Sheera Goren is not your average foodie. She’s a lawyer passionate about social impact and is the founder and CEO of Dinating, a nonprofit that aims to give people the opportunity to eat well and do good at the same time.
However, Sheera’s roots in community outreach and food began at a much earlier age. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she grew up with three siblings and a big family where service and giving back was an important part of her upbringing. Sheera, along with her family, spent time volunteering at the SOVA food pantry. Philanthropy was emphasized by her grandfather who gave turkey family dinners to underserved communities in East Los Angeles for Thanksgiving every year for more than thirty years. Throughout her childhood, Sheera recognized “the relationship between being grateful for what you have and understanding that people in your backyard are in need.”
Sheera left her West Coast origins to attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she studied communications. She took one year off after finishing her undergraduate studies and worked in New York City, before attending law school at the University of California, Los Angeles.
From the onset, Sheera knew that she was not going to enjoy working at a large law firm, but knew that she was interested in food and beverage, a narrow niche in the industry. Through her job as a lawyer at a restaurant group, Sheera was able to combine her interests in hospitality and law. But a law firm’s day-to-day work was not satiating her, she reflected. “I was looking for something more.”
Two years ago this May, Sheera founded Dinating. With Dinating, restaurants offer a value menu and drink on certain days as a special event. Events can range from public dinners to group-specific events like birthdays and book clubs. A portion of the sales of those meals go to feed a family of four for one day. Sheera describes Dinating as an easy way for people to do good with their dollar in a simplified manner, “you pay, you come, you enjoy.” Typically, guests come in pairs or with groups, but most times people don’t know everyone, creating a new environment for meeting people at each Dinating event. “There are different ingredients each time, and what you get is a special Dinating experience at the end.”
The idea for Dinating’s namesake came from two of Sheera’s hobbies — running and “smooshing words.” While on a run in Los Angeles, Sheera was thinking about her two passions: dining and donating. “I thought: dinating. I turned around and ran back home,” Sheera explained. “I came up with the name before I really knew what it was.”
In the time since its founding, over 20,000 meals have been donated.
Balancing a career and a passion project may seem easy based on the incredible growth Dinating has seen, however, Sheera has sound advice for women looking to start their own companies or nonprofits of their own based on her experiences.
She praises being your own boss because you get to work on your passion project, create what you want, and have agency over the structure of your company. However, you should be able to be clear, have a strong vision, and delegate tasks.
Especially for Sheera, balance is key. Getting work done for Dinating entails waking up early, staying up late, and working weekends. Sheera describes that time is what you make of it. “You make time for things that you are passionate about,” she said.
Finally, Sheera discussed the importance of believing in yourself and in your ideas.
“Just because someone else couldn’t or didn’t, we think it can’t be done, but it can,” she explained. “Trusting your gut and being confident is a daily exercise.” However, Sheera stresses perseverance. “Not doing something because you fear failure is failure by default. It is better to fail and get back up then to not try.”
Contributor: Clare Connaughton