We first met Helena, photographer and online magazine editor through the powerful medium that is Instagram.
Spoon was at an exciting stage of the business, having just secured investment from Dragons' Den, we were going through the processes of expanding our production and refining our granola and its packaging in time for our big re-launch in July 2015.
It was one of those lightning bolt moments when we all met up for the first time to discuss building an online presence. We wanted to create a destination for people like us who like to start the day feeling inspired, which immediately caught the imagination of these two best friends, full of energy and entrepreneurial sprit. With Helena's raw, understated lifestyle photography skills and Rasa's ability to outwit anyone with words we built a strong framework from which we hope to build something simple but significant.
Helena has since followed her dream to move Australia and continue her creative efforts in warmer conditions. We caught up during her recent visit to London...
What inspired your move to Australia?
I’ve always wanted to move to Australia. I first came over here in 2010 while spending a few months travelling around New Zealand - that was probably when the idea first got planted in my head. I’ve been told by friends that I kept going on about moving to Australia since my first year at uni in London - I can’t even remember, but that was in 2011.
Tell us more about Newfound – what are your ambitions for the magazine and how did it begin?
Newfound is an educational lifestyle magazine on business, psychology, travel, people and stories. It first started out as a magazine bridging the gap between dry, visually boring business magazines providing advice and beautiful, image-based independent magazines. Combining the two seemed like the perfect match. Over the time of working on Newfound’s concept, talking to lots of people about it and starting to create content, the idea grew and developed. I now want Newfound to be a source of inspiration and empowerment, educating readers on all the things we don’t learn at school, growing up, or from textbooks...
It’s about challenging preconceived, traditional ideas and beliefs of how we fit into this world and how we should live and work. Newfound aims to to share actionable, relatable advice, discovering patterns, learning from other people who are doing amazing, unconventional things, connecting the dots, understanding the deeper, underlying principles of why and how we do certain things.
We all hit 'burn out' stage from time to time (you wrote a lovely journal post about it) - how do you overcome this?
When I first felt the beginning stages of ‘burn out’ I realised that for me it all came back to that famous term ‘work-life balance’. While I do believe in switching off and creating rituals that help clear the mind of all the things going on and putting stress on our bodies, I also think that work shouldn’t be something we dread doing. No matter whether it’s working 9 to 5, or the ‘dream job’ we created ourselves, we live while we work, it’s all part of life. So instead of hoping and waiting for our free time, why don’t we think of those eight hours of work as something we should be proud of and happy to tell our grandchildren about one day. Not always waiting for the next moment, something better that lies in the future, not living a ‘if this, then that’ scenario. With so many things, we often wait for the circumstances to be right first till we can actually do what we really want to do, live the way we really want to live. Thing is, we’ll never get there, there’s always something that has to be done first, emails that have to be answered, tasks that have to get done, etc. And so we always postpone our happy stage to the future, tieing it to conditions that often lie outside of our control.
This all comes back to one powerful core concept that I believe can ‘solve’ a lot of those problems: being present and mindful. Mindfulness has become such a new age term, but it’s really just about becoming aware of what’s going on inside ourselves, our thoughts, and then being in the same place at the same time with our bodies and minds. Meditation helps a lot with that.
Another thing that ties into not letting our life be thrown around by outside circumstances and just following the ‘strong river current’ that is life, is to realise that we have a choice. Everything we do, during every minute of our life we are in control of our choices.
You've worked with a number of interesting start-up businesses, producing amazing photography for each one. Are there any particular traits to the people behind these brands that you warm to? / Are you picky about who you work with? / Do you have an ideal client?
I always love working with people that don’t feel so much like clients, but more like friends. Maybe I’m biased, but working with Annie and Jonny has been one of the best experiences in my photography working life.
It’s so important that you really get along with the people you work with, connect on a deeper level, have similar values, views, beliefs. It makes a huge difference, and you’re automatically more open and vulnerable, which creates a better working environment, keeping communication at the top.
So yes, I’m picky in that sense, but of course you have to look at the business side too, and when I was just starting out (and even now in Melbourne getting into the food and lifestyle scene again) you naturally have to take on most clients that come your way. I do always follow my gut though, and if something absolutely doesn’t feel right, it’s not happening.
We all hear about the amazing breakfast scene out in Melbourne. Can you share any gems you may have found?
Oh, I love Melbourne for its food and coffee. It truly is one of the best things about being here. I’ve actually started to create a list of cafes just before moving here, and I don’t think I’ll ever get through trying all of them, there are new ones opening up all the time. I’m amazed by the quality as well - in order for any one of them surviving over here with all that competition, they can’t afford to lack in quality.
