Tell us about Wunder Workshop and why you started it?
My biggest inspiration to start Wunder Workshop has been my late mother who had been very passionate about health and wellbeing since her early twenties, so by the time I was born she had nearly 20 years of experience. This meant I was surrounded by interesting books about traditional medicine, the power of plants and how to create all kinds of natural remedies from an early age. I grew up eating organic and locally sourced vegetarian food, we grew many of our own vegetables and herbs ourselves and we used to go to very down-to-earth Ayurvedic health retreats in Sri Lanka.
After dabbling in different career paths (from politics to interior design) I realised that my true purpose lay in what was around me all my life, health and plants. This is when I decided to go back to Sri Lanka and find an organic farm that uses sustainable and ethical farming techniques with whom I could work together to bring some of their incredible plant knowledge in the form of herbs and spices back to London and started Wunder Workshop – focusing on turmeric and consumption with purpose.
I ask myself at least once a week what my purpose is as that’s so fundamental to my existence that I have manifested this to the core of my business. Wunder Workshop is a vehicle by which I can instil my own values to increase awareness about the importance of cultivating an understanding about the source of everything we eat and wear. My dream is to be as environmentally friendly as possible and only leaving a positive mark on this planet and not to harm it any further with mine nor my businesses’ footprint.
Zoe's beautiful collection of Wonder Workshop products
What's the one thing everyone should know about turmeric?
That it is a potent anti-inflammatory root that needs to be taken correctly (in powder form combined with black pepper and a fat) for your body to be able to absorb it most efficiently.
Wonder Workshop's Golden Balance and tumeric
Why is organic important to you?
I was lucky to grow up only eating food that was organically and biodynamically farmed - this was in Germany, where it still seems to be far more normal to only eat organic food and where there are plenty of supermarkets selling affordable, organic goods. So from an early age I learned to understand the importance of organic farming for the consumer, for the growers and most notably for the environment.
The organic farming topic still seems to stir a wider scientific debate, but I find it frustrating at times the way organic is marketed and portrayed in the UK as a luxury product, and personally, I experience judgement from people for being snobbish for only buying organic food and skincare. I find this sad, as I am simply making a conscious decision to use the money I have earned to have a more positive impact on the environment and on my health. Of course, we need to educate ourselves, as a lot of greenwashing seems to be going on and transparency is key. Money shouldn’t be the only deciding factor, especially since even shops such as Lidl and Aldi sell organic food at a very competitive price.
As for Wunder Workshop, being organic was my number one priority, after setting up the business getting my organic certification was the first thing I spent money on. Seeing the whole procedure from sourcing to importing into the EU and the stages of compliance for organically certified products, has given me a lot of assurance that when certain products say they are organic then they really went through strict controls. It is especially important to ensure that tea and spices are organic. Non-organic tea and spice farms use a lot of pesticides and have hardly any regulations on fillers and synthetic colouring agents, which are frequently being used for conventional spices, especially with turmeric!
But in regard to our daily food consumption, the earth is suffering from depletion of minerals and excess fertilisers are polluting rivers. There is now finally enough strong evidence that glyphosate (one of the main pesticides) is unsafe for the environment and the consumers. The groundwater is contaminated with pesticides such as nitrate that leak into the earth, which is especially dangerous for small children. Also, much higher levels of cadmium, a toxic metal, is found in conventional crops.
There is also some research on the consequences of some pesticides interfering with female hormonal functions and thereby causing negative effects on the reproductive system.
I think as consumers we can make small changes by becoming conscious about what we put in and on our bodies, what we wear, and the effect of the products that we buy and how these choices have consequences on a whole array of things from the wellbeing of the producers, consumers and the environment.
Golden Glow and the organic ingredients loved by Wonder Workshop
What's the best advice you would give to a fellow or aspiring female founder?
For an aspiring one, I usually just simply say go for it. Following your passion and waking up to it every day is so fulfilling. The uncertainty that comes with it is the fuel you need to be excited about the good and bad things that are thrown upon your path. It is a rollercoaster, but the highs always outweigh the lows 100%!
For both aspiring and fellow founders I’ve found my very simple mantra “this too shall pass” is tremendously helpful. One can get so stuck and absorbed in small issues, making them bigger in your mind than they really are. By stepping outside of the fear and stress and observing it from the outside, it always seems a lot smaller. And looking back at every issue it usually was just a necessary hurdle or challenge that taught me something valuable.
How do you seek balance in your day-to-day?
Spending time by myself to gather my thoughts, tuning in and observing if there is anything that needs addressing. I always want to fully understand what is going on inside of me and it really helps for me to observe my thoughts by journaling, yoga, meditation, or simply going for a walk without any technological distractions. I can only put genuine goodness into my work if I feel 100% in tune with myself.
Zoe with her incredible Wonder Workshop products
What's your favourite BY SARAH skincare product? Why?
My favourite is the Organic Lip Balm, which is always in my hand bag. As a product that is absorbed both by the skin and ingested through your mouth, it needs to be 100% trustworthy and “clean”, which is why I love BY SARAH’s so much. Also, it's one of the only lip balms that I feel really nourishes and moisturises my lips and doesn’t just make them look shiny for 10 minutes before drying up again.
What's does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
We have some exciting events coming up, a mushroom workshop in Soho House Berlin, a sustainable market in Soho Farmhouse and one that I am very excited about is being part of Mercado Sagrado in Los Angeles next month, which is a conscious market for beautiful goods and something I have been wanting to be part of from the very beginning. So, I am feeling very honoured to have Wunder Workshop present there this year.
In other exciting news we are also launching a cook book in early 2019, so we will be preparing towards that! This is our first announcement about it, so that is very exciting as it has been in the making for the last couple of years!
And on a personal level it will involve some exciting changes, I will be celebrating my 30th birthday and I am planning to move to Mallorca in November for 6 months. I am craving nature, a place where I can be more creative and have space to expand both on a personal and business level.
Interview by Sarah, CEO, BY SARAH LONDON
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