Stephanie Brooks Founder Boa Vida Açai
Steph fell in love with açai when she took off on a solo field trip to the AmazonRainforest aged 25 to find out all about this mysterious ‘superfood’. What she found was that pure, unaltered, premium-grade açai from the north of Brazil was a nutritional powerhouse; healthy omega fats (3,6 & 9), high in dietary fibre and one of highest scoring foods for antioxidants on the ORAC scale. Naturally, açai contains zero sugar and has a neutral, chocolatey flavour which is a characteristic that hadn’t yet been promoted in the West – most products being diluted with sugary products and other additives. Boa Vida (‘good life’) is an advocate for consumption with purpose and sources açai directly from sustainably managed wild açai groves surrounding the Amazon river basin. Using traditional harvesting techniques helps to maintain the natural biodiversity of the forest, maintains a higher quality soil and ensures the sustainability of a diverse ecosystem within the Amazon rainforest.
Read more: https://www.boavidaacai.com/
How did you decide to go into working as a superfood entrepreneur?
It was a curiosity and evaluation of my own diet which led me to venture all the way to the Amazon rainforest and investigate açai. I wanted to know if these so-called ‘superfoods’ were really worth the hype and was particularly skeptical towards açai as everything I’d ever experienced was sweetened or processed. As it turns out, the pure ingredient was far better than what we’d experienced back home. Sure enough, a week into my first trip to the north of Brazil and I’d fallen in love with the forest, with açai and was so charmed by the Brazilian culture that I felt compelled to share the real story and bring an authentic product to the UK.
How important are ethics and sustainability for your tribe of consumers?
Boa Vida’s main objective is to connect consumers to the source of the foods we love to eat. Transparency in the supply chain allows us to better understand the impact our consumption has on the environment and local communities. We have a credibly loyal customer base who value our unique approach to sourcing directly from the Amazon which has a social and environmental significance to the Amazon Rainforest.
From a sourcing perspective, our unique ‘tree-to-table’ approach and batch producing wild-harvested açai has enabled us to build up a direct relationship with our suppliers and support locally-funded initiatives that combat deforestation and support the local açai communities. The model of wild-harvesting açai has been a great example of how consumption can benefit everyone involved from utilising the local labor as well as raw materials without causing any harm to the environment. Overtime, it’s been shown that for every wild-harvested and organic certified product sold, the more robust our case stands for sustainable development in the rainforest as being of great economic and environmental value.
Why did you choose ancient Amazonian plant Acai?
Besides its socio-environmental value, I had discovered the amazing health properties of pure açai. What fruit do you know contains a superior level of antioxidants, whilst zero naturally occurring sugar? The skin or the berry is also packed with omega fatty acids (like an avocado), dietary fibre and essential vitamins and minerals unique to the rich, bio-diverse Amazon soil. The taste is neither sweet nor savoury, but earthy like dark chocolate with an undertone of cherry. I saw the potential in this versatile ingredient and wanted to explore all the possible ways of eating it in different types of cuisine.
How did the Brazilian vibes and music help improve your superfood experience?
You’ve got to go to Brazil to really understand the infectious joy that takes hold of you when you spend time with the people. There is a deep sincerity of wanting to connect with each other and enjoy every minute of the day, no matter what challenges may be looming. It is this admirable degree of optimism and embracing the moment which led to the name Boa Vida, meaning ‘good life’ in Portuguese.
How hard is to be a young woman working with international businesses, traveling over the pound and sourcing organically directly from the jungles of Amazon?
At the beginning I never considered how being a woman would pose a challenge to my mission – I was simply fulfilling a passion project and wanting to tell an authentic story. It was when the gears changed from pursuing a passion project to running a real business that I became aware of how little women are represented at the top of the chain and how business between men can be very different to the experience between a man and woman. I’m lucky that my main contacts in Brazil are equally split male and female so business is an experience of both. The real challenges are much more likely to present themselves in the day to day of business back in the UK.
What does it take mentally and emotional to scale your own business with a small and how do you find the balance between busy job and personal life?
Having a clear view of the bigger picture is key to dealing with emotional stresses that inevitably come. It’s easy to get frustrated when things are not going to plan, but as the founder of a small start-up, you have a unique position to pivot and get back to the core of the mission – whenever YOU choose. I’ve found that often, letting go of an idea (or parking it for now), is the best strategy to making steady progress. Remember to choose your own success and take moments along the way to appreciate how far you’ve come.
Personal stress hacks: weekly breath-work (through a Prana Kriya or Kundalini practice), movement (dance, yoga, swimming, HIIT), quality time in nature + diarised ‘holiday time’ with limited screen time. I make all of these are non-negotiable, no matter what.
What has helped you the most get to where you are now?
People. Connection has been the currency of any success so far. From people passing down advice, or sharing knowledge about things I would not have known to learn, or simply being an inspiration to work hard and dream big. Just as important are those who have connected with Boa Vida on a level that has ultimately encouraged the evolution of the brand and business goals.
Could you share what interesting are you working on at the moment?
New açai products and wider distribution – Q4
New products (beyond açai) – 2020
New partnerships and projects in Brazil (beyond the Amazon)
Where can people get your delicious products?
Planet Organic stores: Tottenham Court Road, Torrington Place, Westbourne Grove, Devonshire Square, Islington, Muswell Hill, Wandsworth, Queen’s Park
Independent stores across the UK, see here: https://www.boavidaacai.com/find-us/
Boa Vida: https://www.boavidaacai.com/shop/
Organic Delivery Co: https://www.organicdeliverycompany.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=boa+vida
What is your relationship with our magical village Primrose Hill?
Another superfood founder / hero offered me their spare room and in doing so, gave the gift of finding tranquility in London. Primrose Hill is still the little green paradise it has always been, offering its community a bit of calm in the middle of a chaotic city. The parks, the views and quiet streets with humming birds give you all you need to remember the world is bigger than you and your fears – just trust and flow 🙂