Raising the bar
These super mamas and boss babes are rocking the raw food industry scene and raising the bar in every sense of the word. In this special edition of That Mama – we’re featuring the dynamic sister duo, Chef Priscilla Soligo and Co-Director Rachel Whitfield from Raiz the Bar Chocolates!
If you’re looking for quality chocolate without the junk and at fair prices, you’ve got to try Raiz the Bar. All the girls in the office are gaga over the bars and we’re so excited to announce that the sisters have recently launched a new bar… think black forest cake with a hint of chilli. Yes, please! On top of running the top raw chocolate bar brand in Hong Kong, they manage to be involved and hands-on mamas while maintaining an active life, time for hubbies and most importantly, self-care/me time too! We don’t know how they do it, but we have mad respect for these mamas. Read on to see how they learn how to balance all their passions while hoping to live an authentic and meaningful lifestyle.
Tell us about yourselves and what brought you to Hong Kong?
P: My sister! She was living here before I moved to Hong Kong. I then met my hubby, had two gorgeous kiddos and then years later acquired a choccy factory!
R: I arrived here in 2004 when my husband started working for Cathay Pacific. It was originally a 5-6 year plan to live in Hong Kong and like many stories of families here, we are nearly 13 years on!
What inspired the two of you to begin your journey with Raiz The Bar? Where did the name come from?
P: My young kiddos and my nieces. I wanted to create a chocolate bar that wasn’t bitter, or gritty and that was pure and junk free.
R: Priscilla had been making amazing chocolate for a number of years before I became involved, although I was always a keen taste tester for her many creations! After a number of years at farmers markets, in early 2015 the demand had come for her to scale up, and that’s when I stepped in to help grow the business.
There’s a rise in the raw food trend all over the world and now in Hong Kong. With all trends there’s always the question of it’s longevity. Do you think this lifestyle will stay in Hong Kong?
P: Raw food is amazing, but it is just a part of the ‘real food’ movement. Eating fresh, local, clean minimally processed whole foods has been exploding all over the world where people are now more than ever questioning what they’re putting in their mouth – and more aware than ever of how it makes them feel. Mindful eating is about listening to your body, so to this end it’s not a trend, it’s people and food evolving simultaneously and becoming more conscious.
R: Absolutely, people are starting to take responsibility for their own health, which is fantastic! Together with this awareness, people are questioning what they are putting into their bodies to fuel it, and is that ‘fuel’ appropriate? An awareness is happening, where people want to be educated on nutrition for themselves and as they learn to start stepping back from the heavily processed foods, they are experiencing the benefits of incorporating food in its natural state and simply feeling better for it.
Where do you hope to see Raiz The Bar go in the next 5 years?
P: In one word, global. We’re so excited to have our choccy explore other markets, which is starting to happen now. Social media has been a key player at helping to grow our business and reach more people. We’re quite active on Instagram and Facebook, which allows us to reach customers world wide and offer insights into our choccy making world. Giving back is important to us too. We just take it day by day, be grateful for what we have now and try and live in the present as much as possible.
R: I agree with my sister on this one, we would love to have Raiz The Bar available globally… it’s just too good to not to share with the rest of the world!
Will you be creating other food items besides chocolate?
P: No plans at the moment. I guess working with chocolate just never gets boring! We just launched our brand new bar, Cherish Me: Sour Cherry Chilli that people have been going crave over and we will have another totally different and exciting bar released in the first half of 2017. We’ve also just launched our gorgeous 4 bar set gift boxes, which have their own unique wraps for every holiday season! We’re so excited about these as they’re the perfect healthy chocolate gift without the junk or being over priced.
R: I agree with the chef above!
What are your favourite flavours to work with? Do you use any local ingredients?
P: I have a personal love affair with all of our bars and of course that changes from day to day depending on how I’m feeling. When I created each of the bars I really took into account what I love and what my kids love. It changes all the time! Right now, we’re gaga over our newest bar, Cherish Me, which tastes like a black forest cake with a hint of chilli. To keep it local, most of our main ingredients come from Asia/ Indonesia and also the US and Peru.
Where can we find Raiz The Bar chocolates?
P: You can visit our website at www.raizthebar.com and search under where to buy our chocolate and our store locator will find the store closest to you as it shows which retailers stock us and where. Additionally, you can purchase bulk from our online store to be delivered to your door.
What were some challenges you faced when starting your own business?
P: Food manufacturing and production can be a tough business that doesn’t make a lot of money with some real challenges when I first started. Now there are small kitchen spaces you can rent as a start up, instead of making a huge investment and jumping in both feet to start your own production facility.
Also, making sure I set boundaries, as I am fiercely protective of my time as a hands-on mummy to my two young kiddies. I have been blessed being in business with my sister, as she is my best friend and neighbour and we always have each others’ back… something you definitely need when running a growing company with all of its daily challenges.
