Sam and Stuart, welcome to the Flave Hub! The two of you are kicking off our first post on the Hub. Let’s get crackin’ - how and when did the idea for Flave come about?
Sam: so, there are two parts to this story… When we were in Costa Rica on our honeymoon in 2016, I became really ill and was airlifted to the hospital where my heart started experiencing complications. I learnt I had an antibacterial infection and I spent seven days in the hospital. The doctor said the best way to repair my gut and my natural flora was to go vegan for at least a month.
When we started eating this way and feeling great for it, we then started researching a lot about agriculture and that set off a chain reaction. From there we started watching countless documentaries and learning, for the first time, the impact on our planet by the way in which we source our food.
As we continued our honeymoon, we really struggled to find wholesome meals that were plant-based which weren’t just side dishes or tapas - that realisation was something that really struck a chord with me.
Stuart: although we wanted to lead a predominantly plant-based lifestyle while on our trip and when we got home, it seemed really inconvenient and, so, that’s been the big thing with Flave; we want to make it convenient with no sacrifice on flavour, price or fulfilment. That remains a big part of our ‘why’ behind all of this.
Sam: so the second half of the story is that there’s another Flave co-founder, Yan who had been thinking of doing something in the plant-based space - he was introduced to us with this dream but wasn’t sure how to execute it.
Stuart’s worked in another successful food franchise business so Yan tapped Stuart on the shoulder and said, “So I hear you’re the guy to make this happen?”.
That was the moment for us when we realised if someone believes in us enough, then we won’t let them down.
What has been the process so far for building Flave?
Stuart: as a business that hadn’t been done before, we first sat down and thought about what it was that we wanted to achieve.
We came up with the idea to do burgers and bowls and the reason behind that is that in the eastern world or South America, they love their bowls but then in the west, they love their burgers. It’s an appealing menu option to suit anywhere and anyone!
We then came up with the name after figuring out what it was that we wanted to stand for: to be a flavourful business. And that’s how the name ‘Flave’ was created.
Then we found Scotty which was a very serendipitous meeting. We had an idea of what we wanted the menu to be like but we wanted a chef who understood our vision and, particularly, we were after a chef who wasn’t vegan themselves but had lots of experience cooking vegan food.
From there we did a lot of marketing and branding workshopping to decide on Flave’s look and feel and to decide on our values and mission before using mine, Sam’s and Yan’s network; people who believed in what we wanted to achieve, in order to help us lift Flave off the ground.
When did you decide to start living a plant-based lifestyle? What drives you to continue eating in a sustainable way?
Sam: I think it really has to do with travel. When you travel and you see the beauty in this world, you’re also met with devastation. Through travel, you become a little more worldly and you realise that many of us live in our own little bubble.
Stuart: travel and education really opened our eyes to the impact that every single person can have in a good way or a negative way through what they put in their mouth.
Sam: I think if everyone just made incremental changes in the way they eat - it may feel so small to them but, together, the impact is huge.
Stuart and I say we eat a flexitarian diet where we’re 80-90 per cent vegan. I’m seeing this movement happening of people questioning how vegan someone is but I think we need to focus on being kinder to each other when everyone’s trying. People could be doing incremental changes or a Meatless Monday but, overall, they’re actively trying to reduce their meat intake. We want to empower and motivate people, not make them feel guilty.
What was challenging and easy about the transition to a plant-based diet?
Sam: so, we don’t cook much which was a big incentive for starting Flave; we always want something easy and convenient. Flave really fit our needs of what we wanted and makes eating this way so easy and incredibly satisfying.
But the challenging part for me was social pressure. Early on I would be out for dinner with friends and I’m the type of person who will try and please others and I don’t want to be an inconvenience asking if the table could get a few plant-based dishes if we’re sharing. But now I’m so comfortable suggesting to have plant-based sides and people are great about it and they know what I stand for. I’ve noticed if you’re just more vocal without preaching then people are genuinely more than happy to accommodate.
Stuart: from a challenging standpoint, not too long ago it seemed it wasn’t ‘cool’ or ‘muscular’ for men to eat plant-based. But then the Game Changers documentary came out and my mates realised I was onto something.
When you try a plant-based diet you start to understand and feel how your body reacts to that food - and that’s not just with plant-based foods. Eating plant-based was the first time I realised how my choice of diet impacted how I felt and how eating a big meat meal made me feel lethargic.
Sam: until you experiment with your diet you don’t realise how good you can feel. We’ve all got comfortable with being uncomfortable.
What advice would you give to people beginning their plant-based journey or easing themselves into the lifestyle?
