Avid Girl Boss: ‘Honesty is the best policy’

By SUGA Magazine / Published on Wednesday, 21 Jun 2017 12:53 PM / No Comments / 690 views
Inspiring single mum and successful business woman Belinda Jane pictured with her daughter | Honest Food

It was all going well for SUGA business woman Belinda Jane. The 43-year-old single mum had launched her successful business Honest Food Company with it’s signature high protein paleo bars that attracted orders from all over the globe. She was featured in mainstream newspapers and magazines and had a string of television appearances. But behind closed doors, Belinda was quietly suffering from depression.

After taking time out from trading to recuperate and recreate her new business model, the qualified personal trainer-turned-entrepreneur is back! And with more determination than ever. We chat to this amazing Avid Girl Boss (whose Samoa village is Leauva’a) about her journey since starting up business and what she is looking forward to in 2017!

Congratulations on all your achievements. Take us back to the beginning, how did Honest Food Company come about? 

I had been Paleo for about 12 years prior to starting Honest Foods Company. I was lucky enough when I was in the U.S to have met a personal trainer who absolutely knew everything about nutrition.  My body composition, energy levels and my moods had changed for the better when I became ‘paleo.’ We didn’t call it paleo back then. It was more grain-free, dairy-free and as much real food as possible.  I was vegan and vegetarian since I was 15. But years later when I was 28, I started eating chicken, fish and a ton of eggs whites and thats where I primarily got my protein from because it worked better for my mix.  I do believe we all have a particular way of eating that suits us so I don’t say that everyone needs to be paleo or vegan or vegetarian – it really is about connecting to  your own body, your intuition and what feels right for you. So for me it’s all about loving food that loves you back.

My personal training clients at the time would ask, ‘Belinda, could you create a paleo bar?’ And I looked and there was nothing out there. And it was important to me that the bar would be homemade because I really wasn’t impressed with the protein industry and what was coming out of the market because it was full of crap and not real food and I understood the benefits of real food especially when it was linked to energy and moods. For me it was about how I felt and about how much energy I had when I woke up in the morning and not having a bloated tummy etc. Those were all important factors to me. I wanted the product to be hand made with real ingredients and minimal ingredients and with the highest protein as possible and naturally added sugars. For me, sugar is not the issue, it’s about the quantity and whether or not the sugar is naturally there like fruit for example, that has natural sugars and theres nothing wrong with that. These aspects are what makes the product unique.

 

Honest Food Company’s famous high protein paleo bars ‘Blondie’ and ‘Brownie’ were hand-made with love, says Belinda

 

You became a single mum at the same time. How did that influence your business model and strategies?

When I became a single mum, I realised how lucky I was because I had a different mindset where I was determined to create a business for myself and become self-employed.  For single mums, if your mindset is different, it’s hard to go out there and find a job where you are still able to be mum, dad and everyone for your children. I wanted honest foods to be a social enterprise and  a social mission – to enable single mums to go back into the workforce and earn a living wage.

I’m so blessed and grateful for the tribe I built early on who loved the story behind Honest food and the realness of the products. My bars are named Blondie and Brownie. Blondie had four ingredients and Brownie had five and the primary ingredient was the free range egg white protein.

As for marketing, I started online initially. I did crowd funding for my first kitchen and that kitchen enabled me to build my market share and build a tribe. People started noticing and I had a few interviews, primarily in newspapers and magazines at the time and eventually TV interviews as well and had managed to secure stockists in Auckland.

I then scored a Singapore and Australian distributor and I travelled to London last year to find a UK distributor. The reason why I went over myself as opposed to doing it the ‘normal way’ for example through government exporting assistanc, was because if you are a one woman band, even with my employees, you still hold the hats to everything and you MUST be the one to take the action and to be results driven.

So I said to myself ‘stuff it, I’m going over’.  And I did and I found a distributor in the UK which was amazing. For those SUGA who are looking outside of the country that their business is in, especially if you are in New Zealand and have a niche product like mine, the only way you can truly succeed is if your product is scalable – that there are enough people who want to buy it everyday of every week, every month, every year and so forth.

I had a different mindset where was determined to create a business for myself and become self-employed.  For single mums, if your mindset is different, it’s hard to go out there and find a job where you are still able to be mum, dad and everyone for your children.

