Hannah Goldberg: Founder of Tanabel
The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Hannah Goldberg to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Hannah Goldberg: Tanabel offers sustainable and empowering employment to refugee women from the Middle East [who live] in the New York area. We offer a living wage, work with and around our cooks’ schedules and family commitments, and provide a space where their skills and knowledge are celebrated. Women in this community often face a higher hurdle than their spouses when entering the workplace, and we’re working to lower it.
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
HG: It’s hard to see what we do as a breakthrough, per se, because what Tanabel is doing is very traditional — traditional food, produced in traditional ways, by women who have learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Finding ways to engage newly arrived refugee women in a supportive and sustainable workplace is a challenge, to be sure. I hope we’re finding our way toward the right formula on how to do and expand that. On the flip-side, we’re also giving our diners and customers the chance to taste dishes and connect with people they might not otherwise have a chance to, and it’s really rewarding to be able to open people up to that opportunity.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
HG: Language barriers have probably been our biggest challenge (Arabic, Kurdish and Dari are all spoken in our kitchen), followed by adapting to our cultural differences. It’s a very different energy than a standard professional kitchen. Working with Tanabel’s cooks has certainly taught me to slow down and prioritize creating a space where relationships can grow and stories can be shared.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
HG: I love seeing the pride our cooks take in their work and the way it’s received by our diners, students and customers. And, because so many of these cuisines are new to me, I love learning and sharing each time I cook with them.
#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?
HG: I think that everyone could benefit from a deeper sense of empathy. Ironically, our current political climate, as negative and charged as it is, has created more room for it. More Americans are putting themselves in the shoes of people who have been driven from their homes and need a helping hand. I’m hopeful that the next generation will place renewed importance on welcoming the stranger and celebrating our commonalities.
#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?
HG: Because we’re half the population, and everyone should be involved when it comes to change-making! That said, of course women are powerful innovators and problem solvers, but I also think that we’re more apt to build consensus than men, and more inclined to set a longer table at which everyone can be heard. That more nuanced approach creates stronger, more lasting solutions.
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.