One of my favourite spots that I regularly go back to is Lentil As Anything, a not-for-profit vegetarian cafe/restaurant, that’s solely based on a pay as you feel concept. There aren’t any prices on the menu, it’s based on trust and community, they just provide references as to how much will cover a meal and their expenses. My go-to branch is the one at Abbotsford Convent, an ex-monastery site with beautiful gardens and buildings that houses artist studios, exhibitions, live music venues, etc.
Other that that, Fitzroy is an awesome place to go for an independent, artistic, alternative vibe. There are great second-hand book stores, shops, bars, live music venues, coffee and food spots all along Brunswick Street, as well as around Smith St in Collingwood, and Johnston and Gertrude St. Definitely my favourite Melbourne area.
Do you have a morning ritual? / How do you like spending your mornings?
I love getting up early, meditating, eating a healthy breakfast (usually some combination fruit, muesli, yoghurt) and having a cup of coffee, then getting into work. After a couple of hours or so I like to work out. I go for runs, do yoga, or recently started doing strength training.
I’m always super interested in other people’s routines and rituals, and adapt and try as many things that I feel could work for me. It’s important to understand the principles behind something first though, and then you can create your own methods. So instead of blindly following someone else’s rituals, you have to know what your own needs are. For me there are five ‘non-negotiable’ ones right now - enough sleep (I count that as a ritual as well - something that helps me be my best self), brushing my teeth at least twice a day (I know, so simple, something I’ve naturally done all my life, but if I ever miss it for whatever reason I don’t feel good), meditation, getting some fresh air, and moving my body for at least 30 minutes a day.
Can you walk us through your day?
This one follows right on from the previous question. I used to go for a run first thing in the morning before breakfast, but am always trying to find what works best for me. The way I’m doing it now helps me be more productive, focusing my day around work and using exercise as a break. Whenever possible of course, you have to stay flexible too. Every day is different.
Right now I’m experimenting with ‘framing’ my day - most days are framed around work. Being self-employed, and especially when you’re working by yourself, you have to be really committed and self-disciplined. If I visually imagine my day I look at it as one big block of work, and everything else I have to do or that’s going on is a break and a different, smaller block within that overall big chunk that’s work. So even though the beauty of being self-employed is freedom and the option to do whatever, whenever, there’s still a reason for why so many people work 9 to 5. I read a great quote the other day, it went something like this ‘inspiration strikes every morning at 9am sharp’. I think that sums it up quite nicely.
What's your health philosophy, if you have one?
I believe in keeping a balance in all things. Being in harmony with everything, but yourself first of all. I got that one from a book I love, called ‘The Wind is my Mother’.
Meditation, being present and aware, and all concepts that come with Buddhistic philosophy are at the core of my health beliefs and life!
Lately I started getting into Stoic philosophy too, I love their views. I’ve been reading Seneca for example, it’s absolutely amazing and fascinating that something that’s been written about 2000 years ago is just as applicable today and makes so much sense. I actually find a lot of similarities and connections between Stoicism and Buddhism, lots of their ideas connect for me.
And then on a more physical basis, I stay healthy by exercising, eating healthy, listening to my body and what it needs. I’ve been learning about hormones, our organs, and what’s actually happening in our body and how all glands, organs, hormones affect and influence each other. It’s fascinating, and once you understand what’s actually going on you can make more educated and conscious choices when it comes to food, rest, working out, etc.
When are you at your happiest?
I love the simple things in life. A perfect morning for me is having a nice fresh breakfast, coffee, good music and a magazine or book. Maybe I’ve worked out just before and had a nice shower. Then just reading, resting, relaxing, eating, … either outside on a sunny warm day, or being inside and all cosy while it’s raining outside.
That makes me happy. Or spending time with loved ones (very cliche, I know), having good conversations, talking about things that are the opposite of small talk - basically talking about things that affect our life, how to live a good life. I think that’s really what we’re all looking for and trying to figure out at the core.
But one other thing too - travelling. It’s such an eye-opener and inspiration.
What or who recently inspired you?
Exactly that - travelling. I went back to London (even if just for a day) before going back to Germany for Christmas, and then stopped over in Tokyo for a few days on the way back to Melbourne.
Going back to London on a ‘holiday’ when I’ve lived there for over 4 years was such an interesting experience. I loved it. It felt so familiar, when at the same time it was actually just a short holiday.
And Tokyo of course - crazy. A different world in some ways, so many new impressions. I wouldn’t call it a culture shock yet, but I’ve seen and learnt heaps of things I’ve never come across that way before. Even the time spent on the plane reading was an inspiration - reading always is!
Read Newfound Magazine here.