R: Everyday has challenges and since going into a licensed production facility, we’ve been on a steep learning curve, but it’s also been an exciting one! I agree with Priscilla as well, that you must have boundaries set in place for yourself and family. The time with small children goes by so quickly, and I am constantly trying to juggle that right balance between family and work… I’m yet to discover the magic formula, so I am very protective of my family time when we have it. I’m also extremely lucky that my business partner is also my sister, we are both going through the same stage of life, with raising small children. It’s a true blessing as we are always able to offer each other support when we need it and are on the same page.
Read more: Keeping up with Kat: The Balancing Act
What advice can you give a fellow mama who’s trying to start up her own business?
P: Find the right people to surround yourself with whom you trust, whether that be a business partner, family, a team, or super supportive friends – you will need to bounce ideas and decisions off of others and two (or more) brains is always better than one. Get ready to roll your sleeves up and get working! Being a business owner for us means being hands on and it’s hard work. Passion is one thing, staying power is another… you need both in this business.
R: Definitely you need to work with the right people and be prepared to work hard. Anything that you don’t know or understand, just keep chipping away at it until you do. I don’t think anyone goes into business knowing everything, but if you’re passionate, stay true to yourself and believe in your work then you will always find the answers you need and the direction you need to be heading to make it work.
How do you save time? Can you share any organisational tips and tricks?
P: My sister is the super organised one of the two of us! That said, we are constantly prioritising. When you accept that you aren’t going to get everything done in a day and you prioritise what is most important and get that done – it’s as my Dad says “a win!”
R: I’m a little bit of an organisational nut! Having said that, I don’t go around writing up schedules for everything in my life… that wouldn’t work either because each day requires a lot of flexibility to get through it! I just try to be as efficient as possible during the day. That, and a zillion post-it-notes around my home and office! I am also very fortunate that I can do a lot of my work from anywhere with my trusty laptop.
What do you do to get in that “me” time?
P: These days we are so crazy busy that we don’t really have a social life. That said, it’s so important to not let it swallow you up whole and leave you burnt out and exhausted (been there too!). I refer to it as ‘self-care,’ which these days can be anything from a ‘medi’ at home (I call my meditation practise), a bubble bath with candles lit and Tibetan bowls in the background playing (at home), or sometimes if I can get away, a massage or having a herbal cuppa and quiet time. What has also been super key for my sister and I is going to bed early and not falling prey to the emails/work trap right before bed. This means we start earlier, usually right after our early morning work out, but this time is critical on keeping on top of our game.
R: I have to be totally honest here and say that I am terrible at ‘me’ time. I suppose at the moment the time that I am very conscious to carve out for myself is 3 early morning workouts each week, which I also do together with my sister. I’ve always been passionate about fitness since I was a young teenager. Without staying fit, there would be no way I could keep up with the crazy pace my life currently demands of me. Together with staying fit I also try my best not to stay up too late and to make sure I’m getting a good nights sleep provided I don’t have any 3 year old ‘night walkers’ stumbling around the house and trying to jump into my bed!
What do you find to be the most challenging part of parenting?
P: The ‘what ifs,’ I play in my head sometimes. What if I was a stay at home parent and didn’t have this passion/business, would I be a better parent? Is bringing up my kids in Hong Kong the best for them? Will my kids learn from me to do what you love and see that through hard work, determination and love you can have it all? I prefer to think of the later, but there is always the ‘what ifs’ that we all think about from time to time. I am working on being present. There’s work time and then there’s time with my kids on “restoration” Sundays as I like to call it. That day is all about the kids and family time and no work.
R: I find that the days go by so quickly and my girls, all of a sudden, seem to be on hyper-growth! So for me, I always have to remind myself to slow down and be more present in the moment when I’m with my children, otherwise a week can fly by with all the days blurred in together.
Favourite family holiday spot?
P: We’ve got a few. We love Canada and my Canadian husband’s family has a cabin at Christina Lake. Being in the forest with the kids and on the lake is pure alchemy. Australia is another one right at our fav beach, Cronulla where I grew up in the shire. We also love Bali and Hawaii.
R: My home country in Australia will always have my heart. The fresh air, inspirational scenery and seasonal changes! To me Australia is truly stunning and I am always looking for my next opportunity to head down there for a visit.
What are your favourite spots to eat at with your family in Hong Kong?
P: We especially love eating at Grassroots Pantry and Home Eat To Live. There are so many awesome new little restaurants, cafés and juice bars, but these two are on the top of the list!
R: I have to agree with Priscilla’s choices as being my top choices too! But I also do a lot of cooking, so we tend to eat at home most of the time.
Can you tell us about how your career was pre-baby as compared to post-baby?
