After graduating Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business, Los Angeles native Sharona Motkin ’08SB began working at Goldman Sachs, having accepted a full-time position as a financial analyst after a coveted yearlong internship. Three years into the job, Motkin realized her passions lay elsewhere, and she left Goldman and returned home to California to explore those passions and actualize them. In May 2012, she founded her own non-profit organization, Generous Spoonfuls.
The organization is dedicated to providing innovative and therapeutic culinary programming and activities to the elderly, the sick, and individuals with special needs as a means to engage and heal through the culinary arts.
So how does a former accounting major and financial analyst choose a culinary-based pursuit?
“I’ve always been interested in culinary arts, and began cooking and baking for Shabbat when I was young to help my mother,” explained Motkin. “There is one thing that universally connects people to each other, and that is food. It connects us to our history, family, community, and most importantly, our vitality. It’s clear to me that there’s potential for therapeutic advancement on the most basic level through food, and I believe that culinary therapy can help heal people from all walks of life who are lonely or ill. Culinary therapy engages all five senses and leads to increased self-esteem, motor skills and healthy eating habits, and the opportunity to form interpersonal relationships.”
Motkin founded Generous Spoonfuls while she was a student at The Academy of Culinary Education, where she had enrolled upon her return to California. Her classmates were so impressed with her goal of helping people through cooking that they decided to raise money and awareness for Generous Spoonfuls as part of their final class project this past February, which was to prepare and host a multi-course graduation dinner.
It should come as no surprise that Motkin took such a proactive step in creating a company; even as a student at Syms, she held numerous leadership roles such as director and producer of the Dramatics Society; co-chair of Orientation; and resident advisor. She also formed close relationships with Zelda Braun, the former Associate Dean of Students, and Professor Robert Greenberg, Clinical Associate Professor of Business Law.
“I have such fond memories from my years at Stern,” said Motkin. “I remember arriving at Penn Station with my suitcases on my way to the Brookdale dormitory for orientation and wondering how far I would have to walk to get there. That walk soon became an everyday activity, but it seemed like many miles that first day.”
A typical workday for Motkin, who also counts fundraiser, relationship manager, business liaison, and program manager among her titles at the organization, includes a lot of paperwork, meetings, fundraising activities and coordinating upcoming therapy sessions that she runs with various organizations.
Some organizations with whom Motkin has partnered include the Jewish Home for the Aging; New Horizons, an organization to empower people with disabilities; and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Though Generous Spoonfuls is still a new organization, Motkin’s success has not gone unnoticed. She was recently selected as a fellow by the Jewish Federation’s PresenTense Fellowship for social entrepreneurs. The fellowship guides social entrepreneurs to develop their leadership skills, business tools and connections to engage and inspire the LA Jewish community.
Motkin said, “My participation in the PresenTense Fellowship has been an amazing opportunity to learn basic and essential business skills that are required to run a successful non-profit organization.”
Speaking to current students and alumni who wish to turn their personal passion into professional success, Motkin said, “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the more risks you are willing to take, the bigger the reward. It takes a leap of faith, but the sky is the limit when it comes to molding your business, and it’s so gratifying to see the fruits of your labor. Don’t let society or other factors keep you from pursuing your dreams and your happiness.”
In ten years, Motkin hopes to see Generous Spoonfuls providing services nationwide. Those interested in helping fund the organization can do so at www.generousspoonfuls.org.