We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Niezgoda and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, what role has risk played in your life or career?
What a great question. Risk by definition is the possibility of loss or injury. I think taking risks in life is necessary for growth and leveling up. Humans are wired to survive: it’s a basic instinct that takes command almost instantly, enabling our brains to resolve ambiguity quickly so that we can take decisive action in the face of a threat. When you become an entrepreneur, you are immediately going against everything we are hardwired to know, leaving the herd in a sense and facing the unknown. You are taking a risk. In 2014, I left a stable, well-paying job, and my life in California. I took the biggest risk of my life that year. I was unhappy, unmotivated, and ready for a change however I did not really know what was next. I was seeking more passion, more fulfillment, and more pureness in my daily living and career life. My personal journey was well underway but my career path seemed conflicted with my at home values and long term goals. I decided to move to Mexico, then traveled all over before finding Bali and Australia. A sabbatical with no plan ended up being the best decision of my personal life & career and ultimately led to the start of what is now my business in southern California and Mexico, AL FRESKO EXPERIENCE. Sometimes the risk is worth the reward!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
AL FRESKO is Southern California’s Original Graze and Luxury Outdoor Experience Company. Established in 2016 in San Diego, California. We create lavish and gourmet charcuterie platters, boxes, and graze tables. At AL FRESKO we inspire gatherings to be communal and seasonal, we take pride in being at the forefront of meaningful consumption; by sourcing the freshest local ingredients, our vibrant spreads are not only nourishing for the body, but also to our community. Each Al Fresko offering is curated with quality in mind – we shop nearby farmers’ markets, source goods from local makers, and support small family farms all to provide a truly unique culinary experience. We also create luxury picnics and other unique outdoor experiences like date night in our 1971 vintage VW bus and wellness retreats! We look forward to hosting more cross border experiences with our partners in Mexico in 2021! What sets us apart is the personalization we provide for every single client and his or her specific needs as well as our focus on sourcing the best ingredients. This process helps create long-lasting professional relationships and happy clients that return time after time. Our attention to the details and tablescape is a foodie’s dream! We encourage hosts to think outside of the box and treat guests to a new way of gathering! 2020 was an interesting year for us. Since I started Al Fresko, the majority of the business has been weddings, corporate events, and retreats. In 2020, with 95% of our business cancelled for the year, we pivoted and started to offer smaller offerings with home delivery and have since created a whole new sector to the business. We have some BIG plans for summer 2021! We are very excited to expand AL FRESKO in 2021. This year, we will continue to offer our signature graze platters & luxe picnics. We are especially excited to share our new custom-designed and curated range of picnic blankets, baskets, online mini-market and so much more, coming soon!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
San Diego is such an amazing place. It would go something like this: Friday- visit Windansea beach for sunset, dinner at El Pescador or Himitsu for fresh fish and amazing sushi. Grab a drink at George’s rooftop or sit by the fire at Johnny V. Saturday- surf in Cardiff, grab a coffee at Bump and yummy brunch from Waverly before heading for a drive up the coast to Oceanside for some vintage and plant shopping at Sea hive, Landmark, and Rising Co. I love that stretch of beach from Cardiff to Oceanside. Back down south to Balboa park to walk around then off to Cantina Mayaheul or Tahona for an authentic Mexican and Mezcal experience! Sunday- Grab a latte at Zumbar before heading south of the border for some wine tasting and food in Valle de Guadalupe. We would hit the wine garden at Bruma, enjoy a few tastings at Paolani or Finca La Carodilla and finish with dinner at Laja, Lunario, or Natal. Stay the night at Cuatro Cuatros before heading back to San Diego!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are many people in my life that have helped mold me into the business owner and strong woman I am today so it is hard to narrow it down but a few stick out that I’d like to give a ‘shout out’ to! First and foremost, none of this would be possible without my faith and God! My parents and family have always been my master support system and we kind of joke at this point because they are well aware that taking risks and living a non-conventional life is what lights me up and keeps me going daily. They have supported me through all of my crazy ideas, travels, business decisions, and moving across the country in a recession in 2008 to Califonia to pursue my dreams. My dear best friends have also been an integral part of my story- Leslie Hawkins and Mandy Burstein. Without a community and friends like them, I would not be the person I am today. They have given me so much support and so many tools to succeed, we are more of a family since our families are not in CA. I am so grateful to be surrounded by other strong and successful female entrepreneurs that uplift and support Al Fresko. Al Fresko would not be the brand it is today without Logan Kellams, she is my amazing graphic designer, and photographer. Jeff Olsen wrote a book called The Slight Edge that changed my life. I re-read it once a year. It is super simple and one of the main takeaways I love is this: Master the mundane. Some things are easy to do and easy NOT to do. Those who master the mundane and repeatedly do the things are the ones who have the power and ultimately the most success! This one may sound funny but in 2016, a small pup entered my life, I named her Zelma after my adventurous great grandma Zelma. She was a sick little puppy from Tijuana, I had just arrived home from a 2-year sabbatical with a lot of uncertainty, she helped me become grounded after being away. To this day, I am not sure who saved who but coming home to Zelma after a long day and receiving her unconditional love day in and day out has shown me a new way to live! Last but not least, my grandfather Glen. They call me little Glendita. He loved Mexico so much (like me) and he took the whole family to Cuernavaca to their summer home every year. He was an entrepreneur in Dallas in the ’50s and 60’s in the food industry and he didn’t take anything from anybody. He showed me very early on what it meant to be an entrepreneur. He made a difference in people’s lives and inspired me to do the same!