Join us for our latest Act of Love as we chat with Tess, founder of healthy and delicious treats, Wellness by Tess. From her favourite versatile ingredient, to motivation and persistence, Tess shared with us her journey of moving to Australia and becoming who she is, to building her brand and motherhood (plus a delicious recipe you must try!).
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Avalon since about 2 years with my husband Evan, our 2.5-year-old daughter Lumi and our cat Elsy. Like so many others, not long after our daughter was born, we moved from Sydney’s East up to the Northern Beaches in search for a quieter lifestyle and more space. We actually have another baby due in only a few weeks time. It’s a girl, everyone is so excited, especially Lumi who is convinced that she is having a baby as well.
I run a food manufacturing business called Wellness by Tess. We do a range of products, mainly healthy slices, cakes, protein balls and bars. There are a few sides to the business. Whilst having our own brand we also do a heap of contract manufacturing and white labelling for other brands. I love what I do because it has never felt like work which I think it a major win. I also love the people in the business, both staff and customers. Since I am able to set my own schedule, I can be very flexible which suits me perfectly.
Before having kids and when my business was still very small, I was a free-spirited traveller, exercise junky who didn’t know what tomorrow would bring and it didn’t phase me the slightest. In some ways it was easier back then. When out doing deliveries, customers would comment on that my hair was always wet and that they wish that they have a boss like I did. I used to keep the surfboard in the back of the van and would go for a swim in the ocean as often as I could. Things turned quickly over a few years, with meeting Evan; falling pregnant and the business also growing considerably. I wouldn’t change anything today however I think fondly of those years and I sometimes miss the freedom that I had back then.
These days I would describe myself as a full-time mum and a full-time business owner. That’s the way the cookie crumbles when you have kids and run your own business. There isn’t much time left for much else at the moment especially during the baby and toddler years. I absolutely love it though and wouldn’t change it for the world.
You were born, and grew up in Sweden, how did you find adapting to the Australian lifestyle?
I have lived here since 2004 so I would describe myself as a true ‘Swaussie’. Socially the countries are very similar, so adapting was easy. Australia is the country where I became an adult so it would have definitely made its imprint on me. It’s made me more open to change and curious to how people chose to live their lives. In Sweden, society has more of an expectation on you to have reached certain life goals at certain ages, whether it be that job, or having that house, the summer-cottage or that car. Material things. It makes sense, you need many of them as it’s bloody cold. Australia isn’t like that, it’s much easier going with a “chuck another shrimp on the barbie” type attitude. In saying that, you can take a girl out of Sweden, but you can’t take Sweden out of a girl. In some ways I know that I am a true Swede and I hear it often. My standpoints, values and views on certain cultural ideas and ways of life I will always carry with me.
What motivated you to start Wellness by Tess?
First and foremost, I did not start out with a clear path in mind and much of the beginning was luck and being at the right place at the right time. A combination of good fortune and persistence I suppose. In 2010 I was diagnosed with autoimmune issues and began researching how to best look after my body, mainly through food. For many years I lived strictly with no gluten, sugar and refined foods and the treats that I started selling to cafes were originally the sweet treats that I was making for myself at home at the time. It just grew and grew. My motivation was that I had a huge sweet tooth which needed to be satisfied, food sensitivities or not.
How are you coping with the current situation and remaining positive during a period of such monumental change?
It has highlighted how incredibly lucky I feel to be to be living in a country like Australia. Hearing and seeing how It has been a real struggle for many friends of mine that live across Europe, in cities in Italy and France, I cannot comprehend being locked inside in a small apartment 24/7 also trying to entertain children.
Inevitably, it has been a challenging time for us business-wise. I do believe however that with any situation that you are faced with, there is an opportunity to if not ‘spin it to your advantage’, at least pivot and learn something from the experience. That is what has happened for us. Whilst I prefer to of course work in normal circumstances, it has forced us to look at the profitability of different part of the business and choose to restructure those that aren’t working at full capacity. It has been a good exercise and whilst we will operate through this crisis, the company will most likely look a little different once we are out on the other side.
Have you found that your perspectives or values have shifted?
Not necessarily. It hasn’t in fact changed much of how we live our lives privately as we chose to live a fairly simple life. It has given me the opportunity to spend even more time at home with my husband and daughter and of course highlighted the fact that we need very little to live well and thrive. I do miss seeing friends and family, that has been the hardest thing.
You are a Mother and a business owner, how do you juggle both, and also make time for yourself?
I happen to be one of those people that do not need a lot of me-time but instead charge my batteries being around people and for that reason I have never felt like I have missed out. My kind of down-time however is without a doubt exercise and my work allows for a lot of that. It is embedded in our company culture that making time for the gym is just as important as making it to the daily morning meeting. My workhours are very flexible which has made it easier to set aside myself between work and the family.
I’m convinced that the answer to both running your own business and being a parent is in deciding to show up each day and give it your best shot. You don’t have to be perfect at either. I’m sure there are better prepared people out there however, if you show up each day it means that you’ll be there still when others have gotten tired or called it quits. Even though I might not put in the longest hours as either a parent or an entrepreneur, I take solace in the fact the hours I do devote are my best.
What's the best part of your day?
Our mornings. I have always been a morning person. Lumi gets so excited when it starts getting light outside. Her cuddled up next to me saying “Mamma, mamma... Look... it’s morning-time!”, then getting up, navigating our way to the kitchen trying not to step on pieces of LEGO, making coffee, feeding the cat, looking at the sunrise and pondering about the day ahead.
What is your favourite and most versatile ingredient?
It would be cacao. I am a real chocoholic. We use cacao in a lot of products at work. I love it not only for its nutritional benefits but because the quality of cacao varies majorly depending on where you source it from. I have become a bit of a fanatic, finding the best quality bean. Much like coffee for the passionate coffee-roaster I would imagine.
What are you reading and listening to right now?
Hand in my heart, I haven’t picked up a book for a while. I don’t often have a hand free! I do listen to a tonne of podcasts, often when driving or walking the pram with sleeping kids. How I built this, with Guy Raz is one that I very much recommend. He interviews entrepreneurs and business-minds from all walks of life. It’s an incredibly inspiring and motivating podcast to get you into work-mode. I am always bubbling with ideas after each episode. At the moment I am also listening to ‘Australian Birth Stories’. I find it incredibly empowering listening to other women’s stories when preparing for my own labour a few weeks ahead. We are planning a home birth for my second birth and I am so excited about that.
How do you believe is the best way to act in love, either for yourself or others?
Loyalty and honesty are qualities that I very much value. I try to be there for family and friends through thick and thin and I’d consider myself someone people can rely on and confide in. They would also know that I will say it as I see it and not beat around the bush with an issue. I am fairly straight like that. I do believe that you can be both compassionate and strong at the same time. If there is a problem ahead, I rather shine the light on it and find a solution. The longer you dwell on something giving you grief, the more harm it will cause you.
These are a staple in our house and easy to make! Enjoy!
200g Almond Meal
200g Desiccated Coconut
3 tbsp Coconut Oil
2 tbsp Coconut Sugar (or any sweetener)
1 Small Mashed Banana
5-6 Medjool Dates, finely chopped
1/2 a teaspoon of Cinnamon
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
A Pinch of Salt
Mix together all ingredients and bake in oven at 150 degrees celsius for about 15-20mins.