 

Belinda’s physical store a success, but not part of her overall business model

 

Describe some of your business challenges…

Last year in 2016, it all started to fall apart for me.  I realized that the large orders that were going to come through from my overseas distributors, as well as locally, meant that this hand made paleo protein bar I created, which was handmade with love may I add, wasn’t able to be produced in the mass quantity I needed unless we were going to go via machine.

So I looked into a machine and I priced it up and asked ‘how is this going to work?’ Honestly it killed me. The only way I was going to scale my business to get the quantities needed was to change the ingredients. That meant more sugar and less protein to mix in the machine and that didn’t fit well with my core values. I wanted it to be a specific paleo protein bar. There are so many drinks, cereals etc that call themselves a protein product but they are not.

I could feel the walls crumbling down around me. One person operating a machine and the actual physical store meant that my goal of getting women back into the workforce wasn’t going to work the way it was set up and so it wasn’t a sustainable business model.  I had done everything I could. I closed the store and then I stopped trading altogether. I thought to myself, ‘I can keep doing this and cross my fingers and hope for the best’ OR I could actually recreate and redesign my business model – which is what I realized I had to do.

 

Familiar face SUGA Teuila Blakely, a fan of the high protein paleo bars

 

Is that when the depression hit? 

Yes. Last year, I was in a huge pit of depression and I didn’t realize until I came out the other side. I’ve dealt with depression my whole life. I was too ashamed to share it with anyone as it comes with a stigma attached. I really thought it meant that I wasn’t good enough or worthy of any success. I’m an extreme empath and I feel everybody’s feelings and I felt that I was giving giving giving and people were taking taking taking and when that happens, the depression rears its ugly head and I completely lose control.

The business failed with the model that it had.  But the brand and products were still being loved . Everyone wanted them but I had to just close up shop. I needed to pull my business apart like a jigsaw puzzle and put it together with the things that I love and that I want to happen with the business. I was doing that while I was figuring out this cloud of depression and how to get through that as well.

What are your thoughts on the alarming suicide rates among Pacific young people? Do you believe there is a correlation between those stats and the struggle with cultural identity and cultural challenges in New Zealand?

As for young Pasifika who are struggling,  I truly believe it’s because we have lost our way. We’re caught up in this colonized way of being. Which aren’t our beliefs at all. Whether you’re Pacific, Maori or Indigenous, you come from a very spiritual space. Not so much religion but a spiritual space where we connect to soul and purpose. We have been forced away from that. Its time for our youth to own their power more and understand that they are here to be who they are.

I actually grew up with my Palagi mum and not so much my Samoan dad.  But Mum is also stoic and tough. I don’t think it may be a Pacific cultural thing but a Kiwi thing! We have a ridiculous sense of  a ‘toughen up butter cup’ attitude.  Depression isn’t evil, embarrassing or shameful. I believe it’s just that there is something in you that’s missing, something that you cannot connect to. I’m all about living unapologetically and being 100 per cent authentic. When we feel like we can’t be authentic, when we can’t be who we are at a soul level around the ones that we love, than depression may kick in.

I believe depression is there as a sign to shake us up and say ‘you must show yourself to the world’ or ‘you must be yourself’. I don’t want to justify depression as a chemical imbalance of the brain type of thing but I just know that our souls are crying out!  Our suicide rates are ridiculous because we are not allowing ourselves and the people around us to be who we are!  We are stuck in this box that is labelled “normal” – don’t stand out, don’t be weird, don’t be crazy. We expect everyone to be the same .

As for young Pasifika who are struggling,  I truly believe it’s because we have lost our way. We’re caught up in this colonized way of being which aren’t our beliefs at all. Whether you’re Pacific, Maori or Indigenous, you come from a very spiritual space. Not so much religion but a spiritual space where we connect to soul and purpose. We have been forced away from that. It’s time for our youth to own their power more and understand that they are here to be who they are.

 

Honest 2.0 which launches in September this year, offers an opportunity to become and Honest Food boss and to run your own business

 

Now you have changed your business model altogether as you mentioned, to align with your objectives.  Tell us what’s in store for Honest foods in 2017?

