Our next Inspiring Woman is Gem Misa, a self-made Filipino entrepreneur currently based in London, UK. I know Gem personally because she was a classmate of mine way back in high school.
After college, she worked her way up in the corporate world of marketing and brand management in Unilever. But after moving to London, she set up her own food business called Righteous, and is now selling her best-kept homemade recipes and food products in some of the biggest retailers — worldwide.
Read about her inspiring story below :
Who is Gem Misa and what is Righteous all about?
I moved to the UK as a Global Brand Manager for Unilever. It was a great company to work for but after 8 years, I felt that it was time to go off to pursue my real passion of setting up a food business. I started Righteous in 2010 when the recession really started peaking in Europe. It was a scary time to leave a secure job but as many entrepreneurs know, once you know that it’s time to follow your dream, you wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.
Righteous is a brand of great tasting healthy food products. I called the brand ‘Righteous’ to communicate that you wouldn’t find anything bad in our products – no artificial colours or preservatives & no cheap extenders – just 100% natural products that burst with flavour.
Our products are now being sold in over 1,000 of the biggest supermarkets in the UK, as well as in America, Canada, Malaysia, Germany & the Middle East. I’m based in London and currently work on the business on my own and from my kitchen table.
Tell us a little bit more about your Righteous products.
Our first range of products are : All Natural Salad Dressings. They come in fantastic flavours like: Ginger & Toasted Sesame, Raspberry & Sweet Basil, English Blue Cheese & Cider, Caper & Hot Peppercorn, and Lemon & Mustard Seed.
I’m proud to say that they’ve been winning taste awards in the UK & that Righteous is the number 1 selling brand of sauce for Whole Foods in the UK – yet our products still happen to be vegan, gluten free, and preservative free. Among the dressings, the Ginger & Toasted Sesame and Blue Cheese dressing are the biggest hits.
We also have a heart-healthy Cooking oil called Pro-Heart Oil which has the highest level of Omega 3 and lowest level of saturated fats compared to other cooking oils.
How do you come up with the different flavors for each type of salad dressing?
All the salad dressings are from personal recipes I created. I’m not a professional chef but I love tinkering around in the kitchen. So after a lot of experimenting and testing among friends, I felt that I came up with a great range of products that I could be proud of.
Where do you sell your products?
In the UK, you can find our products in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Booths, Ocado, Whole Foods Market and various independent food stores.
In North America, we are in Costco Canada.
In the US, we are in Albertson’s Inter Mountain Region, Sendik’s Fine Foods in Wisconsin, Walt Churchill’s & Royal Oaks in Ohio, Health by Nature Virginia, Big Bear New Jersey, and in New York we are in Garden of Eden Chelsea, Jackson Heights Health Foods Store & Downtown Natural Market. We just launched in America early this year so this list is constantly increasing.
We are also in Dean & Deluca Kuwait – and in a number of Malaysian & German supermarkets.
What are the usual challenges you face in the business and how do you overcome them?
One of my biggest challenges is finding creative ways to grow the business because (as many start-up businesses will agree) you don’t have a huge working capital to work with. So I need to ensure that expansion into new stores and new markets are carefully planned, and that we try to work through PR and word of mouth rather than paid advertising. We’ve also had to find creative ways of financing our big expansion plans like crowdfunding where we raised over £150,000 from 160 investors.
Another big challenge is juggling a fast growing business & my responsibilities as a mom (I have a 3 year old daughter named Harper). So meetings are carefully scheduled around school runs – and work stops momentarily in the afternoon to pick up Harper from school and go on play dates, then resumes again after she goes to bed in the evening.
How big is Righteous now and where do you plan to take it in the future?
In 3 years, Righteous has grown to become a £300,000 business. I’m hoping for the business to continue growing at this fast rate by entering new markets and introducing new products.
The Philippines is one market that I hope to enter but this needs to be managed as I have a similar business that I started in 2003 (Goolai prepacked salads & dressings) that is already available in many supermarkets in Manila.
Righteous has been awarded and featured several times in the UK Press. Can you tell us more about this?
Righteous Ltd was awarded Best Home Business of the Year at the 2012 Start Up Awards. We were also fortunate to be part of the Top 100 UK Business for two years in a row (2011 & 2012), given by two prominent business websites.
We were also mentioned on BBC The Apprentice 2012 as an example of an “Innovative Start-up Carving a Niche in the Market Place”.
How do you run your business efficiently in a very competitive environment like the UK?
So far it is just me running the business – and I am able to do this by outsourcing key parts of the business like manufacturing, accounting, etc.
My kitchen table doubles as my office desk and is strewn with papers, samples and my laptop.
What is your typical work day like?
My typical day is getting my daughter dressed & ready for school then getting down to work after dropping her off. Work stops promptly at 1pm as I put on my ‘mum’ hat and rush to get Harper. Afternoons are filled with a line up of activities like visits to the various London museums, play dates or visits to the park. Then after fixing up dinner, bath & tucking Harper in at 7pm it’s usually back to work for me.
It sounds pretty relentless but being my own business that I am genuinely excited about, it feels very gratifying. I’m lucky to have a very helpful husband that is in charge of packing school lunches, tooth brushing & bedtime stories!
How do you unwind or relax on weekends?
The weekends are usually spent relaxing with my husband, Jamie. We try to make up for busy weekdays by doing something fun on the weekend. Like going to favourite London haunts for great food and a much needed drink, art exhibits, shopping etc.
Being a woman of inspiration, what inspires you?
What inspires me is the ambition of making Righteous the business that I know it could be.
Can you share some tips to our women and mummy entrepreneurs out there ?
Don’t be afraid to give it a try. I think women have the right skills for business – multitasking, creativity, attention to detail. Often you will experience challenges & suffer some painful mistakes but don’t get disheartened. It’s often through these drawbacks that you learn how to make your business stronger and more resilient.
You are a mom, a wife and a successful businesswoman. What do you think is the best way to balance time between career and family?
Learn how to switch off and take a break! It really helps you think about your business more objectively especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed and in over your head.
Lastly… I’m sure you will agree with me that there is a “spoiled mummy” in each of us. So tell me, what makes Gem Misa a “Spoiled Mummy”?
What makes me a “Spoiled Mummy” is that my husband and I love trying out all the new restaurants around town. I’m very lucky that we have the opportunity to do that. To de-stress and “spoil” myself, I also do like going to spas for those rare spa treatments and massages.