What initially brought you to Switzerland?
I worked a Winter season a long, long time ago and fell in love with the mountains. I then came back and worked as a shepherd in the Alps for a summer, and stayed.
What inspired you to start Goodness Gracious Bio Food?
Like most mums, I wanted to cook for my baby when she started eating at 6 months. I had no idea what to do! I had previously done a 10 day fast with colonics twice a day and when it came to eating again, I had papaya (I was in Thailand). It was not the act of eating but the sensory explosion of smell, colour, taste, texture and chewing. This was in my mind when I started feeding Grace (my eldest, after whom Goodness Gracious is named).
I wanted wholesome, nourishing, balanced food, preferably organic. We were going away and pots of Tupperware food go off. I went to the shop and was disappointed. I wanted my kids to be interested by food. I didn’t find anything suitable and thought if I can’t find it, I will do it myself.
How does being a parent yourself influence and shape your business?
Every day I see more and more reasons why parental responsibility in teaching our children how to eat properly is so important. As they grow older, they become more exposed to other foods, not necessarily what we eat at home. One of the key messages in my packaging is to engage children with the food, so they can see what they are eating and know what an apricot or a plum looks like.
Can you briefly describe your products and who they are aimed at?
Goodness Gracious makes SuperFoods for Super Families! We started as a baby food company but more and more, we have children of all ages and adults using our products. Particularly for sport or out for a hike or picnic.
What are the principles that guide you when making your products? Also, could you explain a little more about the Ayurveda principles and why they are important to you and your business?
I had been teaching mummy and baby yoga and making Ayurvedic teas and cakes for the mums and babies (sugar free, balanced and healthy!) I find Ayurveda works so my recipes are based on these 5,000 year old principles. Ayurveda is a state of balance between the soul, senses and mind. It makes my family and I feel good. For example, fruit ferments in the stomach, inhibiting digestion, so it’s not advised to mix fruit with meat, fish or vegetables. I follow this principle in my recipes. I also use ingredients that bring a benefit to the body.
There are six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. It is important that children know this variety, not that we eat lemons or fermented foods all the time, but neither should we eat sweet too much. A baby’s taste buds are set in the first three years. If we can give them the right start, they know what’s good and what’s a treat when they come to make their own decisions. If my girls can have nourishing, healthy, wholesome foods, then all children should have that option, hence Goodness Gracious.
I never put in my food what I would not use at home: no concentrates, no additives, no added salt or sugar.
As their mother, I make the decisions for my girls, and am aware of their likes and dislikes. It’s my responsibility to give them a wide variety of foods and tastes and help build a healthy relationship with food, which will set them up for life.
What are your favourite products that the business is currently producing and why?
Apple, Apricot, Cinnamon. I love it! I like them all, and they are all flavours I gave my children as babies and they continue to enjoy them now, aged 7 and 4.
What do your customers and suppliers like most about your products?
The ingredients, the flavours they give and the packaging, both the design and the fact it’s flexi and practical.
You are also a yoga instructor. How can yoga and meditation help parents and their children? How has it helped and influenced you?
Yoga keeps me strong. It helps my body work as it is supposed to. Meditation helps me keep perspective, focus and calm. My children also practise yoga and sometimes meditation. We have a great little CD called ‘Sitting Still like a Frog’ that we use. I have been practising yoga for so long now that it has become part of my life. Through yoga, I have learnt about Ayurveda and the teachings of both have helped me find my path. Practising meditation helps me to focus on today and not worry about tomorrow, which is a great tool when you have your own business!
Is ‘eating organic’ a fad?
No, I don’t believe it is. Organic is how we grow food at home. I don’t buy everything organic, I like local too. I know in Switzerland we are lucky to have strong laws on food production. Stronger than the EU. If Europe signs up to the TTIP, and we embark on having American food which has much less stringent food requirements, it will change dramatically the quality of our food and what is in it. We have to protect eco systems, bio diversity and increase our seed banks to protect what we have.
How does the Goodness Gracious Community (“GG Mums”) work and how does it influence your business? What are the most important issues to the mothers you engage with?
GG Mums, at its simplest, works like Tupperware. There are lots of mums with young children looking to earn extra money, or just be involved in doing something, and they like what Goodness Gracious does and want to be involved. They talk about our products in their communities, the places they hang out with their children and use our products to get the brand out there. We pay a commission to them. We welcome any mums who believe they can add to our community. The more the better!
I think lots of mums are concerned about the quality of baby food by other brands. Of not being heard or listened to. I spend a lot of time engaging with my consumers, through events or in store promotions / samplings. I think they like talking with me because I am a mum too and can empathise – I am either in it or have been! I used to teach prenatal and mummy and baby yoga so I can help allay fears and put their minds at rest for feeding, eating, stages that their children are at or other.
What would you say are the three main things you have learnt from creating and developing your business?
Giving birth made me realise just how far I can go with something. I have learnt I am more resilient than I thought before I had children. Never give up. There’s always a way. A start-up is a long and lonely journey. People think I am doing really well and being successful. They only see the outside. I feel like a swan: graceful on the surface but paddling madly under water trying to keep myself above it.
What were the main challenges when setting up your business in a foreign country?
I actually have a UK registered company and my products are made there. The UK is a highly competitive and developed market and I never expected to go on sale there so I was always quite happy with being an ‘exporter’. In Switzerland, the main challenges are the import (outside the EU) and the language. Each region is not only linguistically different but culturally different too. Each country has its local customs that need to be addressed.
What advice would you give to other parents living abroad who might be thinking about starting a business?
Go for it. Do your research and have a passion. There is no one who will be as passionate about your business as you are. But make sure it is a viable proposition before taking the steps. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and don’t, for one minute, think it is easy. It takes time. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and think ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. Life is there to be lived. Do it!
What is family life like for you in Switzerland?
We love Switzerland. It’s a great place to bring children up. We speak the language and integrate in our village. We go to the mountains, we go to the lake. We like to ski and now the girls are older we can ski as a family, so that’s a lot of fun. We like hiking, being in/on the water too so we try to make the most of what Switzerland has to offer.
What does the future hold?
Who knows? As the Buddhist in me would say, I can’t change what’s happened, and I can’t change what’s going to happen. I can only change today, so that’s what I focus on. Taking each day as it comes.
Thanks to Katherine Gubbins of Goodness Gracious Foods for this interview. To find out more, visit https://goodnessgraciousfoods.com.