During the last year or so I’ve been traveling in 21 countries and drinking our Instant Beverages in the company of hundreds and again hundreds of people. When people ask me what are those funny looking sachets, it almost always causes chuckles and giggles when my answer is that I’m drinking mushrooms. It’s even more powerful way to make people smile than me wearing FiveFingers shoes about 4 years ago in rural Asia, which I can also guarantee caused quite the belly laugh among the locals :)
Ever since the launch of our Instants I’ve been interviewed in several medias (radio, magazines, and latest on Kate Magic’s health food community), I’ve written guest blog posts, and given public speeches about mushrooms. The common story is pretty much the same everywhere; most people still think that the word “mushroom” is equal to few culinary mushrooms (e.g. the button mushroom) or some random hallucinogenic mushrooms (ironically they can’t name any). It’s also very common that people come to me and say things like “isn’t all mushrooms in the world carcinogenic” or that “all mushrooms cause fungal diseases”. To me this is like saying all animals are bad because horses kill 20 people each year (true story!) or that all plants are bad because hops (hence also all beer) have estrogenic effects that lead to feminization of the male body. It’s a massive generalization.
Despite all of this ranting, I’ve never written about how amazing mushrooms/fungi are to this blog. So here are 7 interesting aspects about mushrooms that I’ve collected for you to showcase why our level of appreciation towards fungi is so high.
1. Mushrooms are surprisingly close to humans
Mushrooms and mammals separated from each others around 460 million years ago, but we still share 30% or more of the same genes, making us far more closer to mushrooms than to bacteria or plants. Just like us humans, mushrooms use oxygen and expel CO2. The bad news is that because of this DNA similarity, the same pathogens that hit fungi usually affect us like is the case of mycoses like candida (by the way plant’s pathogenic fungi are also responsible for 70% of all known plant diseases). The good news is that the same defense mechanisms of fungi can also help us when we consume them hence the whole genre of medicinal mushrooms.
2. Mushrooms are some of the oldest organisms alive
The largest living organism on the Planet Earth is a fungus discovered only a little over 10 years ago in Eastern Oregon’s conifer forest. This Armillaria solidipes fungi (formerly known as Prince…I mean Armillaria ostoyae) cover the size of about 20,000 basketball courts (8.4 km²) and weighs more than the great Blue Whale. It also could be the oldest living organism on Earth with an estimated age of 2400 years. Fungi in general are not as old as bacteria (which are about 3.5 billion years old) but with roughly 460 to 455 million years of existence support the thesis that that fungi may have played an essential role in the colonization of land by the first plants (which are approximately 425 million years old).
Photo credit: Alan Rockefeller (Armillaria ostoyae)
3. Mushrooms are an own kingdom
In biology fungi are classified as an own kingdom along with 4-5 others kingdoms such Animalia, Plantae, Chromista, Protozoa, and Bacteria. So being on the same “level” as plants is already in indicator that fungi play a massive role in biology. British mycologist Dr. David L. Hawksworth from the International Mycological Association has made a conservative estimate that there are at least 1.5 million species of fungi on earth (using a hypothesis that there are 6x the amount of fungi to every plant). This kingdom is still vastly unknown to us humans. Depending on the source we have discovered only 99,000 species of fungi, and new species are found at the rate of 1200 per year. With this pace it will take more than 1100 years to catalog and describe all remaining fungi. Sadly, many of these fungi are very likely to become extinct before they are ever discovered.
4. Mushroom are a basis of many drugs
Currently we have identified that roughly 300-400 species of fungi have medicinal properties. According to experts at least 40% of our drugs utilize directly or indirectly mushrooms. Herbalist Robert Rogers estimates that a total of 126 medicinal functions are thought to be produced by medicinal mushrooms. Judging by these figures it is not surprising to hear that during the last decade there has been over 100,000 studies on medicinal mushrooms in Asia alone. The most famous “mushroom drug” is mold fungus based penicillin. After 1928, when Dr. Alexander Fleming “found” it, it has said to save tens of millions of people (some say even over 200 million lives but who really knows for sure?). Another major mushroom drug innovation started 25 years ago when the Japanese researcher Tetsuro Fujita came up with the idea to use Ophiocordyceps sinensis against multiple sclerosis, a very common and “incurable” autoimmune disease. Based on Fujita’s studies Swiss drug company Novartis launched Gilenya. It’s a MS disease drug made from Myriocin originally derived from Isaria sinclairii, the anamorph of Cordyceps sinclairii. The Myriocin is synthesized for drug production as usual. It is said that this drug will generate up to US$5 billion a year in global sales making it soon the TOP 10 best selling drug of all time. The cost of treatment with Gilenya is $3000 per month. FSF sells Instant Cordyceps, that is made from natural cordyceps and even if used daily would not cost more than $500 a year. Just saying.
Photo: Ophiocordyceps sinensis
5. Mushrooms are a serious food business
Estimates made in 2004 already suspected that the global mushroom business is a whopping US$40 billion, which is almost the size of the global coffee business. Only 25 years ago this same production was 150x smaller. Globally there are at least 2000 varieties of edible mushrooms, and this production is clearly led by China. According to the Chinese Association of Edible Fungi, they produce 8 million tons each year, which is about 70% of the global production. Most of the production stays in China, which is the world’s largest mushroom market and a country where many meat eaters are substituting their old habits with ‘shrooms. The actual mushroom export from China is less than 5% of its total domestic production. With these numbers it’s not also striking to hear that 35 million Chinese work in the mushroom industry. Tibet is the only country that has more fungal income per capita in the world over China. Rare mushrooms like Ophiocordyceps sinensis (which I sell now through FSF) and Tricholoma matsutake (which I started my mushroom business in the dim and distant) can both cost several thousands of dollars per kilo. On the other extreme, fungi can also be used to make very economical meals. For example UK based brand of meat imitating controversial mycoprotein called Quorn is one of them. In the 1950′s people thought that by the 1980’s there would be a massive world hunger so for the upcoming protein shortage scientist invented this protein product made from a mold fungus (Fusarium venenatum). Now this cheap meat replacement is sold in 11 countries with annual sales of over US$ 140 million. In the UK alone people eat an unbelievable 500,000 Quorn based meals everyday.
Photo credit: Jan Ainala (Quorn fillets – fried, defrosted and frozen)
6. Mushrooms are faster, stronger, larger…
If organism would have Olympic games, mushrooms would score more medals than China. In high jump even Javier Sotomayor at his best couldn’t compete with fungus that ejects its spores with more than 20,000 G’s of force! Even top trained humans can barely stand 12 G’s of force before passing out. At bodybuilding Ronnie Coleman would look like a Kenyan marathon runner next to the prehistoric reproductive fungal structures that were eight meters high and one meter wide. As a comparison plants at that time were at best equally high as the mushrooms were wide. And finally in the sport of ultra masculinity, Rocco Siffredi & Co. have to stand in awe to Calvatia gigantea that can produce 20 trillion spores in its lifetime. If each spore would grow into another full maturity mushroom, those 20 trillion puffballs would equal a mass of 3x greater than the Sun.
Photo credit: Hans Hillewaert (Calvatia gigantea)
7. Mushrooms can save the world in many ways
Fungi are known as extremophiles, which basically means they can live everywhere from the Sahara Deserts to the Arctic. Besides being able to break down oil – which is impressive by itself – fungi can also break down extremely toxic chemical weapons of mass destruction and nerve agents like Soman, Sarin, and VX. With melanin pigments fungi can feed itself purely on ionizing radiation and maybe because of this fact there has been fungi sightings in both spacecrafts as well as nuclear waste zones (e.g. at the reactor core of Chernobyl). Fungi are also used to remove pollutants in the field of bioremediation. They also help plants in thriving. Over 95% of all plantae have mushroom partners (mycorrhizal and endophytic symbionts), which help the plant to gather water, minerals, and other nutrients about 1,000x better than it could get on its own. This is just a preview to all the possibilities that fungi include. World’s leading mushroom expert Paul Stamets shares his 6 ways in this video.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying that mushrooms are better than plants or animals, but along bacteria they have definitely suffered from biological racism (i.e. mycophobia) and have not gotten enough appreciation. We at FSF truly believe that no matter what diet do you prefer (Paleo, 80/10/10, gluten-free, half-day fasting, Zone, Hollywood, bear diet, Master Cleanse, DASH….), you will get more bang for your buck by introducing a few top mushrooms (and some good bacteria) to your diet compared to endlessly fine tuning of your macronutrient ratio or fighting with others on how much animal-based products a human is naturally designed to eat. Peace!
Little over a year ago Jesse Väänänen was still an Olympic-level cross-country skier. After several years of small and large health issues that severely had affected his career, I was able to convince him to participate in the FSF Challenge where he sampled our first instant beverages for 30 days. He liked the stuff and the rest is history. Today we’re happy to announce that the same guy has started as a FSF Brand Manager. We couldn’t be more thrilled to have him onboard. I say this because most people know this 197cm giant as a talented athlete, but underneath you’ll find a man with various talents and an interesting story. Please enter Jesse Väänänen.
Can you first tell a bit about your background and why did you get into sprint skiing? I know your dad might have influenced your decision. “Well I started skiing when I was only 6 years old and from very young age I told people that I want to be the Olympic champion. I lived less than a kilometer away from all the possible sport venues but I chose to XC-ski my days through. I tried some other sports as well but the quiet forest and several hours alone in pain turned out to be my thing. Those who have seen me playing soccer or anything else with a ball or more than 5 guys around me (there’s six guys in one sprint heat ;) ) know how much I suck at that. No kidding. I literally suck. And like you said, my father might have had his little finger in the game also. He used to be an international level skier back in the 80′s and naturally wanted me to follow his steps into this amazing sport.” Photo: Jukka Veltheim
To those who don’t follow winter sports or who have never seen snow, can you elaborate a bit more what did you do for living and what were your accomplishments? “My dream was always to make my living on the skiing tracks and I was lucky enough to live that dream for some years. In Finland it’s rather difficult to make your living as an individual athlete, and I feel very fortunate to have achieved that. I never took the Olympic medal that I dreamed about but I fought for it in Vancouver 2010. I was in the best shape of my life and I had just been 4th in the World Cup race before the Olympics. During the last couple weeks I simply tried too much, lost the sharpest edge and ended up being 22nd. But when I think back to those thousands of hours of training for one piece of metal, I believe this is how it was meant to be. In the end I got what matters the most – amazing and unique experiences.” So, 22 years of XC-skiing ended last spring. What did it give to you as a human being and what was the “end-product” of it all? “At first I consciously took some time apart from sports and started to look around. After all 22 years is a long time. Sports career taught me self-discipline, devotion, self-knowledge and love for the pain among other things. But most of all it taught me that I want to do something meaningful in the future as well. Nine to five is not an option!”
After all the health problems you encountered during your career, what does nutrition mean to you? Also, why did you ever get excited about such marketing hocus pocus as superfoods? I mean, when we met in 2008 you were flawless in recognizing different coke brands from each others in a blindfold test… ;) “Haha. Not guilty. Okay, to be honest, I was one of those athletes who think they can eat anything because they train so much. WRONG. And that is the only thing that I regret a bit about my career. I hope I would have been more aware of the better options and most of all open to try them. When I finally opened my mind and faced the facts, I was overwhelmed about the new reality. My lungs felt different, my muscles were more elastic, I had more energy and most importantly I stayed healthy. I would say the first and hardest step is to change your attitude and beliefs. The rest comes naturally. And what comes to superfoods, as an athlete I always wanted and had to push the limits. Mediocre was never an option. So why to settle for mediocre food when there’s super-quality food available?!”
What are your favorite foods today? Maybe you can list a few favorite dishes and a few superfoods you love. I know you are quite a chef as well. “Well ice cream is ice cream. There’s no arguing with that. I’m bit of a sweet tooth and with raw chocolate it was love at first sight. These two are on their own league but I also love fresh salad with avocado, cashews and quality salt. I eat daily maybe five to ten different superfoods and surprise raw cacao is my favorite. With spirulina and chlorella I have kind of a love-hate relationship. I still don’t quite get along with their taste but I just love the effects!” You recently decided to join our team over several other lucrative job offers that frankly would have probably made you a lot more money. What was the road from FSF testimonial to FSF brand manager? Why are we having this interview right now? “Have you ever heard yourself talking? You can be very convincing ;) Just kidding. Yes, I had some other possibilities and I actually did plenty of things during the last year. But as I’ve known you guys for quite some time and have seen the passion in your work, there was actually only one choice. I’m more than thrilled to be part of this team and I’m dead certain that we’ll do something special together.”
You talk so passionately about helping others and about charity aspect. Can you talk a bit more about that as well? “To be honest my life as an individual athlete was basically to take forward my own interests. That’s what sports eventually are all about. When I had the chance to participate in FSF Charity, I didn’t hesitate a second. I wanted to do something that was never possible when I was XC-skiing. I had travelled to 25+ countries of wealth and prosperity but never been to Asia or “the real world”. This may sound like a cliche but when I saw the kids from Smokey Mountains, it literally made a huge difference to my life. Like I said before, I want to do something meaningful and something with a higher purpose.” Skydiving, photographing, playing classical guitar, making hole-in-ones in golf, painting, practicing imitations, what else…you have the most random list of hobbies. You come across as a fast learner who is always on the lookout for new stuff to try out. Have you always been a curious soul? “Look around! How could one not to try everything possible? Like I said before, I’ve got some serious issues with mediocre. I’ve always been very curious to try different things. Some have gone well, some haven’t. I’ve broken several bones (incl. three vertebrae) and spend multiple days in different hospitals. My lifetime goal has been to jump a base jump but Mr. Pastrana has set the new bar. What the heck, we only live once!”
Lari Laurikkala is a man of many roles in our Team Four Sigma Foods. He’s an Affiliate Manager, the official FSF Chef, and the main coach to retailers about our products. You can spot him in the trade shows we attend or just randomly walking on the streets somewhere in the world. So who is this yet another crazy Finnish guy who could hold the title for the world’s slowest eater, has a worm compost in his kitchen, and who about fifth of the Finland’s population has seen in the TV five times a week for years? Time for the next FSF Profile…
Thinking globally and (literally) acting locally
We two got together in Hong Kong a few months back and you continued your travels
from there. How are you doing now?
I just got back home after 5 months of traveling on ﬁve continents. It still takes a little time getting the daily life up and running while the temperature change from Florida to Helsinki was a nice 40´C also. I’m all good though, enjoying the snow and all the winter activities we can do up here from xc-skiing to ice hole dipping and snowball fighting! First things ﬁrst so it is nice to answer this interview and maybe spread some inspiration to all the FSF followers out there!
This wasn’t your first time abroad! What are some memorable moments from the times on the road?
I have always enjoyed exploring new destinations and meeting people. I have made it to 50 different countries now and every new one still keeps amazing me with their uniqueness and great people. You cannot really pick one memory over everything else but some good stories would come from the time spent on a bee farm in Russia or doing a jump off a bridge at 600ft in South-Africa. This time I’m so thankful for all the help I got from my friends out there and also through Couchsurfing. If you are not yet familiar with Couchsurfing I really encourage everybody to give it a try! What other way can you visit about 50 places on the smallest budget and stay only in a handful of hostels while having a blast meeting awesome local people?
Do you also have some previous experiences about cultural collisions?
When I had just turned 16 I found myself living in the States for a year by myself where supposedly everything is bigger. Well I ended up in a village in Michigan with less than 1000 people. 15 minutes drive away from the “city center”, on a farm with few hundred cows. I have always been unprejudiced but at that time this cityboy had a few things to get used to :) After coming back home I stayed in the exchange student organization as a volunteer and organized tens of workshops and met hundreds of foreigners from all backgrounds. I have a lot to thank these experiences for my open-mindedness.
So then you landed a role in the most popular TV show of Finland (Salatut Elämät) became a teenage heartcrusher, and got more than your share of the 15-minutes of fame. How did that all happen? It seems quite the change.
It was all coincidence and I guess just meant to happen like everything in life. I had no real experience of acting but wanted to try it out so I got through the auditions and was chosen for the role from quite a bunch of people. Naturally gifted, you know :) The soap opera has been cited as the world’s most watched TV show when compared to the population where it is aired and even though I quit two years ago, still sometimes people pull out their cameras on the streets. So it has it’s ups and downs but the work itself was a lot of fun for few years!
Finding the passion towards food and nutrition
How did you get into studying all this nutrition and made your full time goal to find peak performance and health?
Through chocolate, of course :) Actually I had read about coconut oil in some ladies fashion magazine while getting a haircut and went to buy it but the real benefits of it didn’t hit me until a workmate told me about making your own healthy chocolate. I went straight to internet and found all these informative blogs (especially Olli Posti’s) and started ordering new weird ingredients for my cooking. The rest is history :) Clean foods clear your mind and that might just change your life. When I found my first own chaga and started boiling it there was no going back.
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”
-Clay P Bedford (Kaiser Industries)
What do you think are some easy ways to start living healthier and more consciously?
The most important thing I would like to see is people becoming more involved with their decisions in life and start taking responsibility of their own well-being. It doesn’t need to be rocket science, just finding a good balance and believing in nature a little will take a person many levels up. The means for being healthy and happy are hard-wired into us. Be open to everything, try new things and find your ways to keep a positive mindset. The world and life is after all nothing but a big playground so why not enjoy it!
I understood you are are big time into gathering wild foods and spending long days in the garden growing your own food, why all this effort?
Because I love it. You would think it drains your energy to shovel dirt for 8 hours or hike on a swamp all day but in my experience it just gives you more energy. When you do anything from a child-like curiosity and with full drive, your body, mind and spirit gets the best possible nutrition and growth.
The other reason goes back to the poor quality of our daily food nowadays. In the last 100 years the mineral density in farm grown vegetables and fruits have gone down 20-80%. You would need to eat ﬁve carrots to get the same nutrients than our grand-grandparents used to get in one. I think it is a waste. We all can easily vote against this N-P-K-raping of the soils with our wallets by buying organic and in general knowing a little more of where our food comes from. Almost as easily we can plant a few herbs on our yard or windowsill or pick a few nettles during our morning walk.
Third reason is the dependance most people live in today. There are only few days worth of food in the grocery stores and not much more in a normal person’s kitchen. I like at least the idea that I have few things put aside and that I know some basic skills to survive for a while in an extreme situation.
Slow cooking, slow eating, and food experimentation
Now the apparent big snow cover prevents you from both growing and harvesting any of your food. What are your strategies for overcoming this in the winter and do you already have a plan for the spring?
Can’t wait to tap the first maple again in march-april to do a little spring fasting, get boiling my own chaga-maple-syrup and start filling up the cellar with sap-herb-honey-meads. Of course the first goutweeds and nettle shoots are the most delicious things out there. Until that I fulfill my green thumb with sprouting and taking care of baby kefirs and kombuchas, preparing sauerkraut and nut cheeses and starting seedlings of everything I will be growing in the summer. A little container in my kitchen corner converts all the cooking scraps to a great growing medium thanks to the composting worms.
How does your daily cooking look like? For example what you got cooking right now, our official FSF chef au le experiment?
I don’t want to shock you – well actually I do – but right now I got a nice leftover stew coming in the slow cooker with organic pork kidneys, tongue and heart, wild Finnish mushrooms and lots of spices. This kind of food gives me a nice warming bulk-base during these cold months in addition to my pretty regular egg breakfast. But how gross is it to eat all these weird animal parts and intestines or even meat at all? After trying almost every kind of extreme diet I feel that my body and mind functions the best with good balance of heavier and lighter foods while keeping a steady blood sugar. Quality meats prepared well and with love are comforting and empowering at the same time. And I think it is more ethical to use consciously these less valued parts of animals instead of wasting them. I like to always have a bigger batch of good organic cuts or game meat in my freezer. Again to be a little more self-sufficient.
To balance that I have a daily smoothie and/or a green juice included in my diet with all the berries, seeds, seaweeds and other superfoods. In general I aim for at least 50-70% raw in everything. After all that a smoothie a day keeps the doctor away!
I remember you having most of your wrap still nicely in your hand after I had downed mine in an organic restaurant Mana! in HK. You must spend about half of your life just chewing on your food! Are you always that slow? :)
Haha, I have had some funny and sometimes even a little embarrassing moments like that. People have finished their food a long time ago and it might seem that my plate is still about untouched. I just like to enjoy my food. You can make it almost like a meditation every time you sit down with something to nourish your body with. I’ve got a habit to savour every bite and chew it up pretty well to ease my digestion as well.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work
You seem to always have your to-do list full of stuff so you must like being active.
Despite being this potential snob as a golf player (Tero’s note: Lari has played golf for 13 years), an actor and being grown in a city I have never been afraid of getting my hands dirty. I have actually always loved it and I could be classified as a legendary thinks-to-know-it-all DIY man. If I get an idea of building something or run across a problem I often jump right into it and don’t give up until it is fixed or ready. Sometimes even things that are working properly as is need to be tweaked a bit, just because. In Finnish we call this “hiﬁstely” which means as the name indicates making everything a little more “high-ﬁdelity”, not settling with just average. There is always a way to adjust things a little further, whether it’s your habits, ingredients in cooking, quality and materials of your clothes or trying something like adding strong magnets to your blender jug.
“The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences”
-John Krakauer (Into the Wild)
Now Lari is really enthusiastically spreading the word of mushrooms and holding some cooking classes in the spring with some occasional traveling. You can meet him at our trade shows and events around Europe. For settling down a little later he has some good sounding plans. Where might we find you after some years from now?
Living off the fat of the land somewhere. Hopefully not just a loner in the woods but I bet there will be a way to organize a nice combination of that and an active social life. Let’s leave it to the universe to choose where, how and when that will be. But I know someday it will happen. That’s what matters.
Recently few unnamed governments were not so pleased with our Instant Beverage product names. Apparently saying things like “Performance” or “Immunity” is wrong. It’s impossible to get them from food. If you say else, you will break the law and maybe get prosecuted.
The wording changes a bit by country, but here’s the basic law jargon regarding mentioning health benefits of any kind of ingredient:
“A food or beverage product packaging, brochure, advertisement, or any kind of marketing is not allowed to mention that food could in any way prevent, treat, or cure diseases of any kind unless said otherwise.”
Really!? Is that correct? No food can help to prevent illnesses or treat them? So for example obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis are not linked with nutrition and that choosing certain products will not help? Geez, I thought differently. And to my knowledge so did the father of Western medicine.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
For your information, we used terms like “maybe” and “might” linked with our health benefit list (e.g. “..may help your body to fight against pathogens”). We also said that for example “In traditional Chinese medicine Cordyceps has been used to…” and so forth. We didn’t promise that it will work for everybody, but we did believe that consumers are intelligent enough to make their own choice. According to some governmental bodies we were slightly wrong. For example chaga doesn’t give immunity even if there’s over 1.600 scientific studies on it, and another several hundreds on the polysaccharides it contains. And clearly Cordyceps doesn’t give any kind of performance and thus you can’t say that. What you can do is synthetically create an artificial version of the same food, patent it, market it as the first cure for multiple sclerosis (MS disease), and you have a drug, which is said to become the TOP 10 best-selling drug of all time! You just need contacts and enough money to get the sales rights. I’m talking here of course about a drug called Gilenya made by the Swiss drug company Novartis.
So the empire has striked back! But like in all good sagas, the story doesn’t end there. We will change all our Instant Beverage names to be compliant with the law:
Instant Longevity is now Instant Reishi
Instant Performance is now Instant Cordyceps
Instant Immunity is now Instant Chaga
Instant Brain Power is now Instant Lion’s Mane
The changes will occur as soon as possible. We will also change all our packaging, which is a-okey as we were about to face-lift them anyway. We changed the packaging material to be more ecological, added the ingredient list into the sachet, made the colors a bit softer, added symbols on how to use the Instants etc. The look-and-feel remains almost the same, so y’all will still recognize them as a Four Sigma Foods Original! It’s just a bit sad as we deliberately chose the old names so that they would be more approachable to new foodists, as using a word like chaga means absolutely nothing to 99.99% of the people.
Now don’t get me wrong. We like to follow the law. There’s a reason why it exist. So now and in the future we will aim to comply. I just think that in this case this is not fair. I don’t want to pick on any specific brand owned by Big Pharma or large food corp, but the whole industry as this is not clearly an even battle. You can say this and that about fibers to boost cereal sales. You can talk about antioxidants even with foods that hardly contain them. I mean, the superfood industry has done their fair share of shady marketing, but the big boys are in a whole nother league. At best McDonald’s and KFC sits down with government to agree on the governmental policy on obesity and diet-related disease. Or that governments literally spend hundreds of million to buy food from Mars, Kellogs, and Unilever to help people eat healthier. Our dream of helping people eat healthier and become more conscious of their diet is not an easy journey.
But like said, things are not grim! There’s no need for fear. You don’t need to buy bigger lock on your door, buy an expensive insurance you can’t afford, or get angry for that matter. Life is just a ride! And that’s how we will treat it.
Latest good news contain for example the following:
We just calculated that already over 360,000 of our medicinal mushroom sachets have found a loving home in 32 different countries
Our new packaging looks so sweet that it hurts my teeth
Our fiscal year 2013 plan is to grow triple digits, and after two months we are already on the way to exceed our objectives
In the last week or so we have gotten over 50 new followers per day to our Facebook page. The word is clearly getting out!
Our Chief Mushroom Officer Mikko just confirmed an operational plan for few freakin’ exciting new products we’ve been working on for months. It’s time to democratize more superfoods <3
I recently bought flights to Australia! I plan to finally fulfill my long lasting dream to see both the Great Barrier Reef and the Uluru National Park. The best part is that I’m doing this with one of my oldest and dearest friends. The freedom to do random things like this is one of the reasons why I keep loving my “work” no matter how much crappy obstacles we might encounter in our daily grind
Mikael Mäkinen is the Sales Director of Four Sigma Foods, and is currently based in Finland even though he travels a lot around Europe with occasional visits to Asia and the United States. I had a chance to interview my ex-flatmate while spending Christmas together in the Philippines. In this FSF Profile I hope to put more color on who is this former ice hockey guy who holds nicknames like “Terminator” and “The Machine” among his closest friends.
Truly a global citizen
Mikael has properly lived in eight (Finland, Nepal, the USA, Malaysia, the Philippines, Oman, Brazil, and Ireland) and traveled to more than 50 countries. Just this year alone he has been in five of the TOP 10 sights of 2012 according to Lonely Planet. Which country stroke you the most?
“I think one of my life-changing experiences was my 10-month stay in Nepal. I was 12 years old and went to a local school. People were so happy despite of them having pretty much nothing in Western terms. The experience taught me to value my life differently, and as a first-time foreign stay was important for my growth towards ‘international citizenship’ ”
You must get this question a lot but could you tell our readers how come you look more like a Latino than a typical blond-haired and blue-eyed Finn?
“Hahhaa. Touché. I’m born and raised in Finland to a Finnish mother but my father comes from Tunisia in Africa, and I seem to have heritage more of my father’s appearance. People mistake me a lot for a non-Finn even in my small home town. For example one lady in my university canteen said ‘thank you’ in English for years despite of me speaking Finnish to her every time.”
Sports in the blood
Your friends know you as a sport enthusiastic, and you’ve done numerous marathons, triathlons and sports races. You also seem to know every player at UEFA Champions League and you hold our FSF Team’s current “Season’s Best” result for 12-minute Cooper test. What is your relationship with sports?
“I’ve played all kinds of sports since I learned to walk. I’ve always been into ice hockey and football but most professional training I’ve received in tennis while in high school in the States. Nowadays, I do a variety of sports ranging from yoga to rugby. For instance this autumn I spent most of my sporting hours on a road bike.”
Your sports experience is not limited only to your own activities. At least people in Finland have read your newspaper blog from Football World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
“Hahhah. That seems like a long time already. I just love football due to its importance to people and passionate followers around the world. You can talk about football with the president of Finland as well as with a street kid in Tanzania. I’ve attended the past football final games in South Africa and Ukraine even though my national team has never (as of now) made it to the cup itself. In domestic level my biggest love is my Finnish ice hockey team Ilves that hasn’t done so well lately either…”
A change towards healthier lifestyle
How did you become interested in healthy eating?
“That is a really good question. My family background comes from entrepreneurial family as my grandparents and later my uncle used to own a local grocery store in Finland for 40 years where I also worked in my childhood. My mother has always cooked fresh food from organic ingredients so healthy habits are deeply rooted in my diet. However, while in university my life got too hectic which meant that I worked and partied too much, ate unhealthy and had a constant sleep deprivation. This all led to being sick several times a year and to few minor surgeries.”
I remember talking to you a lot about holistic health and wholefoods when we shared a flat in 2009 but you were rather ‘stubborn’.
“Slightly. You and Mikko talked to me about different superfood products for almost 4 years before I was convinced. To be honest I don’t even remember which products you first hyped to me as I wasn’t interested. After moving to Ireland to work for Google in 2011 I heard that you were planning to start a company with a few common friends of ours in the areas of health, lifestyle and nutrition. I was instantly interested. As a business advisor of the company I wasn’t first too involved in the product development but when I got a bag of cordyceps mushroom to try out I had a real WOW-experience. After few days I already felt a big difference in my recovery and energy levels at work. That day I wanted to get more involved, and I started to study. It led to finding new products and changing my lifestyle a bit by bit.”
I remember you having many sinus problems previously. Have those changed during the years?
“Yes, I’ve noticed a great change. I had sinusitis pretty much every second month which led to antibiotics and worst immune system. I haven’t had sinusitis since 2011, and my immune system has improved despite of me working more than ever, traveling every second week and doing sports around 6 times a week. Those all should affect negatively on our immune system but for me it’s been the opposite. I give a lot of credit to medicinal mushrooms that I added to my diet around the same time.”
Why did you decide to leave a rather promising career for Four Sigma Foods?
“After studying foods, and especially looking around what is mostly offered to us in our grocery stores I wanted to change it. It won’t happen fast and I know it won’t be easy but I strongly believe that by influencing our diet and living we can cut down most of the diseases in the current world. Not to mention the additional energy and good feeling that healthy choices bring to us. I don’t mean that all of us need to go on detox or be vegan. Those are good options but I want to pinpoint that it’s all about the quality. I used to eat processed chips and chocolate. I still eat snacks but I’ve upgraded them to kale chips, raw chocolate or dried berries. I love the attitude, values and fast paced business environment of our team. I’ve worked in many companies and with many people but now I honestly feel that we’re doing something special. I want to educate and help people, and FSF is the way to do it!”
Mikael began his full-time entrepreneurship in August 2012. Why the timing?
“I was working in competitive environment in Google with constantly increasing workload from Four Sigma Foods which meant long nights and work-driven weekends. I knew that I needed to choose soon and finally it wasn’t a hard one even though I liked Google and especially the people a lot. I warmly remember free coconut waters and raw chocolate bars in our microkitchens”, big eater says grinding.
Many multinationals on the belt
Your background is in sales and marketing. What are you doing in FSF?
“I’m responsible for our worldwide sales that at the moment mostly come from the Nordic countries and Western Europe. This means that I travel a lot to meet our partners and attend to trade fairs around the world in addition to daily sales job and administrative tasks. I’m also a member of the board and counting the number of e-mails flying between the continents each day. I’m pretty involved in day-to-day decision making as well.”
Mikael used to work for HSBC and Procter & Gamble in marketing and sales projects before joining Google. On which job have you learned the most?
“Actually in none of those. The answer is while working as a Finnish liaison to Asian Development Bank in the Philippines. My work was more of a lobbyist and consultant, and I feel that during those 9 months I got a hinch how the world is functioning due to meeting many different people, traveling and studying on my own. I didn’t sleep too much during the time in the Philippines”, Mikael remembers.
Many of our followers might have read your several interviews on our blog this year, and you also have a journalistic background. Can you tell more about that?
“Yes, I’ve been a freelance reporter for a few years which is kind of a hobby. It got started when I was short of money while studying in Rio de Janeiro in 2010. I sold few articles about traveling and finance, and finally kept a newspaper blog during the football World Cup in South Africa. This brings funny memories as me and my friend Perttu sold a photo of Paris Hilton blowing vuvuzela to international newspapers during the Cup. I think we’re still getting some random payments from the photo usage. One day I want to write a book but the topic is still a secret even though I’ve collected plenty of material for it”, the man of mystery reveals.
You could have landed into a different career in your teenage years, and I vaguely remember your older friends laughing to the fact that you were studying in the university.
“That’s true. There were some hard times, and even getting to a high school was a challenge due to interests in other matters like hanging around the streets, friends and sports. Finally I received a cancellation seat but ended my high school with a valedictorian speech”, Mikael recaps ‘modestly’.
Mikael is not only one of my business partners, but also one of my best friends. We’ve literally traveled all over the world with this guy and I’ve seen him in all colors. Getting him join our team full-time was a great success for our mission. So even if you are not a football or traveling enthusiastic, you can learn a lot from this guy! You can meet Mikael in pretty much every trade show where FSF will be present. Just ask for “The Machine” or look for the most non-Nordic looking guy in our booth :)
When we 3.5 months ago launched our FSF Store and our 1st generation bulk products, we already promised that we would step-by-step improve their usability. Well, I’m happy to tell you all that Four Sigma Foods remains as one of the fastest innovators in the industry and that today we’re launching 6 new improved product mixes made from medicinal mushroom and tonic herbs. We call them FSF Blends. Please join me in welcoming FSF Prince, FSF Princess, FSF Winning, FSF Mania, FSF Endurance, and FSF Focus to the portfolio!
***We will start to ship FSF Blends worldwide on Dec 7th 2012***
FSF Prince is an ecological herbal mix designed to improve the physical presence of men. The mix contains four strong natural steroid and sex boosters. Mucuna is a classic Indian sex booster, which is proven to boost the production of “brain hormones” like serotonin and dopamine. Cistanche is a traditional Chinese tonic “upper” that helps our body to assimilate and consume oxygen. Like the rest, it will also aid with general vitality, strength, and blood circulation. Finally there are Tongkat Ali root powder and Yohimbe bark extract, which are maybe the two best male sexual energy enhancers in the world. They are both proven to increase blood flow, sexual desire, performance, and durability. Basically FSF Prince will turn any urban prince into a Greek Adonis! Buy FSF Prince from HERE.
FSF Princess in a natural herbal mix designed to support the females with their hormonal system. The mix contains four powerful classic herbs to balance and boost feminine hormones. Codonopsis is an excellent adaptogen helping to increase energy levels naturally. There are many proofs how it has increased hemoglobin and the red blood cell count in our blood. Dong Quai is maybe the most valued female sex boosters in the world, which has also been used for ages to help women with menopause, perimenopause, abnormal menstruation, hot flashes, PMS, cramping, and vaginal dryness. The last two herbs are Mucuna and Cistanche, which work very similarly with women as with men. FSF Princess will make any modern lady into a “femme fatale”! Buy FSF Princess from HERE.
FSF Winning is a blend of the most studied and most praised medicinal mushrooms. The product contains an even mix of Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, Turkey Tale, Maitake, Shiitake and Lion’s Mane. If something natural will boost your immune system, it’s these mushrooms. We’ve also added rosehip powder into it, which will give an abundant whole food source of vitamin C that is known to increase the absorption of the magnificent medicinal mushrooms. So this is an all-in-one type mix that will help you to reap all the main benefits of medicinal mushrooms at one go giving you pure winning attitude. Buy FSF Winning from HERE.
FSF Mania is a blend of seven truly ass kicking, yet a bit unfamiliar, medicinal mushrooms. The combination contains Tremella (Tremella fuciformis), Agaricus Blazei (Agaricus subrufescens), Irpex (Irpex lacteus), Shaggymane (Coprinus comatus), Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae), Pioppino (Agrocybe aegerita), and Meshima (Phellinus linteus). These mushrooms are used to treat many kinds of cancers, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune diseases, skin problems, and cardiovascular problems. Just like with FSF Winning, we’ve added rosehip powder to the mix for its vitamin C content. You only need to taste this a bit to know that it actually might be our most “nasty” product meant only for the true mushroom maniacs. Buy FSF Mania from HERE.
FSF Endurance combines the three herbs that are in several researches shown to improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance; Roseroot, Siberian Ginseng, and Schisandra. From soldiers to XC-skiers and from runners to the elderly, together they have increased people’s performance and recovery. We’ve used two types (powder and extract) of expensive Schisandra to make the mix even stronger. We also replaced our previous Siberian Ginseng and Roseroot powders with extracts, to bring more bang for your buck. Also based on our training and racing experiences this mix will support your endurance in a supernatural way. Buy FSF Endurance from HERE.
FSF Focus is a four-herb combination, which is perfect for anyone looking for a natural smart drug or mental booster. Gingko biloba has been proven to improve memory, concentration, and other mental faculties. It’s also said to provide relief for persons with headache, sinusitis, tinnitus, depression and vertigo. Gotu kola is another great brain tonic helping with intelligence and memory. It’s recommended for nervous disorders, including epilepsy, senility and premature aging. Roseroot and Siberian ginseng are also known as “brain herbs” helping people with concentration, memory, and mental clarity. All the four herbs will help to combat stress and bring ultimate focus to your life through Mother Nature. Buy FSF Focus from HERE.
How To Use
Just like our first bulk powders, FSF Blends ARE NOT meant to replace meals or be stand-alone products. They are daily BOOSTERS designed to give a little extra “spice” to your favorite juice, smoothie, sport drink, chocolate, dessert or basically any recipe. As many of them are extracts, they can stand the heat, but we still recommend using them with raw food meals. Just add 1 teaspoon daily to your snack and reap the benefits of their boosting capabilities.
These super herb blends were designed to be strong. If you have previous health problems and/or you are on medication, please consult your doctor and visit sites like Drugs.com for more details on each herb and mushroom. This background check is especially important with FSF Prince, which contains Yohimbe that is known to have side effects (e.g. for people with previous heart problems or insomnia). Also FSF Focus, which contains Gingko, should not be overdosed. Even with so called non-toxic herbs and mushrooms (e.g. chaga) we think one shouldn’t outsource their health decisions to any 3rd party or especially to some product manufacturer including us.
Rationale Behind All the New Products
When we created these recipes, we had three objectives in mind:
Make our currents FSF Bulks into a more customer friendly format
Introduce a few absolutely legendary herbs and mushrooms to a wider audience
To create even more potent products compared to our current ones, which are already a bomb!
I’m proud to say, that we did all of these. If these mixes find their way to folks’ kitchens, we can of course focus on objective #1 even more, but I’m sure already now you guys will love these. I’m especially proud how strong they are. Without any (harmful) additives these classic super herbs will deliver to you the things that are rarely seen on the market. Of course we let you be the real judges.
In my personal experience most people don’t even realize how low their sexual drive is before they get it back. Or in how large brain fog they live in before it becomes crisp again. Or how big of a difference can a properly working immune system do to the whole body. I just hope through our products, or someone else’s, you all could at least once try all of these classic herbs and mushrooms. It just might open new doors. And if it doesn’t… well you can always go back to your previous routine.
With love and caring,
As many of you know from our previous FSF Charity blog post, we’re working this year with the charity organization Project Little Dream (PLD) for enabling better schooling possibilities to children in the rural area of Cambodia. We think that uneven educational possibilities is one of the five major unsolved issues in our world along with sustainable energy, overpopulation, misaligned income distribution, and most importantly lack of global compassion for one another. But why does a health food company like us sees education in 3rd world countries being such a vital part of their own journey? Let me try to explain our view a bit.
Six E’s to help the world to be a better place
We’ve talked before about the Six E’s that are needed to democratize herbalism and superfoods. Even though our main focus is on the “Triple E” of Easy, Effective, and Ecological it doesn’t mean we don’t care about the three remaining E’s. To make superfoods more Economical we recently launched our new FSF Bulk product line and to educate people we quite actively share free information in this blog. The funny part is that with slight modification these same Six E’s can be translated into any social problem and then education often is in the center of everything. Proper basic education is like a hygiene factor to be able to tackle other significant issues.
You can choose, they can’t
“Education should be available to all, not just to a privileged few.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
To be brutally honest, increasing education in the developed countries doesn’t require much money, contacts or development programs. It’s a choice! Right here, right now, an individual decides to be curious about life – or not to be. That’s all. All the rest (e.g. tools, resources) are already there. But in the underprivileged areas around the world the situation is not the same. Even in places where there’s free state-run schools, kids will not be educated. See, the statement ‘free’ only applies to the tuition, not to the uniform, books, stationery, transport and most importantly to the time the children have. These children are expected to help out at home, by working in the rice fields, taking the cows out to graze, or taking care of younger children. Time for school is a luxury not all children can afford. For them reading interesting stuff Wikipedia is not feasible from time, language or technology point-of-view.
Taking baby steps
After we have acknowledged the importance of education you often are forced to ask a more pragmatic question: “what are you going to do about it?”. Here we see the circle closing on why did we want to work with PLD this year. We wanted to create something super concrete that our small team of 16 foodpreneurs can realistically make happen. Something achievable, but something meaningful. So with PLD, their partner New Futures Organisation (NFO), and NFOs main funder CamKids we sought to assist in providing school books and other essential school material for the PLD’s 4th school students in Thnouh, Takeo. This particular school will be build in December 2013. And after few months from now, this December, we’re participating on the extension constructions of the 3rd School in Thon Mun village!
Here’s the kicker: By helping these NGOs do their thing, we’re not only helping a bunch of kids to learn stuff but also help ourselves to learn more. Already in this brief time they have helped us to see so many things… And I’m sure going to Cambodia in December-January to physically help on the building process our team will expose themselves for a big lesson in life from a completely different way of life through these young orphans.
Giving is also getting
A left-brain focused person only sees charitable actions as a liability. Money goes out, nothing comes back in. Our two cents is that amoral people might make great business leaders, but they make bad citizens. So the more you give, the more you get. So be opening your mind and heart to give someone a leg up you can never lose. Never!
Give your help by donating for the upcoming material purchases or buying a cool and unique wallet size bag made out of cement sack material used in previous schools. Enter the FSFstore here
Tero on the behalf of the FSF Team
Around one year ago our first product recipes were ready to be tested and our team started to consider our go-to market strategy. So basically we considered how people would like to buy the kind of products we produce. As most food and beverage companies, we believed that people want to buy their food from the local health food store or supermarket so we focused on using “the channel”, which means paying a significant margin to distributors and retailers to represent us. We didn’t focus too much on online. Today, one year later, online is over 50% of our revenue, but our current solution for it is still pretty basic. I guess many of you have already noticed that! This is why we have recently build a bit more sophisticated way for people to get all our products anywhere in the world. Enter the FSF Store!
What is the FSF Store?
FSF Store is the place for all Four Sigma Foods products. This also includes all the great products that otherwise might not be allowed to be sold in your local brick-and-mortar. The FSF Store serves customers all over the world within each country’s individual importing regulations. We will have the best possible prices, especially with the bundle offers, just like before. The bundle offers allows us to give you free worldwide shipping even with fairly small orders.
With any order over 55€ you will get free shipping anywhere in the world!
Does this mean I can only buy from you online?
No. Absolutely not! See, most people who so far have bought from us are extremely health conscious and these people are quite IT savvy. They look for the latest information online and therefore it’s also a natural place to buy things. Besides serving these amazing pioneers, we want to serve the general population in order to democratize the real superfoods. We will actually embrace “the channel” even more and soon you will find many new places where to buy our products. We will remain as a multichannel company trying to offer you our products as an alternative option in as many possible ways as we can. This also means expanding to other locations than the health food store around the corner.
Here comes the FSF Bulk Superfoods
While we introduce the FSF Store, we are also launching 10 new products. One of the most common requests from us has been to buy rare tonic herbs directly. So now after dozens and dozens of requests, we decided to bend in our rules. So on August 20th we will start to ship our first 10 products from our FSF Bulk product line. All products will cost a mere 12€/bag, which is in most cases less than 50% of their “street price”. Plus many of these are strong extracts, which often bring more bang for your buck than normal powder would.
The new products are:
100g bag of Astragalus extract
50g bag of Cistanche extract
100g of Codonopsis extract
100g of Gynostemma powder
100g of He Shou Wu extract
50g of Mucuna extract
100g of Pine Pollen powder
100g of Roseroot powder
50g of Schisandra extract
100g of Siberian Ginseng powder
Observe – This solution will last only until we find a way to make these products even more fun and unique. We offer this as an extra service to our biggest fans, because we anyway get these products in a very economic way to ourselves, and because due to some country regulations you can’t buy these from retail. So there was very little extra hassle for us, but the day we find a cooler way to serve these nutritional rockstars, we will change the offering.
What are all these strange new foods?
FSF Bulk products are always one or several of the following: tonic, adaptogenic, natural whole food. This means they are extremely safe to use and suit everybody from growing kids to pensioners. Adaptogenic foods are known to improve the efficiency of our metabolic, neurological, immunologic, respiratory and endocrine systems. Basically they help to modulate our stress levels. They are calming when one is overexcited and invigorating when one is fatigued.
Effective, ecological, and economical raw ingredients, our FSF Bulk product line brings you some of the most legendary herbs and foods in a minimalistic form. Like always, they are all vegan and contain no common allergens, harmful chemicals, or any toxic crap for that matter. Just add a few of these classics to power up your daily meals.
Again, we will start to deliver the FSF Bulk Superfoods on August 20th. You can still place your order already now to ensure you are the first people to get them. We’ve made a limited first batch.
Questions? Comments? Join the conversation on our Facebook page
Mika Rantanen was the 3rd person to join the planning process of Four Sigma Foods (formerly known as LUONTOlife). As a co-founder Mika was instrumental in the design process of our company, and these days he’s in charge of our Partner Relations. In his role, Mika tries to find new ways to collaborate with other cool organizations. Right now this sport enthusiastic is opening up our charity functions and preparing to swim 3.8km, bike 180km, and run 42.2km. I’ve known Mika for 8-years now and that’s why I was so excited to interview him for this FSF Profile. So without further ado, let’s hear more from this fine young man.
The active childhood of a semi-chubby boy
Everybody knows Mika as a super sporty guy, who excels in almost any sport. So how did this guy get into such a physical daily rhythm?
Since I was only 4 years old, my sisters and mom apparently hated to go to public places with me. From what I’ve heard, the main reason was that I was constantly running from one place to another. Somehow walking just was never really an option. Starting those days I’ve been really into any kind of activity that raises my heartbeat and makes me sweat. Since elementary school my spare time has always been full of various sports. Depending on the season I practised orienteering, xc-skiing, athletics, tennis, and football. My schedule after school was filled with 7-14 trainings per week. I was out playing in the fields 24/7 and even spent the last few years of our comprehensive school in a special school for athletes. The superb feeling, what the outdoor air gave me, was something out of ordinary.
I’ve heard that your mom was a great cook, was she?
Well, yeah. She was! At that time I ate like a horse. I mean really, I ate like a horse! The only thing that kept me in a reasonable body size was my active lifestyle. Although, when looking back, there was one major flaw in my diet. All grains, sugars, and salts we used were bleached. My mom also loved baking. And gosh how tasteful buns and pies she made! We used to have our freezer packed up half way by her sweets. Combining my eating habits and the desire to go fast, for any outsiders watching a semi-chubby little boy sprinting around the neighbourhood must have been quite a sight. You could say that in those days I loved eating, and didn’t have a slightest clue what was healthy and what was not.
From leading troops in the military to leading 30 sales reps
All Finnish men have to go through a mandatory service period in the Finnish Defense Forces (note: not in the attack forces). So every year about 27,000 young men (including few females) are being trained. Only a handful of these are accepted to the elite programs, from which the Utti Jaeger Regiment is maybe the most prestigious one. Just like a few other FSF team members (Jaakko, Pauli, Matti), Mika also served in this Special Forces unit as a 2nd Lieutenant. So did this experience change Mika?
Sure. Before military I had a terrible fear of height. I felt that the best way to conquer that fear was to start skydiving and therefore I applied to paratroopers. The two-day test, including tough mental and physical exams, was followed shortly by a letter of a confirmation stating that I was approved for the Special Forces. But the tough tests were a cakewalk compared to the actual training. This 12-month school taught me a lot about leadership, endurance, and tolerance for unpleasant conditions. Schedules were really tight, especially on our training camps. Camps were usually anything from 1-2 weeks long where we daily advanced several dozen kilometers with a heavy 30kg gear on, without any proper sleep or food. These camps revealed the true colors of my colleagues and myself. I some sick way loved it. I was also lucky enough to be chosen for the Officer training to lead my peers.
What kind of career plans did you have in mind?
After my military service, I firmly belonged to the large group of people who didn’t have a clue on what to do with their lives. The picture was everything but clear. I had a degree in the field of automation technology, but after the school I knew it wasn’t for me. I liked business because of the broad perspective and working face-to-face with customers had always been a blast. I started my first entrepreneurial venture when I was around 20 years old, by selling e.g. mobile phone subscriptions and sport supplements. At the same time I found the personal development movement, and that discovery might just been the single most important thing that guided me forward. I read tons and tons of literature about developing my skills for example in positive thinking, problem solving, and determination. I was constantly blown away by my emerging mindset change.
Looking at your CV, I see you’ve been involved a lot with sales – why’s that?
Sales provided me a possibility to encounter great people and to learn about different business models. During one decade I a saw a large variety of most common sales channels. Some products or services were targeted to businesses, some to consumers. Some were big, some small. Some needed face-to-face meetings, other were covered with online methods. Although the partners I worked with were usually public listed companies, I enjoyed working in smaller organizations. It gave me space to try my own ideas as well as change positions in a faster pace. I sure leveraged that to the hilt. At 23 I was already running a 30 person sales team.
Finding 3BL – People, planet, profit
I got to know Mika as a motivated athlete and high performance sales person. Always wanting to “one up” the old records. But in 2008 everything changed and Mika started to explore himself in a much deeper way. This path has taken him across Europe and there he found the need to focus on something much more meaningful.
Why did you decide to move to Italy without a job?
After working for the same company for 4 years I felt that I was plateauing big time. I decided to move forward, not knowing what I should do next. I moved to Northern Italy, bought a race bike and enjoyed the mediterranean views daily. That long, six month holiday got me thinking how I see my life in the upcoming years. I bumped into Steve Jobs commencement speech back in 2005 at Stanford University. That short clip made an indelible impression on me. The vivid mindset of the former Apple CEO was something that stopped me.
I’ve always been very competitive, mostly towards myself. Pushing the personal boundaries had always given me more than it required. After acknowledging this, I started seeking for next test to take it to the next level. At that time the idea of biking over 4000km across Europe under six weeks got me excited. Shortly there were three other Sunday bikers interested on making this trip come true. It was all about accomplishing dreams. We called the project Road Dream and this is also the way I got to know Markus. To me it was something I thought I wasn’t capable of. We wanted this journey to be one of those stories you could tell to your grandchildren someday when sitting in a rocking chair. Despite our amateur team’s lack of expertise in biking we had a clear image on how it would feel finishing the last few hundred meters. In spite of the recession at the time, we managed to get sponsors to fully fund the trip. It surely wasn’t a flower dance, especially when we had over 10.000€ still missing from our budget only two weeks before the start.
During our pilgrimage from our birthplaces to antique Olympic stadion in Greece we carried out a charity fund raising for children in disadvantaged position. During the journey we got over 10 million viewers and listeners from the 11 countries we visited. Strangers coming to talk to you saying that they saw us on TV a week ago just felt odd in a good way.
After reaching Greece I calculated the outcomes of my previous years. I noticed how I had felt the best when I did something of my own. It didn’t matter was it a start-up or a non-profit. I think I’d found a piece of who I was…
Jumping into the world of Four Sigma Foods
So how and why did you get excited about the idea democratizing superfoods?
Having a flu a minimum of two times a year was almost obligatory and it just felt natural, since everyone else was facing it too. For the past 4 years I really started questioning my own eating habits. Most of the time I really liked to eat healthy foods, but the core problem usually was that it required too much willpower due to my old habits. It just wasn’t all that easy enough for me. When I received a call from Mikko explaining the business idea behind FSF, I got instantly excited. Combining a healthier lifestyle with work and helping others at the same time had all the ingredients what I wanted from my next adventure. After a few conversations I was convinced that this path was perfect for me and I joined Mikko and Tero to bring our ideas to reality
The ride in the past year has been truly awesome. I feel really privileged to be a part of this great punch. Fighting together to democratize superfoods really pushes us all to give our best. There’s whole lot of job to do in the field of health and wellness!
What are your next challenges?
I have an Ironman distance triathlon coming in September. That has kept me busy within the last six months. Especially the 3.8 km swim has caused a lot of headaches. Hopefully the wetsuit will keep me on the surface! Someday I believe I would like to go around the globe human powered. Maybe after 10 years, who knows… If you have any good suggestions, I would be happy to hear them!
I’m also busy working on our first FSF Charity! But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so you need to wait one week longer before we announce the whole thing. I just want to say that I haven’t had so many butterflies in my stomach for a LONG time than in the last 2-months.
In the last 6-months we’ve received a massive amount of customer feedback. I think it’s awesome that you guys take your time to list down new ideas for our future. We acknowledge these efforts from your end and to us it means we have done already something right as you clearly care for the positive development. Thank you! At the same time, we’re still a small company with limited resources thus not all even good ideas are actionable. To build on my latest post on our mission to Democratize Superfoods, I would now like to share to all of you our framework on our product and business development. I hope it will clarify a bit how we run our business.
We make products for ourselves
We make products that gets us excited and products we have tested ourselves for ages. We will not introduce products that we don’t have a strong personal connection with. For example despite over four years of active maca consumption, our team has never personally harvested a wild maca root. Until we have (and many times over), we will not bring any maca products to the shelves. Our products need to be close to our own hearts and then I think the passion for quality will shine through. And like we have noted before, we want to scratch our own itch by creating true Triple E products.
We love if customers will outgrow us
Some of our customers have commented on the slightly higher price of packaged reishi versus buying them in bulk or harvesting the plant itself. Honestly, we think these people are spot on! Going chaga hunting yourself is exactly the thing we would like everybody to try for themselves, but unfortunately that’s not everybody’s cup of tea (yet). That’s why we have readily-portioned and easy-to-carry instant drinks, but we at all don’t mind if some of our customers will outgrow us! This is actually one of our goals, but to keep things simple and easily approachable for new people we will always maintain our product offering as simple as possible. You can read more on our latest FSF FAQ.
We focus on low hanging fruits
There’s a million things to fix in this world. Most of them are linked with humans not being able to live in harmony with nature. But life is not binary or totalitarian. Progress comes through baby steps. That’s bytheway why easily implementable superfoods are a great start and addition to any diet. This same idea applies to improvements inside the industry. We want to focus on the things we can implement easily and/or fast. Trust me when I say that there’s no lack of these “quick wins”. Just this summer we implemented five simple ideas coming from our users to our new FSF Instants.
We send people home early
Our teams first goal in life is to thrive! To thrive in life requires many things including good nights sleep, enough physical exercise, and plenty of nice social interaction. We want to walk our talk. This is why we go home early…or start out late! Our team is pretty effective and so far we’ve gotten all our work done. We will also always plan to leave our laptops, get some nice sun, run in the mountains, and enjoy food slowly with inspiring people. Luckily this is our passion, so it doesn’t feel like work either, but we will never want this company to kill our joie de vivre by over working to get 500 improvement ideas executed.
Our motto: Eazy
One of our first happy customers was a professional freeskier and European champ in ultimate, Michael “Mike” Zwahlen. When we met Mike at the Adelboden World Cup race early this year, he teached our team a valuable lesson that now has become our company motto. As we were all gung-ho about doing everything between A and Z around superfoods, he shared us the more laid back freeskier worldview: Eazy! The lesson is three-sided: Life is fundamentally Eazy, so take it Eazy, and things will go Eazy! This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t aim to build the highest quality products possible and fix all our mistakes. It’s just that very few things in this world is worth losing your sleep or to get a heart attack over… including wordsmithing all our copy content to the perfection. To us some errors are just natural beauty mistakes of life :)
Many thanks for tuning in,
Ps. I left out the most obvious line, which is linked with providing only high quality superfoods products without synthetic chemical or additives. I think you already knew this :)