I’m Nena, a mum of two (7 year old son and 3 year old daughter). I retrained about 2 years ago as a nutritional chef, operating as Nena Foster Food. I do lots of different things under this guise, cookery and fermentation teaching, recipe development, food styling, food writing and in a few week’s time I am launching my first online business, The Brine Club, an online fermentation community and school.
I left a full-time job as a public sector research and policy consultant to find the career and life balance that I wanted. I always felt that I wanted a more creative career and didn’t want the drudgery of day-to-day office job. I also wanted to be more present for my children and ultimately not ever experience the Sunday night dreads that I experienced most of my working life.
How did you make the leap from idea on paper to reality with your business idea?
I enrolled on a course and used that as a springboard into a completely new industry. I also called on all of my friends and contacts with food industry connections. I decided to be brave and bold and just ask for what I thought I needed to help me build my network and ultimately forge a career. I knew that I didn’t want to be a conventional chef or work solely with private clients, so I tried my hand at the parts of the industry I knew most about and was most passionate about. As a mum, working with children and families felt comfortable and fermentation was an area of my training that I loved instantly. I developed content, ran workshops, gave talks and wrote articles to test my approach and recipes. After a few years I felt that like I was in a position to scale what I do and offer it in a way that is more accessible and provides me with more life balance. It’s not been a straightforward trajectory by any stretch, but slowly it seems to be coming together.
How did you get your first sale or client?
The network I built during my course was instrumental in helping me to find work, hone my ideas and expand my contact list. I also had to constantly (and still do) put myself out there, but ultimately, it has all been about building, growing relationships and not being afraid to make an ask.
What ‘lucky breaks’ or helping hands have you had along the way that have really boosted your progress?
I have been lucky to work with some great people in the industry, chefs like Anna Jones, who have introduced me to their networks and that has been invaluable.
What do you LOVE about your business and working for yourself?
I ultimately love cooking and feeding people. I also love inspiring and teaching people to eat better too. I love not having a boss, but I both love and sometime loathe being able to set my own agenda and work away on things on my own. But it is of course always nice to work collaboratively!
What’s the scariest thing you’ve had to do since setting up on your own?
Any big decisions requiring big leaps or big financial investment always are a bit scary when you don’t have a business partner or mentor to talk things through.
Who is your support network that you simply couldn’t manage without?
I have always been a good people connector, so am now using that to my benefit. I happen to know lots of talented and creative people outside my industry (as well as inside) that are able to help with so many aspects of running a business. I am just now really starting to tap into those. I also now have a tech coach/developer who is advising and helping with my platform build and I have no idea what I’d do without her advice and support.
What exciting plans do you have for your business over the next 6-12 months that you’d like to share?
I am launching The Brine Club on June 30th 2019, which is a community for people who are interested in health-focused food and drink fermentation—you’ll find recipes, fermenting tips/tricks, product offers, gut health info and what I like to call ‘cabbage chat’, essentially a space to natter about your latest fermentation exploits so you can stop boring your friends and family! From September there will be courses on offer for those who want to learn to make their own fermented food and drinks step-by-step with support. The longer term plan is to scale the course offering to include more children and family-focused classes as well as fermented foods for pre and postnatal health.