Words by Samantha Brennan
A few weeks ago, I discovered SlendierSlim, a healthy living brand that makes a range of products, like pasta, noodles and rice, from an Asian staple vegetable called konjac. When I visited the Good Food & Wine Show in Sydney last weekend, the team from SlendierSlim was there, answering loads of questions from the many people interested in learning more about this low-kilojoule alternative to wheat-based carbohydrates.
SlendierSlim was founded by husband and wife team, Mai and Ray Haven, in 2009, and they’ve just recently had a baby, so I was excited to talk to Mai about her healthy living brand, as well her new little boy, Leon.
Q: Tell us about the development of SlendierSlim – why did you decide to create the range, and why do you think it’s been so popular?
The initial idea came about due to my husband Ray, who was gaining a significant amount of weight. We were planning on starting a family and it was important that we were both healthy. Ray had tried several diets and although he would lose weight initially, the weight would always return. I thought back to a vegetable that my Japanese mother used to cook with, called konjac, which she used to maintain her figure. I started to incorporate konjac into our meals and, remarkably, Ray lost 10 kgs in 12 weeks. Our friends commented how great he looked, which gave me the idea to bring konjac products to Australia.
I believe our products have been popular because our range gives customers a choice at dinnertime. Pasta, noodles and rice are dished up in most households each night, and now our customers have a choice; a low-kilojoule, low-carbohydrate alternative. Our products have proved especially popular for those suffering from coeliac disease, diabetes and weight issues. We also wanted to ensure that our range was something that people would want to eat; we did not want to take the joy out of eating. It is after all such a pleasure to eat and an integral part of our day.
Q: What are the highs and lows of running your own health food business? What’s been your proudest achievement so far?
Setting up a business is challenging to say the least, and we were not spared any of the hard knocks that come with that. There were many obstacles in front of us and a lot of responsibility resting on our shoulders. Being a small business owner, you are involved in every aspect from the initial concept to knocking on distribution company’s doors, convincing them to distribute your product. Then you have to research any competitors, organise your finance, learn the legal aspects, import restrictions, packaging, and storage information and, most importantly, find a reliable supplier. You have to become an expert in your product and be able to cover every aspect possible.
We do several expos throughout the year and I am always amazed when a customer knows who I am and thanks me for helping them take the initial steps to changing their lives for the better. I still find this very humbling, and I take great joy in the simple fact that we have helped someone. It is these moments in particular when I feel most proud of what we have achieved.
Q: Congratulations on becoming a mum! How is parenthood different (or the same!) to what you were expecting?
Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience and, to be honest, nothing prepares you for that. It truly opens your heart and you see the world differently, not to mention how you change as a person because you want to be the best version of yourself for your child. It is a great experience but your priorities in life change from one day to the next. It is now a challenge to juggle motherhood with my business and the demands placed upon me. In saying that, our team and my husband are a great support so it is all working out well so far.
Q: Now that you’re juggling a business with motherhood, do you have much time to cook? What are your easy go-to recipes at dinnertime?
I still love cooking. I find it very therapeutic as it relaxes me. Of course, time is an issue for me, therefore I make meals that require no fuss. Luckily our pasta, rice and noodles are pre-cooked, so a healthy meal can be ready in a flash. For this time of year, I love a spicy laksa or a creamy smoked salmon dish with our organic fettuccine. It also helps to keep Ray’s weight in check, so we do eat our own products on a regular basis.
Q: What three words best describe your family kitchen?
Practical, social and diverse.