Stuart: it’s like going to the gym to get fitter. If I said that you have to go to the gym every day for the rest of your life, you’re likely going to fail. But if I said that every day, I want you to get up and try to get to the gym, incrementally you’ll increase the number of times you go.
So if I said to a meat-eater that you can’t eat meat for the rest of your life, they’ll likely fail. But if I asked, ‘Could you go without meat for your next meal?’ it’s a lot easier of a choice.
I ask myself before every meal, ‘Can I go without meat this meal?’ then 80 per cent of the time, I’ll make the choice to not have it.
Tell us about your careers to far; where have you been and what have you done?
Sam: I’ve come from a Not for Profit background, mostly across remote Australia. Something I’ve always stood is to ‘never see a need without doing something about it’.
After a while, I felt I needed a break from the Not for Profit sector but still wanted to know that I was working towards something for the good of people and environment and so, in creating something like Flave, even though it’s a business I would consider it be somewhat of a social enterprise.
Flave inspired change and good habits and so I feel like we’re changing the world through food - we’re having an impact as a business. If we can develop businesses that have social change we’re going to start solving problems.
Start: I’ve done a few things in my career, one is helping to launch the Mexican franchise, Zambrero. But a business I’m really proud to be a part of is For Purpose Co. which is a food waste charity connected with OzHarvest. I’m part of a team who works to make profits to fund OzHarvest by implementing different food waste programs and technologies.
We have Juice for Good vending machines where oranges which will otherwise go to waste are put into vending machines for people to purchase fresh orange juice from with profits funding OzHarvest.
We also have a food waste computer program that catering companies use to reduce their food waste and we get this program into big catering companies like stadiums. Both Sam and I are really proud to be working with a company that’s doing great things like this.
What your vision and goals for Flave?
Sam: I think if we had of answered this question six months ago it would have been a very different answer and I think that shows how much our team and we have had to pivot and how nimble we still need to be.
Stuart: in the next 12 months we’ll be focusing on the ready-made meals and meal subscriptions until the world reopens. We’re looking at how we can get Flave to as many people as possible and so in the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing Flave further up and down the east coast. Exciting times ahead!
With such a diverse menu it’s hard for us to pick our faves so for the owners of Flave we’re sure it’s even harder. But if you absolutely had to choose, what would be your go-to?
Sam: I absolutely love the moussaka and I really really like the mushroom stroganoff.
Stuart: oooh I really like them all. I still love the Bombay and the burritos - both the Mexican and Greek.
Sam: Start’s favourite meal is a burrito so he’s so happy that we have burritos on the menu at Flave.
Stuart: I’ve never found another cafe that does tofu scramble like Scotty can do it with the burritos. We wanted to have the Flave menu designed so that it doesn’t feel like you’re missing anything from your life - scrambled eggs or otherwise. Some of the coolest feedback we’ve had is someone saying “I didn’t think I could go vegan until I tried Flave.”
Running a business is no doubt full-on with a never-ending to-do list - give us a rundown of a day in the life of a business owner.
Sam: we have what we call our ‘AM Ritual’ which starts by getting up at 5 am, we have a warm drink - usually apple cider vinegar, then we meditate, journal and head to the gym.
Then we’ll get ready for the day and I’ll always try to get in an hour of personal development before any other work.
Stuart: and while Sam’s doing that I do what’s called ‘Eat the Frog’ where I do the things on my list that I really don’t want to do, but once I get them out of the way it sets me up so much better for the day ahead.
At 9 am we have a virtual team meeting and then the rest of the day is broken up into meetings or deep work.
Sam: then we have an end of day shutdown where we clear out our inboxes and populate tomorrow’s to-do list and priorities because when you don’t have a plan, that’s when the chaos starts - for me, anyway!
Stuart: then it’s dinner - always Flave, of course, and then more work and to bed to do it all over again.
Now, we know entrepreneurs never truly switch off, but when you’re not in the office what can we find the two of you doing?
Sam: to relax and stay fit I do an ariel yoga and dancing, although while everything was shutdown with COVID-19 I was running to clear my head.
Stuart: but when we’re relaxing on the weekends, we’re usually with friends at restaurants. We’re not very materialistic so a lot of the things we do are for the experience and fulfilment.
Ok, lastly, let’s dish the dirt - what’s it like working with your other half?
Stuart: I think we both thoroughly enjoy it 90 per cent of the time and the 10 per cent is because Sam’s right about something - she’s more thorough than I am.
Sam: early on in our relationship, we did a couples psychology test through our friend to learn what each of our strengths and weaknesses and, from that, we’re been able to cover each other’s blind spots well. So I’m a planner whereas Stuart’s spontaneous and we can play to that in our work for the best result.