One day Vanessa Ariel received a call from the gentleman she was dating who asked what she thought about an idea for a website that would ship your favorite food from anywhere across the country to your door whenever you wanted it. She loved the scenario and exclaimed it sounded like a future-focused idea straight from the Jetsons.
The idea came to CEO & Founder Joe Ariel due to a craving for his favorite Nashville hot chicken that he could no longer purchase while living in New York. Thinking back to the time Vanessa Ariel says: “There was a difference to us between what was available locally vs. those iconic, authentic, regional foods that invoke a sense of nostalgia of a specific place. We figured if we would pay anything to have access to these foods, there would likely be other people who would feel the same way. We then linked up with some friends who would become our co-founders to expand the idea.”
Since launching Goldbelly, Vanessa and Joe Ariel have served as a business partner match made in heaven by merging his passion for food and her passion for branding and user experience to create a thriving company. What has been equally as exciting is that Vanessa Ariel is leading the charge as one of few women leaders in the Food and Beverage industry for a brand that is reaching millions of food lovers nationwide through offerings by 1000 chefs and restaurants.
As Chief Product Officer, Ariel aims to grow the narrative of women leaders in the industry and support Goldbelly in making food e-commerce cool or “to make it more appealing to the masses to leverage food to create experiences and moments that are part of their lives.”
With her former UI/UX design experience and years working with startups on mobile apps and shopping experiences, Ariel has aimed to “make shopping for food on Goldbelly as easy as buying a pair of shoes or a dress from a fashion website.” With Goldbelly’s 10th year in business, she and her team have prided themselves on curating elevated at-home experiences that allow site visitors to ignite enriched opportunities for new discovery. Ariel expresses, “We’ve created the world’s greatest curated food marketplace that celebrates and empowers the best restaurants and chefs in the country to reach new customers nationwide and consumers to explore new restaurants.”
Ariel notes that much of this success is due to the Goldbelly pinning itself at the intersection of convenience and experience. For example, a local delivery service may be convenient but may lack offering an experience that caters to showcasing the foods. Meanwhile, a great restaurant leans into the experience, but depending on where they are based may not be the most convenient. Therefore, Goldbelly has created a brand centered on an experience that harnesses excitement in anticipation of a customer’s delivery arriving after conveniently being shipped to their door in an elevated experience.
“I take a lot of cues from the fashion world and try to apply them to food. I was always into photography and elevated design, so it’s always been a focus of mine to make our site beautiful, easy to use, and actually show you the product you’re buying as if it were a pair of shoes or a piece of furniture,” says Ariel. Goldbelly combines technology with storytelling and beautiful branding to provide an elevated experience that Ariel and her team view is unmatched in the marketplace.
“I love how much joy we bring to the world,” says Ariel. With the last few years and her witnessing it has been really tough for the U.S. and the world, her team has received some of the most inspiring emails and messages. From customers sharing that the highlight of their week was receiving a Goldbelly box to merchants loving the opportunity to lean into their passions and reach more people doing so, they are connecting food lovers nationwide. And the pulse behind these experiences that is her favorite part of this work has been her incredible team.
For Ariel and the Goldbelly team, it has been fulfilling to see how many of their ideas for product innovations and collaboration have come to life, since nearly a decade of launching. As she thinks about how the team will continue to innovate she shares: “We work with the country’s top food makers and brands now and I’m super excited to go deeper into using machine learning to generate more meaningful recommendations for our customers.”
By leveraging machine learning in their product experience, Ariel will lead customers to discover foods her teams know they will love that they didn’t even know existed or that pair well with their other favorites. The Chief Product Officer and her team are also experimenting with artificial intelligence to help customers decide which items they want to try based on their moods or taste interests. In addition, her team has rolled out a fully redesigned app that transforms user shopping opportunities and links them to use cases or life occasions. Featured within the app is also a Goldbelly TV channel full of behind-the-scenes content that shares food makers' stories and links to food options for purchase.
While women make up half of the workforce in entry-level food and beverage roles, 3% of women of color serve at the executive level. Given this, Ariel has found it an important part of her role to create space for other women entrepreneurs to thrive in the industry. She attributes much of this to her former experiences where she felt like an outsider within the engineering industry. To change this narrative today, Goldbelly works with hundreds of women-owned businesses to help them curate additional revenue streams by reaching a national audience. This is a core part of her why, which is: “to empower entrepreneurs to support their employees and people in their communities.”
Additionally, when she encounters entrepreneurs who seek to become leaders in the food and beverage industry, she’s often recommended the following advice:
1. Find joy in what you do: “Throughout my entire career, I’ve always tried to find the experiences that made me happy when I was doing them,” shares Ariel. After starting out as a programmer, she pivoted into a career trajectory that has enabled her to also lean into her creative side (i.e. design, branding, and user experience) realizing the two were important for exist synonymously for her in her career today.
2. Don’t be afraid to take risks: After moving to the U.S. when she was 18 from Venezuela, she took a risk after expressing her unhappiness to her mom to quit her job and jump from a coding career into an alternative career path. She taught herself design programs and started taking on freelance projects to gain exposure. After freelancing for seven years to pay her bills, she felt a greater sense of fulfillment that anything could be possible thereafter.
3. Cultivate a support system: She’s found that one of the most important keys to her success has been her support system. “Having a team of co-founders as we started this journey and then also a partner in Joe was critical. It’s important to find and nurture your support system,” she shares. Ariel has found a support system can come in the form of family, friends, or even a stranger with similar passions who wants to start a business.
Ariel’s journey and vision for Goldbelly is a reminder that by leaning into the possibilities new opportunities can emerge that inspire creativity and empower the masses.