Welcome to My Quaroutine – our new weekly interview series on About Time, where each week we’ll be talking to an inspirational figure on their work, routine and life during lockdown. Today it’s Kristina Komlosiova, Co-Founder of Pollen + Grace, a modern-day food service offering delicious, plant-based meals and snacks made with 100% natural ingredients:

What does your daily routine look like right now?

These days, I get up at around 7:30am, make my first cup of tea and get in half an hour of stretch/exercise in the garden. We kick off every workday with a 15 minute team Zoom call – covering the biggest wins of the previous day and get clear a focus for what’s ahead.

The rest of the working day is a mix of endless Zoom meetings and staring at spreadsheets, figuring out new ways of doing things and implementing them pretty much on the spot in order to keep everything moving positively; we want to continue on our quest to help people to enjoy healthy and delicious food – now has never been a more important time.

I log off at around 6.30pm and try to get my 1 hour of fresh air – I live quite close to the Thames and the sunsets these days are absolutely epic so a run in the evening is my miracle-healer right now and completely re-energises me for the next day.

What inspired you to start your company?

We started Pollen + Grace back in 2015 when the plant-based, healthy food scene was still super niche but definitely on the rise. The inspiration came from a personal need – Steph, my co-founder, was diagnosed with some pretty restrictive food intolerances which meant she had to start cooking all her meals herself, completely from scratch. She started bringing her home-made lunches to work and when pretty much every single person in the office offered to pay her to make a few extra portions, that’s when we knew we were onto something good and should probably make a business of it.

How hard was it getting things off the ground with your business?

We started super small – as a lunch delivery service – taking daily online orders, cooking from Steph’s home kitchen and then cycling food to offices around Hammersmith. But things took off really quickly for us and within less than 12 months, we pivoted from a boutique lunch delivery service to having a range of 14 different products on the shelves of Planet Organic, Selfridges, Harrods and so on.

These days, our range of 100% plant-based products, can be found on Ocado, select group of Co-op stores and soon Tesco. I believe that the key to our success was the absolute clarity and strength of our brand – which we cemented in right from the beginning, paired with an ambition of creating delicious healthy food-to-go that is exciting, appealing and accessible to all.  And also, never saying NO to an opportunity or a challenge! It has definitely taken a lot of grit and hustling to gain traction and make things happen.

What would you do differently if you could?

Our journey has been very organic so it’s hard to say what we’d do differently, but I think if we could go back a few years, we would definitely build a strong senior management team a little bit earlier on. I think it’s super important to have a strong internal support network of people that can deliver growth in a controlled way. Without one, things can get pretty overwhelming when you constantly run at 100mph.

What advice would you give others looking to launch a wellness or food brand?

Just start, don’t wait for your idea or product to be absolutely perfect – the chances are it will be ever changing and evolving so you might never feel that it’s 100% finished. And the second, really boring advice is – know your numbers and keep track of them from Day 1. This will be absolutely crucial in securing funding and ensuring that your business is viable long terms – it can support itself and also you.

How has Covid 19 affected your business? What are you currently doing as a business during this time?

Yes, absolutely! Most of our core retail customers have been heavily impacted by the loss of footfall and altered consumer buying behaviour so our usual revenue streams have definitely suffered. But, we were super quick to take action and launched our direct-to-door delivery service (here) within less than a week. We now deliver all our meals directly to customer’s doors across London, as well as via select retailers across the UK. We know we’re all going through the same struggles, locked in at home and our access to fresh, healthy food is restricted – it’s great we can now provide an easy and convenient service to Londoners, with meals for up to three days delivered within 24 hours.

Proceeds of our online sales are directly funding our NHS food donation – to date, we’ve delivered over 2,000 plant-based lunchboxes and breakfast pots to 5 key hospitals across London and have many more drops planned.

How are you spending your time in self-isolation?

I’m fortunate to be very busy with work and also to have a small garden so my days are filled with a tonne of work-related projects and al fresco lunches. I Facetime my family pretty much every single day and we share photos of all our meals our family group chat so my dinner prep has become a lot more elaborate than it used to!

Tips for managing your mental health as business owner?

Exercise and spend some time in the nature! Allow yourself at least an hour per day to just get your body moving and your mind to run free.

What’s next for your brand?

We launched our home delivery service a couple of weeks ago so this will be a priority for us for the next few weeks. It started off very much as a response to the shift in the market due to COVID-19 but in hindsight, we realised that we all love being able to interact with our customers more directly so it gave the whole team a surge of excitement at otherwise quite a challenging time. We will be soon launching our products at selected Tesco stores and have a couple of very exciting new product launches in the pipeline for later in the year so watch this space.