Our Hobby Became Our Business
With the Finnish wild herbs chillin' under the northern lights and gathering their superpowers while struggling against the frosty weather, it’s a good chance to glance back at the past year. 2017– the year when Helsinki Wildfoods took its first steps towards becoming a recognized international natural food brand and the forerunner in the Finnish herb revolution.
The first climax of the year 2017 was in March when our debut book Villiyrtit – hyvinvointia kotikulmilta was launched by WSOY, one of the biggest publishing houses in Finland. Even though there have been several books about wild herbs published before, our book was one of the first ones to approach the foraging hobby on a more holistic level, our target group being especially the urban foragers.
For us, foraging is not only a way to boost our meals with clean, nutritious and tasty wild herbs. The best thing about foraging is that you can find everything you need to live a healthy, fulfilling life from a single foraging walk to your nearby nature – even amidst the rush of city life. In addition to spicing meals with healthy local alternatives, foraging lures you to practice a deep squat and move naturally using your own bodyweight, the Earth’s gravity and nature’s diverse shapes. While squatting in your natural gym, you can also find relaxation just by gazing at the nature; studies have shown that admiring a nature landscape for as little as five minutes decreases both your stress levels and blood pressure.
And last but not least, as natural skincare fans, we love the fact that almost everything you can put in your mouth from the Finnish nature, is something you can also nourish your skin with. Finnish traditions are filled with mesmerizing stories of these healing wonders of our forests and meadows, how they have traditionally been used internally as herbal tea because of their cleansing, rejuvenating and arousing properties but also externally to relieve infections and blemishes. With our first book introducing foraging hobby as a solution to holistic wellbeing, our second one will most definitely guide you even deeper to the magical while informational but most of all hilarious world of Finnish folklores.
After the book launch, we had the opportunity to apply for Microsoft’s Polku program, which supports the growth of new companies stemming from previous Microsoft employees, our CFO, Raija, being one of them. We had already made some pretty exciting plans about all the virtual wilderness experiences that Helsinki Wildfoods could offer to the international nature tourists, but after the feedback we got from our upcoming new just add products from the Polku program we decided to spare our virtual reality ideas for the future and instead, focus on developing our product line towards even more easy-to-use natural foods with well-thought out just add recipes.
During the summer, with a boost from Microsoft’s Polku program, we applied also for Tempo funding, a government funding for growth companies provided by Tekes. Luckily, we also managed to get our over-qualified trainee, Roosa, to join our wild crew of entrepreneurs as a full partner and help us fulfill our ambiguous international growth plans.
Last week, our exciting year of growth got a perfect ending when Helsinki Wildfoods was chosen to accompany 15 other Finnish forest and nature startup companies in the Kasvu Open program, which offers support and coaching to the most promising start ups from Finland.
In addition to the Tempo funded project, the summer of 2017 was filled with sold out foraging walks. In Finland, wild herbs and veggies have been a progressive food trend already for few years, but this summer you could really feel the hype around the wild herbs and local superfoods stirring and rising.
We organized our first foraging walks in the summer of 2015 but this was the first summer when all of our workshops were fully booked. We had the honor to host foraging workshops also to international guests when Carlo Cocina visited Finland with his Viva Nórdico crew for Chile's Channel 13C. In turn, Japanese journalist Michiyo Tsubota, photographer Noriko Yamaguchi and My Helsinki guide Makiko Lommi made an article about Finnish wild food to Agora Magazine by Japanese Airlines which will be out next spring. In August 2017, we were thrilled to get a cover story on Finnair's Blue Wings and an article about wild veggies on Surf Girl Magazine as well.
This summer, we’ll try to be better prepared for the consumers’ wild herb hunger. In the following months, we’ll be recruiting an army of foraging guides for the summer of 2018, so if you are a qualified natural herb instructor, send us an email so we can join our forces. We are waiting forward to guide not only the readers of the Agora Magazine but also other tourists and the citizens of the capital area of Finland even deeper to the northern taiga. You can find the upcoming foraging walks and nature events here.
Helsinki Wildfoods’ newborns
In the autumn, we were super excited to finally fully focus on our new just add products, design and develop our new online platform, and also, refine our international business strategy. While the season was changing, the leaves turning and our just add recipes stewing, our CEO Annika gave birth to a beautiful little taiga girl.
And just before the winter came, also Helsinki Wildfood’s newborn – the Nettle Pesto – was ready to make the world a little bit happier and tastier. The first ones to taste our long-awaited novelties where the SLUSH2017 visitors. Slush brings together the leading actors of the global tech scene – over 2,600 startups, 1,500 venture capitalists, and 600 journalists from over 130 countries – to Helsinki to drive businesses forward. Helsinki Wildfoods stood out of the crowd not only because of our energetic and all-female crew but also because of the tasty solutions we had to the most concerning topics of the year. Climate-smart agriculture and healthier and more sustainable food is one way to participate in slowing down the climate change. Consumers need educating to understand the true consequences of their consumer behaviour and also to find ways to get in touch with their surrounding nature. With our healthy and tasty products and educative workshops it's just so much easier and fun.
At last, we can happily wrap the year 2017 saying it sure was a delightful wild blast of achievements, obstacles and thrills. It hasn’t been easy, but hey, we made it through with a smile and it’s all because of you. There is no better reward than seeing the gleam of light blinking in the eyes of a novel forager when they become aware of all the amazing treasures we sometimes just trod on; some call them weeds, foragers call them gold.
Next month, the new just add products – the vegan Nettle Pesto, Forest Salsa and Wild Berry Bowl – are ready to start winning the hearts of European consumers as well. Later in 2018, we’ll be sharing our easy and tasty just add solutions also with the Asian wild-hearts. Hope to see you either at our just add tastings in Helsinki or Stockholm or at the latest, at our workshops in the land of the midnight sun.
Happy new year and thanks for the beautiful year 2017!
Pauliina & Helsinki Wildfoods team
Photos: Aino Huotari