Through the Food Pioneers Programme, Impact Hub Amsterdam focuses on helping startups accomplish their impact-driven business goals, and accelerate them to the next level. This programme is full of inspiring entrepreneurs who are changing the way we eat. From more locally sourced products, or revolutionizing traditional ingredients, to innovative ideas for fighting food waste. These change makers are using food to make a positive impact.
Who are you, and how are you changing the world of food?
Erika: I’m Erika Hirose and am originally from Japan. I run WAKEAT, which is the smallest miso brewery in the world. I make naturally fermented miso by following the traditional method I leant from my grandmothers in Japan. The last few years, I have been trying to use miso making techniques to save food waste or byproducts by making them into miso-like probiotic paste.
Eva: My name is Eva Lia and I’m the founder of “LA LIA“, a 100% all natural Crispy Chilli Oil. I am vocal about cultural appropriation in the world of culinary brands, and I am committed to bringing more attention to the importance of awareness on this topic.
What led to the creation of your product?
Erika: I traveled a lot and realized food connects not only us but to the mother earth. I only make natural fermented miso and focus on using locally sourced ingredients. These are very strong principles I will never let go. By following that, I feel I work with the earth hand by hand and it reminds me that we as humans are part of nature. I tasted a lot of examples of food (especially traditional food) emphasizing the connection with nature all over the world. Food is not just nutrition. However, the modern lifestyle separated us from what food used to mean to humans. My parents’ life has a huge impact on why I make miso. Especially my father’s sickness and death made my eyes open towards my own history – the family miso recipe.
Eva: My daughter inspired me. I am first generation Dutch born to Singaporean immigrants and I always struggled with my own identity. Until the age of 33 I wasn’t in touch with me being Asian. I was ashamed of the way I looked and all I wanted was to just blend in and not stick out. Racism was always a topic I would never discuss with any of my friends, just with my mom. Who would give me the advice to just ignore it, not voice myself and just forget about it. And so I did. I know my mom back then thought she was giving me the best advice she could. But I wished I had learned to speak out and to open up the conversation so people would understand that words can be really painful. So for my daughter I want to do it differently. I want to show her that I’m a proud Asian-Dutch woman. One of my key learnings in life is that the biggest lessons that stuck with me are not the ones which were told, but those which are shown. I want to live by the quote “actions speak louder than words”. So it only makes sense to show my daughter how proud I am of our cultural heritage, of my family and of where our Singaporean roots lay. To show her how proud I am of our family history and the amazing cooking skills and recipes that are so deeply rooted in my family.
With 2023 just having kicked off: What is your new year’s resolution for your company/product?
Erika: Built a good team! I’m crazy enough to start building the same concept miso business in two countries (The Netherlands and Japan) at the same time. But obviously I have one body to do it. To build a good team is essential to go farther.
Eva: I love this question! As I’m a big dreamer and wish list maker. But first, allow me to use this moment to share some boxes we could already tick off early this year. There is wonderful news that from February onwards we will offer a bigger jar, as there was a lot of demand coming in for it. We will also launch our whole newly designed brand identity which is super exciting! We also got a new production kitchen in Amsterdam. And to mention one of my future plans is to sell La Lia in at least 60 retailers in The Netherlands by the end of the year. You can follow my journey on Instagram, as I’m sharing new retailer(s) every week to reach that goal.
Any final advice for other female entrepreneurs?
Eva: Do not be afraid to ask. Ask and you’ll often get amazing answers, coming from surprising corners. Help other women and don’t ever let your ego rule your actions.
Erika: Share your experience and feelings with other women! We can start changing the world even from our kitchen today.