Nathalie’s Direct Trade – The story
I was born in Sweden. My mother is Finnish and my father comes from Colombia. That was quite an unusual cocktail back in the seventies. Even though I have, more or less, lived my whole life in Stockholm, my ties to my dad’s village, Icononzo, are very strong. I’ve had a reason to travel frequently to this amazing place on Earth, since my father lives there since I was six.
My direct trade adventure started 2010 when I heard, that farmers in Icononzo had been encouraged to start cultivating Golden Gooseberry/Physalis for export. When it was time to harvest, the wholesaler let them down. They had to throw away thousands of tons of Physalis and the farmers lost a lot of money. Many of them had taken loans at the bank…. See a video clip here, where I interview one of the farmers.
That pissed me off. Same situation generation after generation. Never getting long term profitability as small scale farmer. I wondered how difficult it could be to buy the fruit directly from the farmers, without unnecessary middle hands, and make for example jam of it, bring to Sweden and sell it to a onscious target group. 10 months later I launched Nathalie’s Direct Trade with Nathalie’s Golden Gooseberry Jam in Stockholm, in close cooperation with at that time newly opened hipster deli – Nytorget Urban Deli. I was in such a flow and synchronicity with a higher purpose.
Nathalie’s quickly got proof of concept and demand so I decided to jump off a safe career in Telecom and start my own business. Many people thought I was crazy but I had to follow my newly found vocation. Otherwise I would have become sick.
I was privileged to get my cousin Erkki Izarra on this journey. He has vast experience from different roles in Advertising Agencies internationally and he quickly grasped the potential of my business idea. Within short we got Jari Salo on board. He is our designer and a true master in anything he touches. I’m so blessed and grateful for having these two guys with me. Together with my husband, Michael, who helps me out with analysing numbers and cash flows, we are a true dream-team.
In 2013 we launched my Gently Dried Organic Fruits. They were awarded the Silver Award for Best New Organic Food Innovation at the Nordic Organic Food Fair 2013. Today we count with about 120 retailers around Sweden and Finland, main on-line food shops and my own web shop. The products are extraordinary tasty, designed for a “choosy” target group in Stockholm, who has high expectations on quality, the story and design. We have got an overwhelmingly positive response. As Erkki says: “If you can make it in Stockholm, you can make it anywhere”. I think he is right 🙂
My journey started with being passionate about Direct Trade. However, today the journey has shifted towards being transparent not only with what we pay the farmers, but where the money goes along the whole supply chain. I got almost mad when I understood how big power the supermarkets have. There is a very little part of food products value chain that remains in the country of origin. My products are PICO – Produced and packed in the country of origin, which is next generation fair trade if you ask me. That means that we leave 20-25% of my products value in Colombia. In particular this is favourable for women, since we create employment for them. Since 2017 we are members of the UNDP program “Business Call to Action”, where we have set goals related to the Global Goals. I’m very proud of being in this program, since we are the only food company in Sweden who are members, next to IKEA, HM and Ericsson.
I have found a niche and business model that has been proven in Sweden and Finland and tested from a sourcing and production point of view in Colombia where capacity and sourcing is secured for growth. I have taken first contacts with potential producers in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uganda and Kenya for future expansion of the product portfolio.
But, yes there is a but. I’m so humble for the learnings I’ve made. Food business was much more challenging than I thought. I’m not the company-builder type of person. Having a disruptive business model, maybe requires a different approach.
One way to scale up and unleash the potential of what I’ve built so far is to find new business partners, financing and right co-creating context. I’m also open to do next generation fair trade products for other brands. I don’t want to rush into anything, so while I’m in this process of pitching, networking and defining next step, I’m doing interim jobs and taking consultancy assigments.
Don’t hesitate a minute to contact me for my resume, my pitch or if you have ideas or want to book me as speaker. firstname.lastname@example.org
Chau! Namaste! All the best! /Nathalie