It all started because of an accident. Tereza Havrlandová (33) was kitesurfing on the Australian coast when she lost control of the kite. A strong gust of wind sent her crashing into a sand dune, where she sustained a bad fracture to her shoulder. And, so, this business and law school student, who’d been travelling round the world for a year and a half, working and engaging in sport as she went, had to go to hospital and then had to spend a long time convalescing back in the Czech Republic. “I was hardly able to do anything and was getting terribly bored,” she tells me now, at her company in Běchovice on the outskirts of Prague.
Love for rawfood
On her travels she got to like “rawfood” – food prepared at temperatures under 42°C. But, although rawfood was widely available in the USA and Australia, she couldn’t find it anywhere in the Czech Republic, and so she set up her own business. She founded the Lifefood company in order to import young barley, unroasted cacao beans, seaweed and apple vinegar. “I tried selling to health food shops, but it went really badly and I realised that to get people to eat more raw food I needed to use everyday foodstuffs.”
First steps towards the dream
She bought an old bakery in the centre of Prague and turned it into drying rooms for crackers and flat cakes. The bank refused to give her credit, so she borrowed the money from an acquaintance at 25% interest. First of all, 800,000 Czech crowns and then hundreds of thousands, until the amount came to several million. Eventually she took out a mortgage as well, using some of her mother’s land as guarantee. It looked as if things were about to spin out of control, as the company wasn’t making enough to keep going without further injections of cash, and she certainly didn’t have enough to pay back the millions of crowns she’d borrowed. “I could see that the Czech Republic was too small for what I needed to do, so I started thinking about foreign markets,” says Tereza.
Off to Germany - and next?
She found her first large-scale customer in Germany and, a year later, she gained an investor – also in Germany – who bought a 49% share in the company. After five years of existence, Lifefood was finally able to pay back its debts. And the company gradually expanded into 15 countries, including Holland, Great Britain and Dubai. It’s currently preparing to enter the Canadian market and, further down the road, the USA. In all these countries it sells sticks, crackers, bread, biscuits, chocolate and other things manufactured to its own recipes. The company’s year-on-year turnover is increasing by tens of percent: last year it turned over 200 million Czech crowns and is expecting to turn over 260 million this year. Its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization are around 25 million.