There is nothing more heartwarming than reading stories of inspiring women (and men) who do their bit to help others. Tonight’s guest on the Real Mums series is one such mumma, who has created a business aimed at helping others in their time of need – whether it is through hardship, tragedy, or a rough day. Monique is an incredibly thoughtful and amazing woman who also chases around 2 boys (while pregnant with her 3rd!) while busily building her Happetite business. Enjoy reading her inspirational story below x
Hi Monique! Thank you for joining us for the Real Mums blog series this week! It is such a privilege to be able to talk to you about your life as a mother and what you do. To start us off, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?
Thanks for having me. I am a mum of 2.5 children. Two boys aged 4 and 5 years old and another on the way due in July. We like to keep ourselves busy and as well as two young boys we are also mid house renovation and growing my little business. We are an active, crazy and fun filled household. We have come to realize that with two boys in the house our days are best spent doing some physical activity. We spend a lot of time at the local parks, on bike tracks, trampoline centres and climbing activities.
What does an average week look like in your household?
My eldest has just started school, the new schedule and shorter hours is something I am still getting my head around but he is enjoying it and is there 5 days a week. My younger boy is at daycare 3 days a week so these are my uninterrupted “work days”.
On these work days I spend 2 mornings a week writing cards, packing and sending Happetite food gifts as well as planning my social media, working with suppliers, managing admin and accounts and working on marketing and media promotions.
During the week we eat healthy and simple meals and I write a meal planner each week to reduce food waste and save time.
Mornings are always a little hectic in our household but a little pre planning the night before definitely helps and I find if I have a really busy day ahead getting up really early and having 1 hour of uninterrupted work time really helps with my day and managing my work and sanity levels.
Your journey as a mother has had some highs and lows. Can you share some parts of your story with us?
I have always wanted kids (3 was always the magic number). We struggled to fall pregnant the first time so when my eldest was just 6 months old and I found out I was pregnant again it came as quite a shock.
We moved overseas and I had my second child in New Zealand. I really struggled without my network of friends, family, warm weather and outdoor lifestyle. It was a really hard time in my life that I found quite lonely and I really struggled to find the joy in motherhood.
I came to realize that for me to be a good mother I had to be happy and comfortable with myself. I really enjoyed the challenge, social element and mental stimulation that working gave me so I decided to head back into the workforce. It was amazing the difference it made. I enjoyed my time at work (part time) and that made me really want to spend the other days with my two young boys. It was the right balance for me and made my home life much happier also.
It takes time to realize what is your right balance and there were some very tough times to figure this out but now my husband and my boys know and appreciate that and we are all happier for it.
You run this amazing business that I’m absolutely IN LOVE WITH called “Happetite”. How did you come up with the idea for Happetite?
I was overseas when my second child was born (13 months after my first!). It was a very challenging time for me and I didn’t have my network of friends to support me. Someone I had only met a few times saw me in the supermarket one day “having one of those moments” and the next day she popped around to my house with a homemade meal and some baking. I was blown away by the kindness of it and ended up in tears (ok, I was sleep deprived and hormonal also). This gesture planted the first seed of my business idea.
It was about 6 months later that a friend of mine’s husband had a virus that went to his heart and almost killed him. She was supporting two young toddlers while trying to spend every waking minute at the hospital with her husband but struggling. I wanted to help and send her some meals so that both she and her kids would have the energy to get through this tough time but couldn’t find anything to help.
The final light bulb moment was when my grandfather passed away. Aged 94 he was an amazing and well loved man and this was seen by the amount of flowers, wreaths and floral arrangements that turned up to my grandmothers house. It was all very generous but my grandmother’s house was a jungle of flowers and yet her fridge was completely bare and we are a foodie family.
It made me question whether there were other alternatives to sending flowers for these occasions and when I looked into it I realised there wasn’t. So that was it, I left my job and took the plunge into the unknown world of start up business and have never looked back.
It has not been easy but I absolutely love what I do and being part of this sharing of love through food is just amazing.
How does the business work (in a nutshell)? How are the meals prepared and delivered?
The food had to be tasty, wholesome and comforting so I knew I had to go to the expert. My Italian grandmother.
We use recipes that have been handed down through my family for generations and added some recent favourites. Each of the meals has a personal story to it about where it came from and why we included it in our packages.
We work with our Chef, Pete in a commercial kitchen to cook up the food in larger quantities but worked hard to keep the taste the same as if it was cooked in my grandmothers kitchen.
Even now I send my grandmother a package each month (to test out and to keep her fed!) and she is the toughest critic around but she is great at quality control!
The meals are packaged with hand written notes and other unique items such as baby outfits, herbal teas, desserts and gourmet cookies and sent out with our courier guys all over Sydney, NSW, ACT and now even into Melbourne.
Obviously there is a lot of coordination that is involved in a business such as Happetite. How do you manage to juggle all of this around your family life?
I am very strict with my work schedule. I have 3 full working days that I schedule tasks for each hour of the day and keep to it. I also allocate a couple of nights a week to catch up times when I get behind. Through trial and error I realized that I cannot work when I have my boys with me so I try and devote my attention to them when I am with them and focus on just the business during my work hours. It is definitely a juggle at times but I have a supportive husband and have decided to ditch the mother’s guilt. So what if my kids eat cheese on toast one night for dinner, they love it and the pile of paperwork is waiting for me.
Your business aims to support a range of people facing difficult situations, including new mums after they’ve had a baby. I love that it is such a thoughtful alternative to the traditional flowers we’re used to giving and receiving. What feedback have you gotten from mums who have received – as well as given – this generous gift of meals?
The feedback has been amazing and on the days when I am drowning in accounts and paperwork it is the one thing that keeps me motivated.
People quite often email me and tell me that it was the most practical and tastiest gift they received. I have people telling me that my grandmothers lasagna was the best they ever tasted and that having meals in the fridge was their absolute saviour during a challenging time.
This feedback is humbling and motivating at the same time. I want to be able to deliver this service to people all around Australia as I know how good it feels when someone turns up at your door with a home made meal and I want to share this with others.
As a mum and a very generous business-owner, what tips or advice would you give to any new or prospective mums reading this interview?
Trust your instincts. You will be given plenty of advice during your pregnancy and with children but at the end of the day, you know yourself and your children best and you should always trust what your instincts tell you.
The other piece of advice is to say YES to offers of help. Don’t try and be super mum and do it all yourself. If someone offers assistance (be it taking baby for a walk around the block while you snooze, bringing over a meal or grabbing you a carton of milk from the shops) they understand it is a hard time and they just want to help, say yes and you will both feel better for it.
Thank you for sharing your encouraging story with us on the blog tonight, Monique! To find out more about Happetite and how you can purchase a gift pack for someone, visit the website HERE, Facebook HERE or Instgram HERE.
ARE YOU A SYDNEY-SIDER WHO WOULD LIKE TO PAY-IT-FORWARD AND WIN A HAPPETITE PACK (RRP $144) FOR A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER? CLICK HERE TO ENTER ON FACEBOOK.