As Part II of our series, we’re happy to introduce Grainful’s President, Jan Pajerski! After graduating from Cornell’s College of Engineering with a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, Jan purchased a one-way ‘around the world’ ticket and proceeded to explore the world. He later ended up in Western Canada where he furthered his engineering studies at the University of Calgary, started a career in the Oil and Gas industry and skied the powder of the Rockies every chance he got. After a few years, an opportunity with Grainful arose, and Jan’s passion for entrepreneurship and his love of food led him back to Ithaca, NY.
How did you become involved in the startup of a food company?
Honestly, it was the fact that I love food. When you’re giving people great tasting and nutritious foods, you’re helping them live better, healthier lives. I come from a big Polish family where appreciation for healthy, natural ingredients was ingrained from an early age. My parents still have a large garden and grow and cook almost all their own food. I take a lot of inspiration from that.
How does your background in engineering contribute to your work style?
My background in engineering definitely gave me an analytical, data-driven approach to problem solving and management. You’d think that as a company grows and develops, there would be fewer issues, but the opposite is actually true. As Grainful evolves, creative and effective problem solving becomes increasingly critical.
What is your favorite part about working for Grainful?
We have a great team of people. It’s a lot of fun and there is a lot of energy, so that is a wonderful part of it.
I also love a good challenge. So many packaged meals are full of artificial ingredients, flavorings and excess sweeteners. I thought there had to be a better way! So that’s what we set out to do at Grainful: provide conveniently packaged meals without sacrificing nutrition or taste. It’s exciting and rewarding to bring a completely new concept to the market. It’s definitely a challenge, but it gives you the chance to leave your mark on the industry and improve people’s lives. It’s something that we all really believe in and that drives the entire team.
After graduating from college, you took a trip around the world and visited over two dozen countries. What was your favorite part of this trip?
My favorite part of the trip was the food. And the beer. And the fact that they were both very cheap!
We traveled on a shoestring budget and would often meet locals and stay at their places. It was a great way to experience different cultures and learn about the world. Even when we couldn’t speak the languages, we could always connect to people by sharing a meal together. It’s sort of a universal way to gather and bond. I’m a pretty adventurous eater and I tried to immerse myself in the local cuisines as much as possible. I think that exposure to exotic ingredients and unexpected flavor combinations definitely impacts my work at Grainful.
What was your favorite country to visit?
Hard question! If I had to pick a favorite place, I would say Nepal. I trekked on my own for 8 or 9 weeks in the Himalaya. The mountains are so massive and so peaceful. It was a nice time to really reflect.
If you were stuck on an island and could only eat one Grainful flavor, what would it be?
Another hard question! I would go with Andouille Sausage & Oats. I love the spices and that wonderful Creole/Cajun taste.
What are your favorite activities to do in your spare time?
It used to be skiing and playing hockey, but right now it’s hanging out with my two boys and my wife. It’s family time.
Is there a person or company that inspires your work at Grainful?
I draw inspiration from many people and companies for different reasons, but I'm particularly motivated by Hamdi Ulukaya (the founder of Chobani). I have heard him speak a few times. His vision to take great tasting, nutritious foods and bring it to everyone - not just people who shop at high end grocery stores - is parallel to our work at Grainful. If we are able to emulate a fraction of the success that Chobani has seen, it would be pretty unbelievable.