This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Veronica Bosgraaf.
I love the story about your daughter, Anna, and how that drove everything you do as a business today – can you share how it all began?
When my oldest daughter was six, we went with her school class on a trip to the petting zoo. That evening at the dinner table, she looked down at her food and asked what we were eating for dinner. It happened to be chicken that night and I ended up having to explain to her that we actually eat the animals she had fallen in love with that day. It was heartbreaking for her. A few days later, she approached me and said she had learned about a group of people (from watching Animal Planet) called vegetarians, who never ate animals, and that was what she wanted to be. I knew immediately that she was very serious, so I agreed and told her we would start to cook vegetarian meals.
One of the recipes we came up with was a nutrient-dense bar filled with foods she loved like fruits, nuts, chocolate, and spices. We made several varieties, and I would pack these bars in place of a sandwich for her lunch. They were such a lifesaver for me, and I made them with only the cleanest, organic, whole ingredients from the natural food store. When I would shop for convenient foods, I was always disappointed at the ingredients and taste, so I felt that there was a need for a delicious, nutritious, organic bar that adults and kids would love. That is why I started my company Pure Organic and the quality and taste of those first recipes in the kitchen still drive all of our innovation today.
You were once a high school biology teacher, which means you were up close and personal with the terrible nutrition in schools that is constantly in the headlines. What can you share around that?
I definitely had some awareness of the poor quality of food in schools, but when I taught, I wasn’t a mom yet, and I also tended to pack my own lunch, so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the cafeteria. It really struck home for me when I had kids and would work in their classrooms and see what the other children had in their sack lunch or what the school was serving, and it was shocking to me.
When I would bring Pure bars in for a treat, the kids loved them and I felt great because it was a much better option for them. From that point on, Pure has donated to school events and activities whenever possible to try to get healthier foods into the hands of kids. I also believe that children get used to whatever foods they are raised on, so starting them on healthy, real foods from the beginning is very important. I’m glad to see some progress in the health of school lunches in some regions, mostly driven by awareness and information so widely available on social media, but I feel we have a long way to go where school lunches are concerned!
You’ve been a part of the healthy, on-the-go snacks world for some time now – what do you feel you brought to the market that you saw lacking when you launched the product and how are you continuing to evolve today?
When I launched Pure Bar in 2006, they were one of the only certified organic bars on the market. Our biggest strength was in real, organic food that tasted great. That remains a strength today, but consumers are getting savvier and wanting more out of their snacks. This is great because it pushes us to innovate and be creative in the kitchen!
When consumers wanted Ancient Grains we created our line of organic Ancient Grains bars that taste like a healthy rice crispy treat. When consumers wanted fruit snacks that were good for you, we created our Fruit & Veggie Strips and Layered Fruit Bars out of fruit and vegetable juices and purees. Things you think would not be possible are possible with passion, drive and creativity, and I love being able to make better versions of on-the-go snacks for everyone.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
Because many young women don’t understand nutrition and how to feed their bodies correctly, they become frustrated and feel like the only way to control weight is to not eat. That’s why nutrition education is so important. Understanding the difference between eating real foods and processed foods, listening to your body’s cues, and realizing that not all sugars and fats and calories are treated equally by your body, are all key in being able to maintain a healthy weight without food deprivation.
I also believe you can train your brain to crave healthy foods instead of processed foods by changing your eating habits. Through my Pure newsletter and our social media we try to educate people on the benefits of whole, real food and through our products we try to make it easy to eat right by offering delicious snacks that are made with real, organic ingredients.
What’s your perspective on the importance of self-care?
To me, life is about finding balance between life’s demands and your wants and needs. I think taking time for yourself and understanding your limits is crucial. When you have balance in your life you are a better mother, wife, friend and worker. Understanding this helps you justify taking the required time to recharge and refresh. I used to feel that taking time for myself was taking away from all my other roles, but in reality it enhances your ability to perform in all areas of your life.
Name 3 things people don’t know about you.
- I moved 5 times growing up and lived in many places including 2 years in rural Mississippi where I went to junior high and was one of the only Caucasian kids in the school. I learned the importance of appreciating and working well with people that were different than me.
- I like to play the piano.
- I’m pretty good at walking a slackline.
How important have the people around you been when it comes to your success?
I tell aspiring entrepreneurs all the time to utilize and seek out people to help them on their journey. Ask many questions and do not be afraid to ask for help. I would never be where I am if I hadn’t leaned on the knowledge and strength of people who knew much more than me and had much more experience. It’s also important to hire people who share your passion. They will be absolutely instrumental in creating success. In short, it’s incredibly important not to go at it alone and instead to surround yourself with people who can help you.
If you could only choose one thing, what would you tell your younger self?
Be confident in your abilities and intuition. So often, especially in the early days, I doubted my abilities and decisions because I felt like I didn’t have what it took to create a successful company. In reality, when you are passionate about something, you naturally gather knowledge and almost innately immerse yourself in it so much that your ideas and intuition about things are better than you think. There were decisions I didn’t make because of self-doubt that I wish I would have made. So often we walk around thinking everyone else is smarter than us, and while it’s important to have a good team and resources, don’t discount the knowledge and passion you bring to the table as a Founder.
What are your biggest life goals?
My biggest life goal is to be happy. As I get older I am learning what it takes to be happy every day. Mostly it’s about spending quality time with the people I love and experiencing the beauty of nature. It’s also knowing that I am contributing to make the world a better place. Every now and then I ask myself, “Are you happy today?” If I say yes, then I know that my life is in balance, if I say no, then I know something needs to change or be adjusted to get back to where I need to be.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!