Yoga & The Business of Chocolate – A match made in heaven!
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jo Fairley, the founder of and inspiration behind the Green & Black’s brand of chocolate, at a meeting of the Bedfordshire Business Women’s (BBW) networking organisation who are celebrating their 25 anniversary this year, at The Mansion House, Shuttleworth College in Old Warden, Bedfordshire.
Jo was the guest speaker and delighted us with the story behind Green & Black’s chocolate. So, what did I learn? ; that Jo’s husband was the Chairman of The Soil Association at the time and was one of the founders of the organic brand ‘Whole Earth’ (I highly recommend their peanut butter!), that she discovered a couple of dark pieces of chocolate on his desk one day in 1991, ate both of them and fell instantly in love, that despite Jo badgering him, her husband explained that he could not sell the chocolate through the Whole Earth brand as ‘no added sugar’ is one of the founding principles of the business. Jo described to us how the idea/flavour would just not go away so her husband eventually said ‘why don’t you do it?’ The rest is chocolate history.
They came up with the brand name in ten minutes; it had to be something ‘&’ something for that heritage feel, then ‘Green’ for organic/fair-trade and ‘Black’ for the darkness of the chocolate. The original packaging design took just five minutes. Jo is a journalist which stood her in good stead to know how to pitch and position G & B in the market place. But I suspect it was her passion and following her gut instinct which carried her through the inevitable ups and downs that followed. In fact, Jo cited listening to one’s intuition as one of the most important aspects of success.
Interestingly to me, Jo then went on to specifically describe the importance of yoga and meditation in her life and particularly with regard to her work. She actually prefixed her sentence with ‘Jacquelyn will be happy to hear me say this……’ I was a bit perplexed and was thinking, ‘What! How did she know my name and that I am a yoga teacher?’ She continued to talk earnestly about how yoga and meditation helps her to stay well in body and mind and how she actually set up a wellness centre in her home town (www.thewellingtoncentre.com) which offers yoga and other holistic therapies. Jo half joked that she arranged three yoga classes per week which start at 8am in the morning which just happens to be the perfect time for her! She said many people say that they want to try it but that they have not got the time but for her she said she could not afford to not make time for it!
Jo quoted her yoga teacher who says ‘flexible spine, flexible mind’ and said that meditation keeps her mind clear and focused and that she doesn’t think she would be where she is today without it.
It slowly started to dawn on me (Pooh Bear brain strikes again) that she must have heard me speak earlier. At the beginning of the meeting, Amanda Murrell (the current president of BBW) asked me to outline the presentation on yoga and meditation which she had asked me to give for the next BBW event at Champneys Health Spa. So, feeling on-the-spot a bit, I stood up and introduced myself and talked off the cuff on the subject of what to expect; including dispelling the myths and revealing the true aims of yoga as well as the opportunity to experience a mini relaxation practice. As is usual, when I start on this subject, I became quite animated and described yoga as ‘heavenly’!
At that point I had not realised that Jo Fairley was sat at a table with Amanda and was listening to every word that I said. Aha, it all started to make sense. It was just a case of pure co-incidence and happily the best plug for yoga and filling the seats at the next event that we could have wished for!
At the end of the talk, Jo cunningly offered a prize of a stack of all the different varieties of G & B’s chocolate bars for the most interesting question. Needless to say there were suddenly a lot of minds in the room focusing on coming up with a good one. I tried to follow the ‘relax first, allow inspiration to happen’ method and quite quickly had two contenders.
There was a lot of competition in the room and I was taken right back to school, stretching my hand up high to try to get noticed. There were some great questions, co-incidentally someone else had the same as one of mine ; ‘what advice would you give young adults entering into the world of work?’ Jo was keen on the importance of being practical, on more vocational courses and thinks it should not be all about academic studies. She talked about the value of experience and the benefits of being willing to do work placements where just expenses are covered. She also said that schools need to introduce everyday life skills into the class room, e.g. being able to set up a bank account. I completely agree with her on this. I encourage my daughters to do practical things whenever possible, even a silly little thing like getting the pay and display ticket for the car or asking for help. Young adults seem to lack confidence and ability in basic real world situations.
With my stomach on the prize and a burning desire to know the answer to my other question, I persevered with my schoolgirl antics of bobbing up and down and looking half demented with enthusiasm. I think Jo took pity on me and waved in my direction.
I asked her, does she have an internal discussion with herself about whether to retire on the achievement of G & B and proceeds of the sale to Cadburys and just chill-out or whether to continue with all her new entrepreneurial ventures. Jo said that she had tried doing nothing for a few months and that she had just got bored and eventually could barely raise herself out of bed!
I asked her what drives her and she answered ‘adrenalin’. I take that to mean the thrill and excitement of pursuing your passions, hard work and commitment and the resulting satisfaction. Some-one said to me recently that with those ingredients, success should not really come as a surprise.
The last question to Jo was to name her lowest and highest point. Jo was not sure what to say at first, then she paused and I saw her shoulders drop, (I think she did the ‘relax and allow the answer to come’ trick!) Then she answered assuredly. It turns out that back breaking strawberry picking is not as romantic a job as it sounds but being in a room with the Cadburys board when they credit you with why Diary Milk is going Fair-trade feels pretty damn good!
and…….. who won the chocolate? Well, what can I say, yum yum. What?! I did share some of it.
With thanks to Amanda Murrell for booking Jo and for organising the event with the support of the dedicated BBW committee.