How Manolo's Best Farmstand Chili is Handling Adversity

Mitchell Wolinsky, otherwise known as Chef Manolo, began cooking chili when he started to face multiple health issues. He realized that there was a lack of options when it came to the plant-based, naturally sourced ingredients that he was seeking. Soon after, Manolo's Best Farmstand Chili was on the market. 

His vegan soups include no meat or dairy, wholesome ingredients, and are each handcrafted and high quality. Benefits, which are provided on Manolo’s website, propose that the creation of his soups: “save the animals, support the environment, get healthy skin and nails, lose weight effortlessly, naturally boost your energy, reduce risk for chronic disease” and “improve digestion.” Sounds good to me!

His two notable meals, the Original Cinnamon chili and Roasted Sweet Potato soup, can be found in over 60 select Whole Foods stores.

During this pandemic of COVID-19, Chef Manolo has had to make several changes to his business similar to other small businesses during this time. “The first thing that affected us was the discontinuation of active sampling programs. Active sampling is a manned/woman-ed table. We have this elaborate table and pass out 200-300 samples a day,” Chef Manolo stated. He said that this led to furloughing five of his employees which then effects the company’s social mission of being part of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, an organization that provides opportunities for veterans and their families.

“We had to figure out if we are not in over 60 stores creating brand awareness, what are we going to do?” His new goal is to find a way to bring back his employees and to give his customers nutritious meals during this difficult time. Chef Manolo decided it was time to pivot his business to include e-commerce. “We lost 50% of our revenue when they closed the hot soup bar and we can’t even promote our product.”

After consulting with a small group of trusted individuals, offering Manolo’s Best Farmstand Chili on Amazon Prime was the next step for this company. This will change his physical marketing to digital marketing which will hopefully bring opportunities to get back his employees.

This strategy is something that Chef Manolo will continue to practice even after strict restrictions, due to COVID-19, are lifted. He stated that selling his product online will allow him to offer different recipes, new ones that may not be found in Whole Foods. He hopes that with e-commerce and new recipes, he will be able to tap into new communities and reach vegans and/or vegetarians who are looking for new options.

Pre-global crisis, Chef Manolo reminisced about when he would frequently travel five days a week to D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio where he would set up Manolo's Best Farmstand Chili sample tables and converse with shoppers and repeat customers.

“Now, I’m not always traveling. Now, I’m at home at my home office and I can have a lot of meetings for different opportunities and it gives me a lot of time to work on research and look at other chains that we are going to pitch and change of distributing and other recipes. It has benefited my health where I don’t have to be on the road as much. I can see my wife and pet my cat. It has helped me emotionally which is important.”

Chef Manolo has taken adversity and turned his entire company around. This makes for a great leader and an even better businessman. He started in college making chili for his roommates. They often discussed turning their small meals into a business, similar to many other college students conversing with their friends.

To those ambitious students, Chef Manolo advises to “get a mentor, find a mentor. Whatever industry you’re in, there is an association or someone who makes themselves available.” He mentioned that he went to a seminar that dealt with food products and developed a relationship with several people. From there, those relationships helped him create the business he is running today. “I think it's that simple.”

Chef Manolo hopes to influence those who are working toward their dreams and show them that a small setback is a stepping stone for something greater for Manolo's Best Farmstand Chili.