relationships with your suppliers, distributors, retailers, consultants — everyone in the process that enables you to do what you do, and being fanatical about quality. Treat people with respect and don’t cut corners — these are the two most important pieces of our business model. The most important relationship is the one you have with the end-user: they have to be able to trust you, that your product or service lives up to the promises it makes.

Learn more about Hip Chicks Farm on their website, Facebook or Twitter.

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