Becoming a parent is often quoted as one of the biggest leaps a person can take. It redefines your identity, pushes you in new directions, and forces you to face your life in ways you cannot imagine.
In the run-up to Mother’s Day this Sunday, we’re talking with leaping mama, Spanish native and serial entrepreneur Susana Corcoba, founder of pantry meal brand, From Basque With Love.
Susana’s first leap was leaving her Spanish homeland, her family’s business where she worked as an accountant, and her boyfriend, with a one-way ticket to backpack through Asia. While there she bought jewellery to sell back at home. Strong sales lead her to go back to Bali and buy more, this time commissioning some of her own designs. Eventually, she relocated to Bali and started a fashion business, designing and manufacturing clothes in Bali and selling them throughout Europe.
Her second leap came when she closed her clothing label mid-GFC and moved to Melbourne with her Australian husband and two young children. While experiencing post-natal depression, Susana found going back to her family’s cooking rituals provided her with comfort and type of self-administered therapy. Out of this, she started a food business which not only supports busy humans to make quick, nutritious meals but also celebrates the rich food heritage where she grew up.
In Susana’s case, the necessity to take care of herself was the mother of her reinvention.
GIVEAWAY: To celebrate Mother’s Day, Susana is giving away a hamper complete with her entire range of pantry meals to one lucky reader. Head on over to Instagram to find out more and to enter!
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
In early primary school, I wanted to become a singer and an actress, I used to do drama as an extra school class and totally loved it, the fact of becoming someone else rather than myself for a while it was fascinating to me. Today I still regret not to continue doing it, maybe in my next life, I will!
At the end of primary school, I had this burning desire to be a gynaecologist. Weird!
Since I was very little I have always found and enormous pleasure, peace and calm in doing things with my hands; drawing, painting, stitching, knitting – I could spend hours and hours and hours doing all these things. At school, I would always get an A in art and drawing classes and used to complete all my projects and my peers’ ones too!
When I was 17 and had to decide what to study at Uni, I was divided into two, my heart was telling me to study fine arts but my family talked me into studying business (despite being a creative person, numbers have always been one of my strengths). I had already started working in the family business doing administration and accounting so I made the mistake of doing what I thought was the right thing to do, instead of doing what I really wanted to do.
What did/do you study?
Bachelor in Business Management and Administration.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made?
The most courageous leap I have made was when I decided to leave Spain, my job as an accountant and my boyfriend, and to buy myself a one-way ticket to Asia. I travelled through Thailand, India and Nepal. I finally ended up in Bali designing and producing my very first collection of fashion jewellery and accessories, and later, clothing.
The leaps I have made in my life never felt scary, as I saw them as the beginning of something new, challenging, creative, rewarding and exciting.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
Before my leap into the food industry, I was managing my clothing label. And before my leap into the fashion industry, I was studying business and working as an accountant in the family business.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
My good friend Gustavo, he is not just one of the smartest people I know but a great businessman and an amazing human. I have learnt so much from him, he feels like a kind of a mentor to me.
My mum sparked my obsession for cooking, she has taught me to be perseverant, independent, honest, sincere, generous, grateful and affectionate.
My husband and my two girls influence my life every day. They are my fuel, my reason to be, my support and inspiration.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
The years I worked in the family business and my degree gave me the knowledge and experience of how to start and manage my own business.
When it came to time to take a leap, I knew this time I would do what I really wanted to do instead of doing what other people wanted me to do.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that led you to the leap?
MY LEAP INTO FASHION: What I studied was BORING, my job was BORING, my life, in general, felt so BORING. Plus I was in an unhappy relationship I didn’t know how to get out of. I wasn’t happy, something was missing and I didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or do in life but what I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to continue doing what I was doing, that was a start!
MY LEAP INTO THE FOOD INDUSTRY: I ran my fashion business for 12 years, the last three were a total nightmare. The GFC was hitting Europe badly, sales were hard and chasing money from clients was even harder. On top of this, I was suffering from post-natal depression (PND) and couldn’t afford to do anything. The whole family economy was depending on me, and I just wanted to disappear or die. It was the hardest time of my life.
A business opportunity for my husband brought us to Australia. Not having the weight of the family economy on my shoulders was such a relief. I decided to stop my fashion business and spend my time enjoying my girls, taking care of myself and getting mentally and emotionally better.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
Me and one of my best friends decided to go to Indonesia for a holiday to celebrate the end of our uni studies. We spent most of our time in Flores Island and had the best time ever. It was THE TRIP OF MY LIFE. We spent our last few days in Bali with the idea of doing some last minute shopping. We still had some money left so we decided to buy some fashion jewellery to sell in surf shops once in Spain and pay for our trip this way.
The plan worked perfectly, we sold the whole lot in one go to a chain of surf shops in the Basque country. I used that cash to go back to Indonesia and buy another lot, but this time I designed myself some of the pieces.
Again, it all sold quickly and my own designs sold better than the ones I bought.
This sparked and idea in my head, “I could do this for a living. I could travel, I could design, I could do all things I love, I could be my own boss and I could free myself from the life I had that was making me unhappy.” So I did! I left my job, I left my boyfriend, bought myself a one-way ticket to Asia, my backpack and few hundred euro and spent few months travelling (super low cost) in Thailand, India, Nepal, to finally ending up in Bali designing and producing my very first collection of fashion jewellery and accessories. It was serious, I had a name for the brand, designed labels, tags and made a catalogue. I was having so much fun discovering suppliers, artisans and factories, meeting a lot of interesting people on the way and learning to speak Indonesian as out of the touristic places not many people could speak English. I was in HEAVEN! Later on, I expanded the collection into clothing.
My mother nearly had a heart attack seeing her daughter leaving home with a backpack and few ideas in her head. She was already picturing me working in a bank straight after finishing uni. It took her a long time to believe in what I was doing.
I ran my fashion business for 12 years and hoped to continue it once I overcame my PND. But deep inside I knew that that stage of my life was over. My husband Julian was managing his own business and it was going to be impossible for me to travel to Asia and Europe with two little girls. I went through a hard period of loss and confusion, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next but I knew fashion wasn’t a path for me to follow anymore.
I grew up in the Basque country, a region bordering Spain and France, renowned for its strong culture of traditional cooking with quality produce. At home, my ‘Ama’ was always preparing something fresh from the local market, which sparked my obsession and passion for good food from an early age.
Once in Australia, I had time to be with my kids and BE with myself. I was recovering from my depression and found out that cooking was a great therapy for me. It was a kind of meditation. Cooking made me feel focused and calm and cleared my head from negative thoughts, so I would spend hours and hours cooking every day, baking cakes, making preserves, slow cooking hearty casseroles for hours.
As I was feeling a bit better my feet started to itch again. I had to do something. I needed another leap.
One day at a picnic my husband’s cousin and I came up with the idea of making flavoured olive oils. We decided for the name From Basque With Love, worked on the packaging and labelling and started to do few markets and a bit of wholesale. The markets were a way of doing our own market research.
From Basque With Love was taking shape, organically and slowly, without a business plan. I never before could have imagined myself getting into the food industry. It just happened and I was loving it and having fun, I was leaping into something totally without even knowing it. I was experimenting and learning on the go. I knew the steps to follow to set up and start a new business but the food industry it was totally unknown to me, and so was Australia and its public.
After a while, my partner left the business and I started to produce a range of gourmet meals. People loved them, as they were easy and quick to prepare, healthy and so tasty. Slowly and gradually I left the oils and salts behind to concentrate just in the meals. I had the dream to handcraft delicious, natural, healthy and easy to prepare meals for every pantry in Australia.
How did you fund your leap?
In both my leaps I have always self-financed. I would start small, making some money and invest that money into something bigger.
What other leaps have you made?
Definitely, the scariest and most courageous leap of my life has been becoming a mum.
I met my husband one afternoon in Bali. He had his return flight to Australia the following day. It was love at first sight. We only knew each other for a day. We maintained a long distance relationship seeing each other in Bali and Melbourne and I felt pregnant nine months later.
I felt scared, confused, confused and more confused, I only knew this guy for nine months! He was Australian, I was Spanish, he was working and living in Australia and I was working and living between Spain and Bali, omg, how was I going to have a child in this circumstance?
Something inside me was screaming, “You are crazy, this is crazy!” Another part of me was saying, “You are not a little girl anymore, you have done this with love, you can’t not have this baby.” So we did. We had our baby girl, Julian moved to Bali, we both worked together in my fashion business and the rest is history.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
Both my leaps have worked out but some steps on the way haven’t. When something goes wrong I try to see it as a process of a learning more than as a failure.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
My fears are more personal than professional. I am not fearful of failing as I really believe in the human capacity of reinventing yourself. If something doesn’t work you go to the next thing. With creativity and perseverance, you can get anywhere.
I am not fearful of going bankrupt either. Money doesn’t drive me. I see money as a game, you play it when you have it and if you don’t then you play something else.
I am fearful of the idea of losing a loved one or not being in here tomorrow for my two girls, this terrifies me.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap? 1 being sad, 10 being rad.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
The explosion of creativity, the courage and the perseverance that goes with it, the beginning of something new, the excitement of the unknown.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
The law of sacrifice. You have to give up something in order to get something.
What might be your next leap?
I have been thinking for a while about writing a cooking book for From Basque With Love with recipe ideas to complement our product range.
I’d also love to write a cooking book about Basque cuisine with all the traditional Basque recipe I grew up with. I see this book more like a personal project and a travel through my childhood, culture and my country.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Perseverance, honesty, creativity, generosity, gratefulness, affection, freedom and independence.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
I admire many people that have made a leap professionally. But I really admire the ones that risk their life leaving their countries running away from a war, terrorism or starvation. They leave it all behind, their country, family and friends to venture themselves to the unknown with the hope of finding a better place for them and their loved ones.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” – The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
I was in my early 20s on a plane flying over the Himalayas in Nepal at the moment I read this sentence. It’s ruled my life since.
Right now I’m:
Hearing: Vanessa de Mata
Eating: Pisto with is the Spanish version of the French Ratatouille.
Drinking: Raw hot chocolate without sugar or milk
Reading: Right now I am reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
Loving: As the weather is cooling down I am enjoying a snuggle on the sofa with the heater on, a blanket, a hot chocolate and a cuddle with my loved ones.
To mother’s everywhere this Sunday, I hope you find yourself in front of a fine meal prepared with love to enjoy with your dear ones.
p.s.s. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway over on Instagram to win a complete From Basque With Love pantry pack!