Mar 21st 2024

Women's History Month Feature: Interview with Potluck's Jen Arsenault

To honor Women’s History Month, we’ve decided to feature a few of our favorite woman-owned brands throughout the month of March in the hopes of putting a well-deserved spotlight on some amazing products and amazing women.

Potluck Market was born from necessity. Potluck founder Jen Arsenault would have her favorite Korean food staples only shipped from South Korea, handmade by her mother’s family. When she’d run out, she’d go to stores here in the United States and wonder why all Korean ingredients felt lackluster in comparison. She wanted staples that stood out, felt fun, were better for you, and tasted like home - so she made it happen.

Potluck’s products, Gochujang and Ssamjang are made in small batches in South Korea using traditional methods with cotton cloths, ceramic pots, and iron cauldrons. This practice brings traditional flavors to the modern day market that have been left out over time due to mass production.

Below are five questions we asked Potluck’s founder, Jen, and her thoughtful responses.

  • Did you always want to create a product?
    • Definitely not, creating a product is hard! But once I had the idea for Potluck, it began to nag at me. I kept thinking someone else would do it, create a brand around Korean ingredients, and after thinking that for two years, I figured I might as well give it a shot. You know what they say about “if you want something done.”
  • What inspired you to create your food products?
    • My favorite Korean ingredients were always handmade and shipped by my mom’s family. When I’d run out, I’d go to stores and see these products filled with corn syrup and preservatives that were lackluster in comparison. The packaging hasn’t changed since the 70s and meanwhile, Korean culture has been growing at an insanely fast rate worldwide. I knew there was a real chance to come in with better products, ones that stood out, felt fun, were better for you and tasted like home.
  • Did you have any women-owned business role models to help you on your brand’s journey?
    • Women in food are truly the nicest people. I have a few that I can call upon for help, Kaitlin from Pulp Pantry or Isabelle Steichen from Lupii to name a couple. I don’t know how they have time to run their own businesses and help me with my questions, but they always make time for me when I need them.

  • What has owning a business taught you?
    • To roll with the punches and that things usually work out the way they’re supposed to. We just launched this year and there have already been a million setbacks–having to change our original packaging, tweaking our Ssamjang to be shelf stable before opening, running out of tape for our boxes the day we launched, the joys of operating on a tiny, bootstrapped budget – it goes on and on. I’ve found that limitations usually spark creativity and some of our biggest challenges have led to better outcomes than I even originally planned on. We also only have control over the things we do each day and can only get so much done in 24 hours, so I try to focus on what I can do and appreciate each experience as it comes.
  • What woman inspires you and why?
    • Ah, to pick only one. Can I make a list? I’ve always looked up to Sara Blakely and Bethanny Frankel as successful women in business who have forged their own paths. When I was in college, I saw Emily Weiss and Tyler Haney make names for their consumer brands by raising capital and building strong communities. Most recently, I’ve been looking up to women like Trinity Mouzon Wofford of Golde and Jing Gao of Fly By Jing, both of whom built their consumer brands in scrappier ways.

Women Owned, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the success of certified women-owned businesses in the United States and across the globe, posits that “when you support Women Owned businesses, you are investing in women’s economic empowerment, gender parity in commerce, vibrant communities, and the growth of the economy overall.

Photo Credit: Tony Luong