Meet The Girl Who Made Yellow The New Black
By Dr Julie Moltke
Meet Zoe LVH founder of London based Wunder Workshop
What is Wunder Workshop and what is your mission?
We are a London based functional botanical brand making organic and ethically sourced turmeric and plant-based products. Focusing on consumption with purpose, by harvesting the power of plants for the ultimate wellness ritual. Wunder translates to miracle, and we focus on plants that have a quality that can be classed as such.
2. How did you come up with the idea for Wunder Workshop?
My biggest inspiration to start Wunder Workshop has been my late mother who had been very passionate about health and wellbeing since her early twenties, so by the time I was born she had nearly 20 years of experience. This meant I was surrounded by interesting books about traditional medicine, the power of plants and how to create all kinds of natural remedies from an early age. I grew up eating organic and locally sourced vegetarian food, we grew many of our own vegetables and herbs and we used to go to very down-to-earth Ayurvedic health retreats in Sri Lanka.
After dabbling in different career paths (from politics to interior design) I realised that my true purpose lay in what was around me all my life, health and plants. This is when I decided to go back to Sri Lanka and find an organic farm that uses sustainable and ethical farming techniques with whom I could work together to bring some of their incredible plant knowledge in the form of herbs and spices back to London and started Wunder Workshop – focusing on consumption with purpose.
3. How has the journey been so far: What has been the most rewarding and what has been the most challenging?
As with most start-ups, it’s been a real roller-coaster, but that’s what makes it so exciting! I love waking up every morning not knowing what the day will bring, a whole day full of opportunities and uncertainty. There have been so many highlights! I try to celebrate all of them as one can get so lost in the busyness and stress that one easily forgets how far one has already come. The highlights for me, besides getting new stockists, is when I meet someone who doesn't know me but uses our products. It’s such a lovely feeling to see that my little creations have made it into someone's pantry. The best of that was this year when an Airbnb guest who stayed in our apartment had brought a range of our products with her all the way from Greece, and didn’t know we were the creators of the brand!
The most challenging is also part of the uncertainty, in terms of the unpredictability of people, suppliers and manufacturers. Every possible thing has gone wrong, especially this year in terms of production, and these things just happen, I always actively have to tell myself that I can choose how to respond to any given situation, and being more frustrated or stressed doesn’t help. So I always remind myself these things will pass, and that there is always a lesson in every challenging situation.
4. How do you contribute to society with Wunder Workshop?
As a conscious consumer, I strongly believe in our spending power, and that our daily choices have a huge impact on the world we are creating. I have been curious since I was little to know where things come from, whether it’s food or clothing. So creating my business also came from this same perspective and passion. We want to give back more than we take from the planet, and therefore believe in a full-circle, impact-driven and holistic business model. This means that Consumption With Purpose is more than just using potent, high-quality ingredients, but prioritises the health of the planet and farmers as well.
Conventional monoculture farming frequently results in soil degradation and biodiversity loss. We stress the importance of sourcing our ingredients from agro-forestry and regenerative farming communities, something that we have been doing right from the beginning of the Wunder story. The underlying concept of agroforestry or forest-gardening is to mimic the ecosystem of Sri Lanka's flora and fauna to create a highly productive landscape for human use that doesn't harm nature.
Besides our focus on organic and regenerative forest garden farming, we also have a 1% initiative. In March 2019, we planted 101 trees to create the start of a Wunder Forest in Bunkwimake with the Ikú community in the Sierra Nevada, Colombia. Our 101 trees are growing in agroforestry together with cacao trees and are being looked after by the local community who use their ancestral knowledge to nurture the land, preserving nature and ancient wisdom. This is key in the restoration and preservation of the natural ecosystem.
We also support social enterprise, AMMA, through giving all of the profits from our Avocado dyed aprons and turmeric dyed pouches (our best selling Turmeric CBD oil is packed in these) to AMMA SRI LANKA. AMMA trains and employs mothers living in the Sri Lankan highlands to turn food waste and plants into natural dyes creating sustainable textiles that are ethically handmade. The mothers AMMA employs come from the tea estates that surround their workshop, from low-income backgrounds but are now principal contributors to the household finances. We could not be prouder of this and see AMMA's employees becoming role models within their communities.
We support our immediate community too and donated a portion of our 1% budget to the Willow Primary School and Broadwaters' Children's Centre, helping children of Broadwater Farm, North London - one of Britain's most deprived estates.
The remaining part of our 1% will be invested in planting mangrove trees in Sri Lanka. These resilient trees, which take root in the mud below shallow water, provide shelter from predators for the young of many reef fish species and support the livelihoods of those who depend on them. Also, mangrove trees absorb up to 50 times more carbon than other ecosystems.
Our initiatives support the 12 UN Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations.
5. What is your best advice if you wish to start a passion-based business?
To not be fearful and just go for it (obviously in a realistic way). Life is so short and I often see my peers unhappy in their jobs, and considering leaving, but their fear of insecurity is holding them back, meaning they continue living a life that isn’t fulfilling them. Following your passion and waking up to it every day is so fulfilling. The uncertainty that comes with it is the fuel you need to be excited about the good and bad things that are thrown upon your path. It is a rollercoaster, but the highs always outweigh the lows 100%! For both aspiring and fellow founders I’ve found my very simple mantra “this too shall pass” is tremendously helpful. One can get so stuck and absorbed in small issues, making them bigger in your mind than they really are. By stepping outside of the fear and stress and observing it from the outside, it always seems a lot smaller. And looking back at every issue it usually was just a necessary hurdle or challenge that taught me something valuable.
6. What is your own personal health routine?
This can differ frequently, as I believe we first really need to tune in with ourselves and listen to what one needs or wants to do. But usually, I start my day with hot apple cider vinegar, some Turmeric CBD drops under my tongue followed by a few minutes of Breath of Fire, a breathing exercise. I typically won’t eat anything until about midday as it makes me so productive and focused during the morning. This might differ in the winter when my body craves warming nourishing food first thing. But in the summer I have matcha tea and Golden Shrooms with MCT oil to keep me going until lunch. I grew up fully vegetarian, and at home, I am mostly vegan. Lunch usually consists of a huge green salad with a variety of vegetables and some slices of home-made sourdough bread. Dinner will usually consist of some warm veggies with millet or sweet potatoes. I go to yoga once a week, infra-red sauna twice a week and a gong or sound meditation whenever possible. I also visit a floatation tank once a month, to fully rebalance myself which I need especially during the busy months.