This CEO Is Proof You Don’t Have to Follow One Set Career Path—Here’s How She Did It
After Serafina Palandech and her wife, Chef Jen Johnson, exited the chicken company they built from the ground up, she found herself questioning what would come next. Little did she know that what was next was a hemp-infused snacks company. Now, Palandech is the CEO of A Boring Life (a play on her and Johnson’s new home base: Boring, Oregon), which launched earlier this year. Read on to find out how Palandech got to where she is now, her tips on working with a romantic partner, and what’s next for A Boring Life.
Name: Serafina Palandech, CEO of A Boring Life
Location: Boring, OR
Education: Bachelor’s in Painting and Women’s Studies from UC Santa Cruz
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to this place in your career?
My career has taken some wildly divergent turns. When I got out of college — I went to UC Santa Cruz — I moved up to San Francisco, and started working for a fundraising event called AIDS Walk San Francisco. I started as, like, Receptionist Number 3, and back then, AIDS was very, very much a crisis and millions of people were dying annually. There really was no hope in a fight, but there was a lot of community organizing around HIV and AIDS and folks were really trying to continue coming together to support people that were living with HIV and with AIDS in order to build some support that wasn’t being offered by the government or by social institutions.
I took a job there as a receptionist and I ended up spending 15 years in that line of work. I moved my way up from Receptionist Number 3 to the event director within a very short amount of time. I held a variety of different positions there and it evolved into doing mass-participatory fundraising events across the United States for a variety of different non-profit organizations. So, I think what I learned there was the ability that a small group of like-minded people can change the world with very little resources. It really suited my skill set and was a great opportunity and I learned a ton — I did that for 15 years. At the end of it I started my own events business where I would put on fundraising events for different non-profits.
After 15 years of essentially fundraising for nonprofits and community organizing, I retired to have a baby. My wife and I got married, and I got pregnant and I decided to stay home with her and I realized within months that that was not a possibility for me. I really enjoy working and I really needed to pursue a career.
Now, my wife, Jen Johnson, is incredible. She has this amazing culinary background — right out of culinary school she went over and cooked at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters and cooked there for 10 years. Then, she got a private cheffing position with the Getty family and cooked for them for 16 years. She’s just this incredible, incredible chef and she’s cooked for everyone you could ever imagine. After we had our daughter, we decided to start our own business featuring one of Jen’s products. She would make chicken fingers — like a healthy, organic version of a chicken nugget — for the kids. So we decided to take that to market. The idea was to innovate a really kind of disgusting category, right?
A chicken nugget is not known for its high quality, but it’s a mass-consumed product, and utilizes all organic ingredients as well as very high animal welfare standards for the animals that we sourced from. We took that to market and it grew really quickly. We took it into grocery stores across the country, and I sold chicken nuggets on QVC, and we got all these awards for innovating. It was a crazy ride, and this year we sold it to a competitor.
As we were exiting Hip Chick Farms, we moved up to be closer to my family. We moved up to Oregon and we bought a farm in a town called Boring, Oregon — it’s beautiful and it’s very dull. It was great because we wanted to be with family, and we also needed a little break from the kind of craziness of starting and building a food company. It’s a lavender farm and is very beautiful.
Jen and I had both started taking CBD and we wanted to take it and incorporate it into a food product for ease of incorporation into our daily lives, so we developed the next venture, called A Boring Life. It’s a line of high-protein snacks that are infused with hemp extract. I just really believe in hemp as the miracle cure for all of us, and for our environment. Okay, so it’s not the cure, but I feel like it could be part of our solution.
So that’s where we’re at today. Now I’m running a hemp company, and we just started that this year. I never would have thought. Never. I actually was quite anti-cannabis, to be honest with you, but I’ve completely changed my perspective. Like, I was doing chicken, and now our products are all vegetarian. We’ve completely flipped and it’s awesome.