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FareStart CEO Angela Dunleavy Moves to Gourmondo

Both FareStart and Gourmondo win

On January 18, 2023, Angela Dunleavy will spend her last day as CEO of FareStart. She will immediately transition to the FareStart Board of Directors. Then on February 1, she will officially become the CEO of Gourmondo, a dynamic gourmet food company.

Angela Dunleavy

"This was unexpected," Angela explains. "Alissa Leinonen, the founder of Gourmondo, approached me. After 26 years of running the company she founded, she is ready to step back. Gourmondo is positioned to move forward. She asked me to run her company. I was so humbled. It's bittersweet to leave FareStart because being there has changed my life. But I'm so excited for this opportunity. Gourmondo and FareStart were partners through the pandemic and were able to keep their staff because they took over doing some of the FareStart meals. Our values are aligned. Alissa was drawn to me because I'm able to scale and grow a company, and Gourmondo is primed to grow."

Alissa knew exactly who she wanted to take her company to the next level. "I was planning to make one call, and that was to Angela. I'm so impressed with her tenacity, openness, and conviction. I'm proud and excited to have her level of leadership in my company."

Together, they have already hired a new COO, Alecia Craft, who had worked at Starbucks and WeWork North America. And the new Director of Finance, Val Dixon, used to be the VP of Finance at Ethan Stowell Restaurants. Bill Morris has returned as the Executive Chef. Alissa and Angela are also in the process of defining Alissa's role. "I enjoy working with boards, and it's necessary that she be on the Gourmondo board," says Angela. "I have laser focus vision and learned at FareStart the value of thoughtful, strategic planning, and business planning. Where we want to grow, both locally and outside Seattle; we'll look at expansion. There's certainly the catering piece and more cafes. It's all on the table. On an average day, Gourmondo produces 4,000 meals. The business of gourmet grab 'n go will grow. We'll also look at close partnerships with corporations and going into buildings as an amenity; we'll be that café in the building. We'll watch the workforce and see what happens."

Alissa Leinonen

Alissa's goal is to support Angela and give her the resources needed to succeed. "I have complete confidence in her. I'll work on innovation and business development and support the team as Angela deems necessary." While stepping back is sometimes difficult for people, Alissa feels good about it. She's had strong leadership in the past when she worked 2-1/2 days a week, and it's on purpose that her name is not tied to the company name. "When we had our 20th anniversary and added fun facts, it's the first time my name was on the website. The company is about the team, these talented people."

Angela needed to hit the ground running when she became CEO of FareStart. At Gourmondo, she plans to spend the first six months to a year listening, learning, and feeling the rhythm of the business. "It will take time to understand 26 years of history. There's a great team in place already. One thing that won't change is the company's commitment to the community."

While her excitement over this new opportunity is apparent, so is her love for FareStart. "Being part of FareStart changes your whole perspective. I'll be taking things I learned at FareStart to Gourmondo. Part of that is that in the restaurant business if an employee is a no call/no show, they're fired. At FareStart, it means something happened or is happening and you need to check in. All employers can learn that lesson. How do we show up and support the people we're serving, both customers and staff? I would tell everyone, be a volunteer at FareStart. Sign up to do a mock interview or work in the kitchens. Or if you know someone who could use the program, tell them about it. Finding and building community is so important.

Gourmondo Operations Chef Tyler Hefford-Anderson making a point

"I'm proud of what we accomplished at FareStart while I was there. We built on the foundation that was already there, 2022 was its 30th anniversary. The organization was ready for an evolution and that has been my role. It was built on the old way that restaurants worked. I brought a new way to think about the workforce, jobs, opportunities for folks. We charted a different course based on a strategic plan. FareStart is very forward-looking now. We looked at how we can serve South King County at the same level we do in Seattle. Feeding the community has always been part of FareStart, but we look at job training in a new way. We must focus on those facing food insecurity. In the time I was at FareStart, we served over 6.6 million meals to the community.

"It was good for me to be at FareStart when I was. I'm able to change and activate quickly. When the pandemic hit, I was focused on keeping people paid and dealing with the huge need for meals, concentrating on nutritious meals for the chronic homeless living in supportive housing. It isn't just about doing it; it's about why we need to do it. We partnered with Paul Ambrose of Plymouth Housing and Dan Malone at the Downtown Emergency Service Center, knowing that the people who serve this community would need help doing it. The pandemic allowed us the opportunity to refocus. We have to look at the pathways to personal stability, economic mobility, and food security.

"As FareStart slowly begins to open the restaurant, I hope it will be inclusive, with those in need having lunch there with staff members as well as the public. From Day 1, I've focused on racial equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion. We have to be more centered on the lived experiences of students and clients, preparing them for opportunities that arise." Another accomplishment that Angela is very proud of is that two of her direct reports have gone to be CEOs of their own.

Angela taking part in a community event

Undoubtedly, Angela's new community at Gourmondo will be just as successful and effective as the one she built at FareStart.

Connie Adams/January 2023


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