As a female-owned company, International Women’s Day is particularly important to us at LUMIRA. We’re proud to support a range of female-owned and run businesses via our partnership with Global Sisters, one of three NGO partners that we help to support via i=change. Global Sisters provides business training and support to women who face barriers to employment and who are motivated to be self-employed.
To show the difference that Global Sisters can make, we spoke to two Australian small business owners who have received support from the platform: Fiona Harrison from Chocolate on Purpose and Yoko Nakazawa from Cooking with Koji.
Fiona Harrison, Chocolate on Purpose
Chocolate on Purpose is Australia’s first Indigenous chocolate company. Its founder Fiona Harrison is a Wiradjuri woman and draws on her knowledge of Australian native botanicals to create the finest quality chocolate with native botanical ingredients.
When did you start Chocolate on Purpose?
I've been going since 2012, however I initially played a very small game because of my circumstances. I come from a botanical therapy background and I was talking to a friend, saying, we'd really like to find a way that we could offer the essences of the plants in a way where people would be more open to them.
We did a chocolate-making class together and the teacher said, "We're going to make a raspberry and black pepper chocolate." And I looked at Jo and I said, "Black pepper is an essential oil, maybe that's how we'll do it."
That was the day that idea of bush food chocolate was born, and then we brainstormed ideas for the business. Because it was about sharing the power of the botanicals, we decided that it was Chocolate on Purpose, because there was a purpose to using the chocolate.
How have you drawn on your ancestors’ knowledge of bush foods and native ingredients?
Once we decided that it was going to focus on Australian native botanicals, it became part of my journey to reconnect with my identity, because my family is really the disconnected generation. … So I made it part of my business to research and to connect, to learn more about the traditional use of botanicals. So the mission was that through sharing the traditional use of the botanicals, it would deepen respect for that ancient wisdom and the culture.
How has Global Sisters supported the growth of your business?
They're so generous. From the very beginning, they'll put you through what's called Sister School, where they help make sure you've got the foundations right on your business. Another thing that really helped me was they offer you free photography for your product from a professional photographer. You get these lovely pictures that you just can't do on your iPhone.
Also the media opportunities and exposure. I continue to marvel at people who, because of Global Sisters, I've had a connection with. I wouldn't have those sales if it wasn't for Global Sisters and the opportunities they provide.
What would you like Chocolate on Purpose to be known for?
For being a disruptor. We've made conscious decisions about the chocolate that we use – it's palm oil-free and is part of a cooperative that is working very hard to eradicate child slavery in the cacao industry, to raise the cacao farmers above the poverty line. They empower women by training them as cacao farmers.
We also source our native ingredients from indigenous farmers wherever we can. For example, quandong, which is traditionally used for anti-inflammatory purposes. It’s in our Milk Chocolate with Quandong and Macadamia Nut.
What would you like to see for the future of Chocolate on Purpose?
The big dream is to have a little chocolate factory where people can come and see the chocolate being made and do workshops, and also an Australian native sensory garden where there's a total immersion. So they can see the plant, feel it, touch it and smell it. And then they see it in the chocolate, go to a tasting and experience the traditional use of the ingredients. It'll be an immersive experience. We are crowdfunding for this at the moment.
To support Chocolate on Purpose, visit their crowdfunding page.
Yoko Nakazawa, Cooking With Koji
Cooking With Koji began as a blog, where Yoko shared her knowledge of miso-making with a global audience. She slowly added cooking classes and products, and now specialises in homemade miso products and workshops.
When did you start Cooking With Koji?
It started gradually as a hobby. I began with a blog back in December 2001, and my first workshop customer came through the blog in 2014. I didn’t plan to do workshops but my blogs and Facebook posts about making miso prompted people to ask if they could learn from me. I did miso-making workshops first. Selling my product came later. The nature of my product means it takes 12 months for the miso to be ready to be eaten.
Can you tell us about your hero product?
The basic miso, which is my Organic Brown Rice Miso, is my staple product – it’s fermented for more than a year. But my Yuzu Miso is probably my hero – it’s a seasonal miso and is only available in limited quantities each time. I use the brown rice miso as a base and then add fresh yuzu juice from my tree and it becomes quite aromatic.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Before starting Cooking with Koji I was working in corporate, with a good salary and conditions. Now I’m running this business and while I don’t have the same security, I instead get direct appreciation from customers and that’s really touching. It makes me very happy. Making miso is very hard and labour-intense but when I get the feedback, it’s heartwarming, it’s like a direct gift from my customers.
What have been the biggest challenges?
I’m in the fortunate position that I have a lot of demand, but keeping up with the demand is a big challenge. When you run the business yourself, it’s a challenge to manage your time and keep all your customers happy.
What would you like Cooking With Koji to be known for?
I just want my customers to be happy. A lot of them depend on my product for their health, it improves their quality of life. As long as my customers are happy, I’m happy.
In what ways has Global Sisters supported the growth of your business?
I started working with Global Sisters in late 2017. They’ve always been there and have been someone I can talk to and who can answer my questions about business – they’ve been a strong support for me, mentally. They’ve also helped by taking photos of my product, and their online marketplace has given me a platform to sell my product.
Written by Michelle Bateman