P: Pre-baby I had a music company in Hong Kong called Musik’n’Motion. I loved working with children teaching them music and dance. I later came full circle with my obsession with food and in particular plant based foods. My kids have grown up on green juices, smoothies and loads of plant based raw and cooked goodness incorporated into their diets! I am plant-obsessed!
R: Pre-baby, I was actually Cabin Crew. Initially, I worked for QantasLink back in Australia for a number of years and was also involved in their inflight training department. Then my husband and I moved to Hong Kong and that’s when I began working for Emirates. After Emirates, I worked with Oasis Hong Kong Airlines as an Emergency Procedures Instructor until they unfortunately folded. I had a very full life of travel and meeting new people, great memories!
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a parent?
P: That “Motherhood is the shortest and steepest path to enlightenment!” They weren’t kidding!
R: Breastfeed as long as you want, it is all about your child’s needs and not what society tells you is socially acceptable. So that’s exactly what I did! Oh, and Vicks Vapour Rub on the bottom of feet with socks at night time to help stop a child’s cough…works every time!
P: “It gets easier.”
R: “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” That one always sounded good in theory…
Something that you wish someone had told you about motherhood?
P: That it is freaking crazy-hard emotionally and physically demanding work, yet the most rewarding and incredible journey you will ever live and that you will never love so fiercely or so completely in your entire life.
R: I honestly don’t think any words could have prepared me for the serious initial lack of sleep in the beginning with a newborn baby. I was warned plenty of times prior to having my first child to “get as much sleep as you can before bubs arrives”. Those first few weeks after my first daughter Isla was born, they were wonderful… I thought I had the best sleeping baby on the planet until a midwife “enlightened” me that usually around 5 weeks to expect my perfect sleeping beauty to give me a run for my money and she was spot on! I kissed my full nights sleep good bye for nearly 2 years after that and then daughter number 2 came along! At least by then I was use to operating in zombie mode.
What has been your most humbling moment as a mum?
P: After my husband and I have read to our kiddos, put them to bed and they are fast asleep and you reflect for a moment on the day as you give them one more kiss. I think to myself – WOW, wouldn’t change all of that craziness for a darn thing! They are such little miracles!
R: I have to say knowing how incredibly lucky I am to have two healthy children is something that I feel very humbled about, because I know this is not the case for every parent. I am extremely grateful for this fact and never take any day for granted.
How do you keep the romance between you and your husband alive with such a busy work and family life?
P: Hmmm, yes, we are working on that one! Carving out time for a date is key, but not something we’ve been particularly great at with how cray-cray life is! I married a very intelligent and funny guy, who no matter how busy our lives are (and they are, especially with his busy career) always finds a way to make me laugh. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. He is my best friend, my lover and my rock.
R: Well, I always start out with the best intentions in the beginning of the day to plan something romantic with my husband once a week and then before I know it I’m putting the kids to bed and ready to pass out myself! This one needs a bit more work, I do believe! We always do our best to try and sneak out together, anywhere, even if it’s only for an hour just to get some one on one time alone. We’ve also had a couple of little mini over-night get aways together, would definitely love to do more of those in the future!
Favourite date spot in Hong Kong?
P: So, if we can carve out some time and feel like driving from Sai Kung to down town we love having a deliciously special dinner at Chef Peggy Chan’s, Grassroots Pantry (oh those hedgehog mushrooms!), or if we need something quick, healthy and yummy, Home Eat To Live by CGM.
R: I know this may sound cliché, but I just simply love going to see a good movie with my hubby. Enjoying 90 minutes of an uninterrupted storyline, surround sound and popcorn… it’s nearly as good as a holiday in my books!
As a mama, I wish I were better at…
P: Committing to more self care time so I can recharge and be the best mama I can possibly be. I am such a passionate person that I give so much to my family and my work that sometimes I forget to leave a little for myself. It’s a work in progress.
R: Having more creative ideas with activities to do with my girls. I’m an organised person, but creativity doesn’t seem to flow as easily to me. I would love to be able to tap into that side of myself more.
I wake up in the middle of night thinking about…
P: Gotta get back to sleep.
R: Oh gosh, absolutely everything! Sometimes I even have to jump up and write it down otherwise I can’t get back to sleep.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
P: I am tucked up in my bed, no laptop, lights out at 9:30-10pm.
R: The kids have had an energy filled day and literally fall asleep as soon as their little heads hit the pillow, then I pretty much follow shortly after!
My favourite moment of the day is…
P: In the morning when I see my kiddos faces after they’ve been sleeping and I get them ready for school before we go workout, or head into the factory. I can’t stop kissing them! I am ga-ga for those little adorable chubby cheek crazy hair morning faces! It’s the best!
R: I love story time with my girls before bed. It brings me back to my childhood, especially when we read books that I grew up with.
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor