Hannah Mellsop is basically the queen of raw treats and baking.
At just 21 with her recently-formed business, Real Rad Food, she creates beautiful raw, vegan, gluten-free, dairy free and refined sugar free cakes, slices, bliss balls and more. Hannah shares her creations online to her 8.7K followers and sells them to local cafes, and at local markets. She also takes private orders and does catering too, and being based in Mount Maunganui she is one of the few people in the area offering such an amazing range of raw treats.
I’ve been following Hannah’s journey for a little while, and have seen her transition from a foodie-Instagram account to a thriving business with close to 9000 followers on her Instagram.
After interviewing Haly from Haly Design, I’ve decided to create a mini-series about people turning their passions into a business/lifestyle. So I thought I’d get in touch with Hannah and see what she had to say about turning her passion into her business, Real Rad Food.
Hannah got into the raw-foods scene in her first year of Uni in Auckland, when she was 18 years old. She went vegetarian first, and then after watching some documentaries she decided to go vegan.
“It was mostly for environmental reasons, but as time went on I saw it from a health perspective too,”
Hannah was in a residential hall in her first year, which proved hard for her diet choice as it was all catered and didn’t have many vegan options. She found herself exploring healthy cafes around Auckland such as Little Bird, and being exposed to the plant-based community she became pretty much obsessed.
The Raw Kitchen was hiring so she applied, not really expecting the job seeing as she was only 18 and knew nothing about raw food. Hannah was hired, and it was actually the first year of The Raw Kitchen.
“It was a huge game changer for me, I learnt so much. I started out doing markets in Ponsonby, and then 2 weeks into it I was in the kitchen and suddenly a part time Chef and Uni student. I did that throughout Uni, and my passion for raw foods really grew.”
It was around this time she created her Instagram, which was called Balancing Han at the time. After her first year, Hannah went flatting which is when she really tried to grow her Instagram account and create content – now actually being able to make food in her own kitchen and post it.
During her degree and work at the Raw Kitchen, Hannah went for a six month exchange to Canada. When she came back, she only had one more semester of Uni, but didn’t want to live in Auckland. So she decided to live in Tauranga with her parents, and commute to Auckland two days a week for Uni. She spent the remaining days in the week working at the Nourished Eatery for about 4 months.
Hannah later got a job at Wild Ones Wholefoods in the Mount, as a full-time second chef. She did this for about 5 months in which she worked a crazy summer, busy hours, had an amazing experience, but knew she didn’t want to be a chef in hospo.
During this whole time she was doing stuff on the side – making raw cakes and treats for people all the time. “This side of things was starting to pick up, so I wanted to see what would happen if I put all my energy into it.”
She handed in her notice, and since the end of April, Hannah has been self-employed for three months.
For Hannah, the business world is the hardest side of it.
“I can make cakes and talk to people and post on social media. But the hardest thing has been the numbers, taxes, being a registered business and a sole trader – I had no idea about any of that. It’s hard, but I’m learning loads.”
Hannah is a stall-holder at a few markets in Mount Maunganui. She does the first and third Saturday of every month at the Little Big Markets and every Sunday at the Mount Farmer’s Market.
How have markets helped you and your business?
“Markets have been a game changer. It’s such a good way to get my brand out there, as well as an influx of fast cash. Making cakes and dealing with wholesalers often means there’s a delay in cash. And the markets are so busy – people travel from as far as Auckland and Rotorua for the Little Big Markets. Come summertime it’ll be crazy,”
Hannah is trying to build up the wholesale and catering side of Real Rad Food.
Currently, a few cafes in the Mount stock her raw treats, including Luka and a new place about to open, but she has a few places in the pipeline which she thinks will have stock too. Hannah does private orders and catering too, either for birthdays, store launches and more.
As far as output goes, Markets are probably the main part, followed by wholesale for cafes and then private orders and catering.
Hannah recently set up her Real Rad Food website which was the next step for her business. The website is beautiful, and on here Hannah shares her Raw Gallery – pictures of all her beautiful creations, as well as sharing delicious recipes and information about plant-based diets in her Blog section.
“I’m looking to add a ‘Shop’ option too, where I’ll put my products on the website, available to be purchased and shipped across the country. I still just need to sort out a few things like sturdier packaging and shipping with same-day courier,”
So far, the Real Rad Food website is just the beginning of exciting things to come. How do you justify using large expensive quantities, like 2 cups of cashews for the base of a slice, as many raw recipes suggest? Was that hard for you?
“It was defintiely hard. Up until about 3 months ago I was still getting ingredients from the supermarket, making no money really as the products were so expensive. Now having wholesalers where I buy my ingredients from has been so good, I can get like a 25kg bag of cashews which takes the costs down.”
“But this is the whole reason I want to do markets and stuff – it’s so much easier for someone to buy a slice off me, or a box of assorted treats for the week and pop it in the freezer, because I know how expensive raw baking can be, not only for the ingredients, but for the equipment too. I have a Vitamix blender which cost $1000, and a huge food processor which is around $800. I know it’s expensive to do yourself, so I want to make it more accessible to people and make it more mainstream.”
Hannah has no plans to move back to Auckland yet either – this is a question she often gets asked. There is a big plant-based scene in Auckland, but in the Mount there is a gap in the market, and a better lifestyle.
“I think I’m in the right place at the right time. Everyone in the Mount wants raw food but there’s not much of it around. Then in Auckland you’re over-saturated with raw options.”
Is Real Rad Food just a one-man-band or do you have help?
“I’m the only employee of Real Rad Food haha. My boyfriend helps me with the markets, but I’ve got it all pretty down-pat. I’m a one-man-band at the moment, but come summer this might need to change as output increases. It’s hard because I’m a perfectionist, but as my business grows another person will be necessary,”
Do you create you own recipes?
“I’m always taking inspiration from everyone and everything – If I see a cake in a cafe that I want to eat but can’t because it’s not vegan, I’ll think, yeah I have to make a vegan version of that.
I follow loads of amazing accounts on social media too, like SoBeautifullyReal. I’m always taking inspiration from online.”
Has Instagram been pivotal for your success?
“Yeah definitely. It started off just the hobby side of it. But I found I couldn’t just do Instagram, like everyone loves photos of raw desserts, why don’t I start selling them as well? I’m basically selling cakes and living the Instagram dream”
What are your goals for Real Rad Food?
“In the pipeline, I’d love to do a cookbook. But this is a longterm goal for the next few years. Maybe something like a subscription box for raw treats too. And I’d love to get into the supermarket with raw balls. My current goal is to grow outside of the Mount, and make raw foods more mainstream.”
What is your advice for someone wanting to turn their passion into a business or lifestyle?
“You need to pick something that you’re really passionate about and that you enjoy, because you’ll be doing a lot of it in order for it to do well. The amount of hours I’ve put into my Instagram over the years because I love it…I can’t even begin to count. It’s pretty much been a part time job for the past four years.
Pick something you’re incredibly passionate about, and work really hard.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask people for help. Talk to people who are doing their own thing as well, surround yourself with people that are going to motivate you. I have like ten close friends who are all freelancers, working for themselves, doing a bit of side hustle. It’s motivating to be around like-minded people.”
Have you had anyone really help or influence you?
“My best friend’s mum is pretty much my business mentor. I have meetings with her every week – she has her own hair salon so she owns a small business and unsterdstands the tax side of it. We catch up, she makes sure I’m on track and have the big picture in mind, not veering off from that. And then just friends and family have been so good! Then inspiration is from social media,”
Are your parents vegan?
“No hahaha. Dad still asks me every time I see him if I’m still vegan. But they’re cool with it, at the start they were kinda like what the heck.
It’s cool that I’ve been able to educate them though, like I don’t want everyone to become vegan, but just to be conscious about what you’re eating, where it comes from and the effect it has on the environment.
There’s a shift happening towards plant based diets, and its cool to be at the age we are to be a part of it happening.”
If you have a scroll down either Hannah’s website or Instagram page, you’ll notice how beautiful and bright everything looks. She loves food styling, and gets excited when the food looks good and the photos does it justice.
“The talent is in the styling. Then, it’s good lighting, good angles and you’re good to go.”
Do you have a tip for anyone wanting to create a Food Instagram?
“Have quality, consistent content that all matches the theme.”
Hannah also works with a few companies such as the I AM Company, and the Avo Tree – which are both subscription services. The Avo Tree do subscription box avocados in the Mount, and Hannah does his recipes and he puts her content onto his blog. She’s also done some things with Hello Raw.
Blogging is another side of the business that she wants to grow. Now that she has her own blog, she wants to create content for her business for an actual source of income. Down the line, blogs can generate money.
Talking to Hannah was so refreshing; she is a bright person with such a positive presence, and it was so interesting hearing her journey from someone who was initially just interested in eating raw foods to a business owner who creates and sells beautiful raw creations herself.
You should definitely check out her Website and Instagram if you haven’t already, and if you’re in the Mount area or visiting, try catch her Real Rad Food stall at the markets! There’s a promising future ahead for plant based foods and diets, and it’s so exciting to talk to someone so passionate about what she does.