25 hours a week in the office, 10 hours a week producing superfoods and additional time spent completing a PHD whilst also raising a toddler – Charisse Baker is unleashing her talent @BOXPARK in Shoreditch as the up and coming wellbeing Founder of the East London Juice Co. Baker shares with us her contrasting life before London, her Kickstarter campaign, initial supper club events and reveals dreams of selling from treehouses. With a rare honesty about her own relationship with food, Baker reveals a strong, no-nonsense approach to why the East London Juice Co. avoids diets ‘like the plague of faux-faddish health-hocum that they are…’
Getting to Know Charisse
Charisse, tell us what you were doing before the East London Juice Company…
Before being in the UK, starting a family and setting up the East London Juice Co. I lived on my own in the wilderness on a converted ranger station by a Canadian lake, painting and foraging, working in a nightclub (as you do!) But while much has changed in the way I spend my days, from the lake to the city, my vision and intention has always remained the same: An artist working toward a connective practice of inner and outer well-being. So in many ways, East London Juice Co. is very much in-line with that same journey.
How did your idea for a Cold Press juice shop come about?
When I was studying Permaculture in Peru, I dreamt up a self-sustaining business around food and wellness. That was the seed that grew. Now, we are an evolving business that facilitates mindfulness in how we approach plants and food within our culture. I think when we breathe life into any creative project, support it and nourish it, it can evolve and grow in a very natural way. So the juice thing has been less of a lightbulb moment and more of an evolution. I was very familiar with making juice, passionate about it and wanted to share it. In a way, it didn’t make sense not to set up a juice business.
What prompted you to engage with a healthier diet when there are so many alternatives?
My personal relationship with food health has been a very contradictory. I have always been aware of what I was putting into my body, but my relationship was not always balanced or healthy. I’ve experienced food as a fuel during competitive martial arts training, to food as unnecessary during an extended period of bulimia as a young girl. We all have our stories around what we eat, and mine today is more about approach. I am a ‘clean eater’ but with a terrific balance. I am vegetarian and gluten free but very open minded when it comes to individuals needs. I deeply respect slow food but you’ll also often find me at HQ on a Friday night with friends spiking our cold-pressed juice with a shot of booze.
What is really so unique about cold-pressed juice as part of a clean lifestyle?
Although we like to think of ourselves as ‘organic raw cold pressed glass bottled alchemists’ (Ha!), juicing is only 5% of East London Juice Co. I would say the message is, whether it comes from the blender or right out of the ground, ask the “What”, “How” and “Why” when it comes to the provenance of our food and our approach to consumption. Lately we’ve been adding the “Where” to the discussion, which has led us to curating a few wonderful happenings and supper clubs, where we are very mindful to the space that we occupy and eat in.
Was it important for you to achieve a soothing environment?
Great to hear to you use ‘soothing’! The @BOXPARK is directly outside of Shoreditch tube station so it’s a very hectic place to be, but we’ve made it our own. Natural light seems amplified with white walls and invites the busy city mind to feel more at rest. Our local carpenter really responded with care in terms of the reclaimed materials in the in-store design, and I think you can feel that energy. Although I’d love the shop to be up a tree, in a tree house. I think that’d be a good little rest stop for people.
Juice cleanses have faced some criticisms for being fads. What’s your view on this?
Excellent question! We do not and will not ever offer juice only diets. When we were in the research and development phase of the business, one of my friends with expertise in marketing began to research the juice industry, and I was really disturbed by what he showed me. Most juice companies have taken something really good and made a cleanse into something less than ideal. I strongly oppose some of the online advertising that’s out there; encouraging new breastfeeding mums to just drink juice for 5 days, teenage girls to drop a dress size and fuelling many insecurities, even to the point of villainizing solid food and fat. As such, we have decided to avoid juice only diets like the plague of faux-faddish health-hocum that they are.
A cleanse could possibly be done for in the right way for the right person using the right tools, but I’ve rarely seen that happen. We get a lot of young girls coming in requesting juices to cleanse, detox and lose weight, which actually makes me so angry. We simply believe in PAD (Pay Attention Diet). Pay attention to how you feel! What does your body really want? It’s a long journey to learn to listen to oneself more, but let’s start moving in that direction.
How did you raise the money to achieve your spot at Shoreditch’s @BOXPARK?
We’re still very much at the start of our journey here at the @BOXPARK. It’s been a steep, but enjoyable learning curve. Initial funding came from my savings and a small Kickstarter Campaign (thank you again to everyone!) and @BOXPARK was the ideal place for us to start as it gave us a great location and an opportunity to experiment with the business. The biggest challenges in all of this for me have been around finance and time, however, it’s such a fantastic project to live and breathe.
Rebel Wrap Up
What is your favourite thing about being an entrepreneur?
I guess for me it’s the sense of community that comes from working with a group of likeminded people and meeting new people all the time that want to be a part of it. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve just started to hold supper clubs for small groups of about 15 guests. It’s a multilevel nourishment experience in the middle of a crazy city. Each time it’s a different theme, a totally different experience. We start by leading participants through a meditative practice that activates the rest and digest response within the nervous system. We encourage everyone to listen closer to what the body actually needs from food beyond cravings, which, most of the time, is just the mind playing tricks on you. Then, when it’s time for a beautiful meal, participants feel relaxed as they eat slower, seem more rooted in their body, and connect with each other in such a different way.
What should we be ordering from the East London Juice Co?
You’re asking me to pick a favourite child of ours?! That’s impossible, so I’ll pick the newest born. We’ve just started offering a hot vegan broth for winter, new to the menu. It’s got over a hundred different ingredients including 6 different seaweeds, wild pine pollen and synergistic adaptogens focusing on supporting the immune system. Although there’s a lot of exotic and unusual ingredients, the excitement is making it fresh. Something like this, that is made with such care, feels amazing to have people enjoy.
What is next for the East London Juice Co.?
More small batch fantastic-ness! We’re finally launching a website in the New Year and offering delivery throughout London. So we’ll be blowing our seeds across town in 2016. We’re also currently looking for a great general manager with a left brain approach, so if there’s one out there reading this, then please get in touch!