Honest Food  2.0 launches this September and  I’m so excited about it! When I was finally released by the veil of depression that I had, I saw this model for what it was and realized it was more me.

When I started this business,  it wasn’t because I wanted to build an empire. I wanted to provide a real food paleo option and at the same time, earn enough money for myself and my daughter. Because I’m entrepreneurial and want to monetize,  I wanted to see how big I can create this. It was all about helping others to own their own local businesses and provide healthy food to their community – to earn their own income from their business and connect to their community in such a way that the support will be inevitable. With 2.0, people can become honest food bosses in their local communities so it’s a licenced model and very unique. Honest food bosses will earn 100 per cent of all revenue whether its online or direct via community, schools, workplaces and fundraisers. It’s taking away all retailers so there will be no stockists, just be local business. You are purchasing from your local honest food boss in the community.

I’ve had applications come from outside of New Zealand which is amazing. I have been asked to go to India in November to share what I’m doing and what I want to create from it. It’s a true social entreprise. I’m really happy how things turned out. If it wasn’t for the initial way I had set up honest food, I wouldn’t be where I am now. My social mission is: ‘Changing the world one family at a time, through ownership, community and healthy living.’  I’m still looking for more honest food bosses. It’s something I would love to share with governments around the world too – to help people get into business for themselves.

It was all about helping others to own their own local businesses and provide healthy food to their community – to earn their own income from their business and connect to their community in such a way that the support will be inevitable.

So Honest Food Company is just one of your brands and is an extension of your main brand Avid Girl Boss? 

Avid Girl Boss is about living life unapologetically. And it’s something I do consciously. I make a conscious decision every day that I will show up for myself – that I will live my life my way and to be honest. The more I did that the more I was released from that old cloud of depression I had.

I’m launching the Avid Girl Boss club on July 1st and it’s an online membership community about empowering women and holding them in a safe space. I am there to walk beside them – to allow them to be vulnerable in their strength.  It’s so simple to lead a normal average life but those I connect with with are not that. It is for spirituals beings on an entrepreneurial journey. That’s a huge part of me.

I do a lot of online coaching programs and one on ones but the club is a way for us to get together and call on each other and do what I do best: share my truths and for all to continue to show up for themselves. It is not a side project. This is who I am, what I’m born to do – honest food is an extension of Avid Girl Boss.

 

Belinda, is in London for her upcoming Avid Girl Boss event: “You have every right to change your story” July 2017

I’m not here to live an average life. I’m not here to be normal. I am a huge risk taker and that’s what life is about – to co-create the most beautiful life you want to live. What you imagine your life to be like, that is your purpose. I’ve learnt that you must look after yourself and hold yourself in high regard, high value and high worth like the people you want to help too.

I took Avid Girl Boss to London last year and I’m back in London again.  The theme for my event this year is ‘You have every right to change your story.’ Because it’s remembering that we are the ones that create our reality. We don’t have to live the story were living, or be that person showing up that isn’t us at all. It’s about living with purpose. Reclaiming your power.  To empower women to show up;  to own their power and to be whoever the hell they want to be. We’ve been pushed down for far too long and enough is enough. The only way it’s going to change is by us (women) is to step up. No bitching, no huddling, no meetings about it . Yes we protest but who are we showing up as? What example are we setting for our daughters? It’s ok to tell our daughters ‘its ok to be you’ and not to hide who you are and your power.

Late last year, beginning of this year, I was all about myself and getting myself into a healthy mental state for me and my daughter. And being able to give what I want to give with my honest business and coaching clients. And I think there’s lots of us high empaths who feel things and are here for a bigger purpose.

I’m not here to live an average life. I’m not here to be normal. I am a huge risk taker and that’s what life is about – to co-create the most beautiful life you want to live. What you imagine your life to be like, that is your purpose. I’ve learnt that you must look after yourself and hold yourself in high regard, high value and high worth like the people you want to help too.

-Find out more about Honest Food paleo  and protein products and how to become an Honest Food Boss, visit her website: www.honestfood.co.nz

-If you are in London, head on down to watch the inspiring Belinda do her thing! ‘You have every right to change your story’. Buy tickets. Support and share the event here.

-Find out more about the AvidGirlBoss Club and join here. 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *