The most frequently asked question I have had over the past 6 years of Natural Harry either via emails or direct messages on social media is along the lines of:
How have you built Natural Harry? What has your journey looked like? What have you studied? or What have you done in your adult life to get you to be where you are at right now?
It can be hard to find the time to respond individually in great detail and so far I don't think I have put the full story down in writing....
So here goes. If you are interested, have a read! *Warning.. its a full and honest story from high school to now! If you want to skip to Natural Harry era only go about half way down!*
Side note: I was going to do a video but, well, I sound funny (do we all think that? haha) so, for a more realistic experience, imagine the following being read to you in splodge the kangaroo's voice (from 1990's children's cartoon Blinky Bill).
After school I was torn between studying fine art, nutrition and fashion design. Eventually I was pulled in a creative direction. Although it didn't feel like a safe option as the world was headed into the global finantial crisis in 2006 I ended up studying fashion design.
During those 3 years, to supliment my student govenment support allowance I used to go to opshops in the north of Melbourne and purchase lots of large garments and cotton fabric. I would then turn these into dresses and sold these through a little boutique on Bruswick Street in Fitzroy. I look back on the very few photos of these I have now and actually love most of them! They are quite timeless in my opinion and I hope they are still being worn by their owners today!
After completing my advanced diploma I began my working life managing retail stores and working in product development in the head office of a brand in Melbourne. Although I enjoyed the creative side, after 3 years I was fairly disillusioned with the industry. Although I had landed in a relatively calm side of it in children's wear and was gateful for the oportunities, I had not discovered any companies I wished to work for locally that I really beleived in 100%. Although I am sure they were there somewhere.
I decided it was not for me and needed a break to reassess what I wanted to do. So I saved for a couple of years to travel for 6 months, thinking that would answer all my internal career questions. LOL. Not the most sensible decision at all, looking back but I am grateful for the experience now!
One month from the very end of my travelling stint, having completely run out of money, with the last flight of my round-the-world ticket booked, I decided to walk the Camino de Santiago solo. The Camino is a month long 'pilgramidge' and translates as 'walk'. One of the routes you can follow is walking from village to village from the French Piranese to the city of Santiago de Compostella, in the very top left corner of Spain (about 900k). I had not yet reached my goal of knowing what the heck I was going to do when I arrived home so I thought a good month of walking and thinking was in order. (LOL again)
Along that walk I met many people doing the same thing but two that stick in my memory were two very funny boys I met about 400k in. One from Portugal and one from Italy, both around the same age as me at the time. They were walking with a guitar each and possibly a change of underwear and that was about it. Obviously they thought music was more important than foo, water, a sleeping bag and a change of clothing. We walked together for a few weeks, chatting and laughing and each day wherever we stopped they would crack out their guitars and play and sing. I am no music buff but I would have described it as comical. One of them wanted to know some aussie phrases and I taught them 'budgie smugglers'. They confused it and called it 'smuggling budgies'. Which I thought was HILARIOUS and made a mental note of that for a possible future business. Funny where the 'inspo' sometimes comes from.
So when I returned to Australia, fresh from 6 months of travel and broke I thought, hey, why don't I start an ethical mens board shorts label called smuggling budgies and make them out of recycled fabric?
You can probably see where this is going...
I was sewing like crazy on my grandmothers sewing machine making pair of shorts after pair of shorts and selling them at markets. I quickly realised that I would be better to get them made locally so I could grow the business.
I was nannying at the time and working on the shorts label that I was adiment would be ethcially manufactured in Melbourne. Part way through the first big batch the Melbourne workroom I had making them went bankrupt and with that went my shorts, so that was the end of that and I pretty much put it down to a lesson leaned and took it as my last sign to depart from my love of clothing design.
Now, being pretty well scared of anythig clothing related I turned my attention to my original passion for health and wellness and decided to enroll to study Integrative nutrition while nannying. A year long online course from an American institution.
I began studying intigrative nutrition in 2012 and jumped quickly and head first into wholefoods plant based cooking. Integrative nutrition had a good overview of many dietry theories and I found myself drawn to an organic plant based wholefoods aproach.
I was SO inspired again and was baking and making raw desserts and smoothies like crazy for friends and family, however,I didn't see any similar offerings available in my local area at cafes, stores and resturants.
My partner Frase, who is a clever carpenter and conscious building designer, and I had been together for 2 years or so. His suggestion, probably from seeing me whirl around the kitchen like the tasi devil making more desserts and smoothies than could be eaten, was to try his hand at building a 1950's wooden caravan from scratch and had the idea that I could then use as a food vendour. 'Like a food van' he said.
We had never seen a vintage caravan as a vendour before, so I was not sold on the idea imediatly. I am 6ft so there was no way I was gong to spend all my time crouching in a very confined space hoping that someone would come and order a smoothie! (I was also nervous no one would want the food as dairy free wholefood plant based smoothies were not the norm then and raw desserts took a LOT of explaining.)So one of the specifications was that it had to be extra tall!
To meet requirements it had to be fitted out with a complient commercial kitchen, much of which we were able to use reclaimed materials for. We built it mainly at night after work, sometimes arriving home at 3am. I was the unskilled labourer, sanding and painting were my main jobs. Poor Frase! (lol again... )
We got to work building it in late 2013 and had our first day on the vacant block in Barwon Heads in December of that year.
It took a lot of convincing to get people to try a smoothie with almond milk and a raw dessert with avocado in late 2013 in Barwon Heads but their minds where changed by the beautiful outdoor space and the taste of the yummy deserts and smoothies made entirely of organic plant based wholefoods. Each year it became more and more popular and some days we had a line down the hill. We had umbrellas hoisted and beanbags for people to lounge in and it really was, we were told, a beautiful space with delicious food to while away the summer days, post beach sesh! I have such fond memories of those days and the connections with the local community. We remain close friends with many of the local customers and loved every challenging second.
We ran that for 3 x 6 month periods over the warmer months and during the winters I supplied local cafes with the raw desserts I was making in the little caravan. Days were very long for us during the high season and extreamly physical. As well as that, being outdoors we were at the mercy of the weather. But everyones happy faces made it all worth it.
We are both totally anal when it comes to quality and experience so every single ingredient had to be 100% organic, local wherever possible with the jam packed smoothies and raw desserts hand made by us on the spot. Everything down to the music played was considered and thoughtful. All the cups and plates were compostable material and each smoothie came with a little affirmation sticker.
I look back now and remember what I pictured before we had opened it. I thought it was going to be a whole magic lifestyle for me. I thought I was going to go for a surf, maybe also do yoga, cruise to the caravan, maybe make a few people a few plant based organic smoothies and then cruise back to the beach. hahahahahah. Nope! But it was fun!
I was emailed and direct messaged constantly by customers begging me to share the recipes of their favourite smoothies and raw desserts with them so at the end of the second season I thought I would just 'write a book' ! hilarious now I know what it entails!
But I didn't want to just write the book. I wanted each and every recipe to have a picture next to it so I spoke to local photographer and friend Nikole Ramsay and asked if she would be happy to take the photos. Nik was so trusting considering my zero experience in book publishing and agreed to photograph it so we set to work. Along the way I discovered many other things about writing a book and what goes into it. Fraser's Aunt edited out my bad grammar and spelling (yes, I know, it's not perfect on this blog ~ it is in the books ~ thanks Caroline Adams!) and I enjoyed the food styling and the fun photoshoot days we did with Nik as well as the graphic design and putting together the layout. You know, it'f funny, I never thought my 3 year fashion design course would come in handy in this case and the case of the caravan. But it did. The small amount we learnt about adobe programs helped me with the book layout (as did my great mate Clare who gave me lessons) and in regards to the caravan I was able to make all the outdoor cushions, the underbench curtains, some basic logos etc and lots more.
The book and the raw desserts had taken off so much that we had to make the difficult decision to close the caravan. Fraser also needed to return to his passion, sustaibable building design and carpentry. After a year of workshops, some more study (this time, a short 6 months online in Plant-based nutrition course), working at a local organic fruit and veg shop to make ends meet and delivering my first book around I was bursting to create another book, this time bigger and slightly different. A whole-foods plant based book again but this time all year around recipes and as approachable and simple as possible with more savuory and share options. Loads of easy week night meals and a few cheeky but extreamly healthy sweet options. The recipe bible I wish I had had when I began my journey.
Since that was self published in September 2017 it has been taken on by Hardie Grant and is now available all around the world and so well loved. I could not be more proud of it. I worked with Nikole Ramsay for the photogaphy in both books so they would double as beautiful coffee table books with stunning imagery from our local region.
Soon after I self published WHOLE, my second book, I began work on opening a concious concept store. A curated selection of homewares, zero waste items, books and apparel. With slow fashion as the focus but also useful items to help you tread a little lighter. I am super proud of the online store and the attention to detail with each and every parcel we send out in recycled, compostable, natural and sustainable packaging. I also snuck in a 2 week yoga teacher training course during this time too!
The store was a nice return to my love of fashion and a less is more, quality over quantity approach. It has been another huge learning curve and with that extra element added to Natural Harry it doubled my aready hefty work load in admin and needed me to be in a few places at once.
The story continues though. The cute little physical store moved to online only. This was to allow me to return my focus to serving you by creating delicious recipes. Not just that! I also continued an ongoing project writing and refining my 3rd recipe book for you. Published by Hardie Grant in October 2021, HOME by Natural Harry!
HOME by Natural Harry is your down-to-earth guide to a resourceful, tox-free and waste-free home life. My 3rd recipe book with stunning photography by my friend Nikole Ramsay
In the mean time, I hope you have enjoyed my timeline story and it hasn't made you dizzy! It is 15 years very abreviated! haha. A zig-zag journey with no destination... I hope you love the next installments!
I was reminded of a winning quote by my friend Maddie yesterday, and upon reflection, I think it rings pretty true in this little story. It is c/o Steve Jobs and it goes:
'You can't connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.'
Thank you for reading! Much love! Harry xx