Women in Business Q&A: Lauren Jupiter, Managing Partner and Jordan Gaspar, Managing Partner, AccelFoods

Jordan is a Managing Partner of AccelFoods, where she is a member of the investment committee and is responsible for supervising strategy on legal and investor relations for our entrepreneurs. Jordan also oversees the daily operations of AccelFoods.

After graduating from Columbia College and Fordham Law School, Jordan began her career as a corporate attorney spending most of her time at Morrison Cohen LLP, a full-service law firm primarily servicing clients in the middle-market private equity space. While at Morrison Cohen, Jordan advised financial sponsors and their portfolio companies, with a practice focused on mergers and acquisitions, securities and debt financing. Jordan spent considerable time conducting due diligence on behalf of funds seeking to acquire companies between $1-100 million in revenue, identifying business issues prior to acquisitions.

A food enthusiast at heart, Jordan left her legal career behind to found and run a New York City based catering company, Flatiron Kitchen, where she oversaw all aspects of operations including vendor and strategic partnerships, accounting/finance, sales, marketing and regulatory compliance. Representative clients included: Ogilvy and Mather, Levi Strauss, New York & Company, as well as several political campaigns and galleries.

Lauren is a Managing Partner of AccelFoods, where she is a member of the investment committee and is responsible for supervising financial strategy for our entrepreneurs. Lauren also oversees the daily financial operations of AccelFoods.

Lauren began her career as an investment banker in the Consumer Products and Retail team at UBS. While at UBS, Lauren identified and analyzed strategic alternatives for her clients, performed valuation analyses, developed detailed financial models, and composed offering memorandums for clients such as Cadbury Schweppes (Americas Beverages Business and Dr Pepper Snapple Group), and Yoplait (Dairy Crest).

While at UBS, Lauren worked on-site at Birds Eye Iglo Group, a leading European food manufacturer (€1bn of sales), owned by Permira Advisers, coordinating with cross-functional executives to develop a five year financial operating model and identify seven key growth opportunities to position the company for a profitable exit. She also analyzed SKU-level performance data to develop recommendations regarding the company's SKU rationalization program.

Intending to transition to working with early stage food and beverage businesses, Lauren returned to the academic arena to pursue an MBA. During her time in business school, Lauren had a brand management internship at Unilever where she created a mobile marketing strategy for Dove Personal Wash After seeing all of the resources and partners available to an iconic CPG brand, Lauren confirmed that she wanted to be on the same team as the underdog, and find ways to support small businesses with big resources.

How has your life experience made you the leaders you are today?
Any entrepreneur knows that our professional decisions are always deeply motivated by our personal lives. Our case is no different in that our childhood experiences almost pre-determined the professionals that we have become. We both were raised surrounded by tenacious, hard-working, resourceful entrepreneurial parents and grandparents who gave us a profound respect for setting lofty goals and staying laser focused on achieving them. It was always assumed that we would continually set our own bar higher and higher as the measure of our success. These same individuals instilled in us that it is not just about who you are in business but how you do business and we are continually measured by our integrity as professionals, but more importantly, as people.

How has your previous employment experience aided your positions at AccelFoods?
Both of us came from professional services backgrounds -- Lauren from Investment Banking and Jordan from the Corporate Law arena. These experiences laid the groundwork for many aspects of how we approach business and problem solving. Both of us are extremely detail oriented and meticulous about the quality of our work and the depth of our relationships. On a more granular level, Lauren brings the rigorous financial understanding and framework from investment banking at UBS, where she covered the food & beverage space, and strategic and operational understanding from her experiences at Iglo Group and Unilever. Jordan gained significant experience as an attorney specializing in middle-market private equity transactions at Morrison Cohen, early-stage investment experience as a Managing Director with Golden Seeds and gained strategic and operational experience while running her own small business. All of these experiences, coupled with our passion for the food and beverage space, have impacted how we developed the platform. But just as importantly, we knew that we did not know it all and solicited feedback and support from tremendous advisors to fine tune the platform and our team.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenures at AccelFoods?
The highlight for us has been seeing the tangible impact that our platform has been able to have on our portfolio companies and the professional development of our founders. From brand refreshes, to Advisory Board formations and team buildouts, to financial planning and investor relations strategy, we have been thrilled to be able to support each business in accomplishing its unique objectives.

The biggest challenge we have found in building AccelFoods has been managing the many, many amazing people and partners associated with the platform. We have been so lucky to receive such incredible support from the food and beverage industry -- we just wish we had more hours in the day to engage with all of them!

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
As female founders in a historically male-dominated industry, AccelFoods has taught us to take constructive feedback but know when to remain committed to our vision. Don't let naysayers stop you -- let them fuel you. There were many times that we walked into a room and were underestimated because of our age, experience or gender. Each of those experiences was a moment in which we paused and actually said aloud, "I can't wait to prove that person wrong." Seek out like minded women in your industry; they can be a tremendously supportive resource.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is very challenging to hold strong positions of authority and also be the wives, mothers and friends that us over-achievers wish to be. It takes some organization, support from our families and support from one another. An important aspect of our partnership is that we try to be as understanding and supportive as possible to one another to help maintain that balance, and make room for eachothers lives outside of AccelFoods.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Work-life balance is a challenge for anyone running a business. For women, it can be easy to feel intimidated by being the only woman in a room, as we often are. It is in those moments that it is most important and impactful to feel empowered.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal lives?
Mentorship has made all the difference in our lives. Everything that we do as people and entrepreneurs is shaped by the support that we received from people that believed in us and who were willing to open doors on our behalf. Valuing relationships is a core tenet of our business as it was our prior relationships that allowed us to build the platform as quickly as we did.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
This is such a challenging question. There have been so many inspiring women who have set the bar higher for excellence amongst female leaders. We see women such as Sheryl Sandberg, Irene Rosenfeld, Denise Morrison, and Indra Nooyi as true role models in not just corporate achievement but also as human beings. We also look at the women in our personal lives who are leaders in their own arenas, be it in the workplace, in their philanthropic endeavors or as the matriarchs of their families.

What do you want AccelFoods to accomplish in the next year?
To Grow Big, of course! AccelFoods is at a huge inflection point. We feel very humbled by how quickly our business has grown to date and will always seek to improve the platform to make it more responsive to the needs of our portfolio companies. We hope that we continue to find great new founders to partner with and that we get to AccelFoods grow bigger by their businesses growing bigger.