TEREZA HAVRLANDOVÁ: Whatever will be, will be...
At the beginning of her business there was Tereza´s sweet tooth. Currrently her company is a unique producer of raw food employing nearly 100 employees and producing for both domestic and foreign market. And visions for the future? „I do not have any special goals. It is rather interesting how far it all can develop. I´m going with the flow. Whenever it takes me, there it takes me.“ Tereza and her company are the proof that vital feminine attitude that includes chaos and intuition can work. Meet Tereza, the founder of Lifefood, owner, and director for creative and strategic development.
Tereza had traveled and lived abroad - in France, New Zealand, Australia, America. There she first time met with the concept of Organic Food, healthy fresh food. Gradually she became fond of fruitarianism, her diet consisted of fresh, thermally and chemically unmodified "raw food" or "living food", a live, raw vegetable diet. After returning back to the Czech Republic she did not want to give up on her raw diet because she enjoyed the healthy benefits of it on her own body. The local offer, however, did not meet her demands. The organic market was still in its infanncy and the offer of the fruits and vegetables was not sufficient. Therefore, while still studying at the university (later she graduated from the Faculty of Law and the University of Economics in Prague), Tereza decided to import products from abroad and sell them.
"I certainly did not plan to build a company in size as now, and have some employees. In the beginning I alone was delivering the supplies to shops. I had the goods stored at home or in stores, where you pay daily for each pallette. I first imported superfoods (so-called superfoods, rich natural source of nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals), such specialties as young barley, cocoa beans and seaweed." That was not, however, the staple that one should eat for lunch or snack. She knew there was a good deal of raw fresh products that one could eat on the daily basis in United States. But importing them would cost a fortune. The best way seemed to try manufacturing the food here, locally, in the Czech Republic.
„I have considered finding an external company to produce for me giving them my original recipes and ingredients. Opening my own production seemed like a terrible massacre. But it did not work – the quality was considerable, there was a lack of communication, simply put it the products were not what I expected. Finally I told myself that the only option is to have my own production. I was joined by my two friends and we together created the first recipe. I found an old bakery in the backyard of an old Prague house. The existing bakery ovens were remake so as to use them for baking under the low temperature – maximum of 45 °C (113 °F) - in order to maintain all nutrients. We found first workers and started. When recalling the memories I find it very adventoures times.“ It was the year of 2007.
The only thing I was capable of thinking was a fear of owing such a big amount of money and not be able to pay it back before I die.
The following three or four years have been challenging for Tereza. "I did not have a single day off, I was working seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, from the bed to the computer and to work and back to bed. It was terrible, but there was no way how to end it. I borrowed a lot of money, I took a very big financial risk. With each date of monthly payments approaching, I was incredibly stressed to be able to provide wages for my workers on my overdraft. The only thing I was capable of thinking was a fear of owing such a big amount of money and not be able to pay it back before I die." First sign that things have been changing was the moment when there was enough money for wages without such a huge endeavor on my overdraft. Month by month we were able to accumulate more and slowly but steadily were climbing to zero. In 2011 the company got out of the red. Since then we are doing better and better.“
Was there anything positive during those harsh years? „I can not say that there was something positive or negative, every experience is just experience. I have taken all of it.“ Could anything be done differently so that the experience would not have been so hard? „It might could have been done more slowly with better financial sources. But as I said at a lecture once: if you have a desire to do something you have to jump into it without too much speculating about pros and cons. This is the way I am.“
The best advert is the product itself; its taste, quality, design.
The result of Tereza´s jump is not only an importing company, but mainly a company producing perfect living food - cakes, cookies, bars, chocolate, nut products and seeds, newly bread or pancakes.
It is no exaggeration to say that thanks to Lifefood the idea of raw food movement is spreading fast. The company is expanding abroad, has its own distribution and promotion branches in the Netherlands, Germany and France, there is a company cooperating in the UK. Products are sold in twenty EU countries. It is remarkable, among other things because the company never did the classic advertising campaign: "Advertising has many forms and one of the most important is the product itself," says Tereza. "Is it advert that I am dressed in Lifefood T-shirt? We're not going to billboards or television commercials, there is no point in this business area. It is the taste and the perfect quality that counts. We also care about both design and our presence at trade shows." Speaking about design: it is elegant, original, tasteful. "One day we said that we need to step out of the standard dull and drab design of bio products. We wanted to be different and sho that healthy food can be sexy too.“
"And fairs? Yes, it is a demanding job. You have to build stand, make it original and atractive and stay there for several days from morning to evening in a confined space without natural light, night all stacked in the car, and again in the morning." Yet it was the regular attendance at prestigious fairs (eg BioFach in Germany and Organic Products Expo in London ) that brought the most experiences and capabilities. Not to mention that the rival companies do not sleep. "Healthy competition is fine, it motivates you. But they are companies that imitate us and copy our product and recipes. With that, unfortunately, one can not legally do anything. Probably to be reckoned with. At some time we have been pioneers, now more and more companies will arise. We try to go forward, to invent new things, innovate technology. And above all I believe in a positive energy that is in our work - and people certainly feel it."
The way today Tereza manages her business is a dream of many entrepreneurs, but only few people came to this happyending from the scratch, actually from the hole, and with the extreme workload. "I do not want to spend winter in the Czech Republic. It is because of the fresh fruit, weather, sun and wind. I see it as my priority. About six months, I'm in the tropics. My employees, suppliers and customers had to accept that. I am not able to function otherwise. Ninety-five percent of all the affairs of the company can be solved via skype. The only thing that can not be resolved in this way is the tasting and sniffing, but that I have at least three or four people whose taste I trust . And of course I accept the fact that they can make some mistakes. These would be done anyway, regardless whether I am present or not. A certain percentage of errors is natural."
I do not push anymore, I am going with the flow
Does she consider herself an entrepreneur? "In terms of juridical definition about businesswoman I probably am. But I do not consider myself a businessman eager to get the the highest profit and efficiency. My goal was never to have a super-earning company. I am contented if the company earns enough that I do not have to fear debts and live normal happy live. Business deals, contracts, agreements – these all I deal intuitively with the trial - error method. Although I studied economics at university we did not get in touch with the real business, not to mention such a specific market of organic raw production.
As we can see, a business can be very feminine and dynamic. „Since my childhood I was very „male based“ having a lot of male energy and ratio. And then thanks to my personal development a part of this male energy was transformed and I started let myself going with the flow trusting that this flow, this process is just ok the way it is. I learned that there is no point in pushing to much to divert the natural flow.“
Maybe this is what the courage to be free is about.