Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers, founders of The Hardihood
I’m always keen to hear about female-led businesses, especially when they’ve been successfully founded by best friends. When I stumbled across the story of The Hardihood, which produces raw cakes as beautiful as they are nutritious and tasty, my interest was definitely piqued. Daisy Kristiansen and Leah Garwood-Gowers were housemates who gave up sugar together one year, and, uninspired by the sugar-free dessert options available, decided to start making their own. The Hardihood was born, and quickly garnered a huge amount of success, with the cakes now stocked in Harrods, Planet Organic and Daylesford Stores, as well as available to order online.
Daisy and Leah’s first cookbook, Raw Cake, came out at the start of 2017, and their brand is clearly going from strength to strength in a remarkably short space of time. I took the opportunity to ask Leah some questions about her growing business.
Would you tell me a little about your background? How did you both meet?
Daisy and I have been friends for years; we met at a dinner party in West London and became pals on the bus back to Hackney together that night. We later went on to live together and have many years of fun under our belts. Although we no longer live together, we’ve been running The Hardihood together since late 2015. Before we founded the business, Daisy worked in fashion and styling and I worked in hospitality and journalism.
How did the idea for The Hardihood originate? What made you decide to go into business together?
We’d both always leant towards the creative side of entrepreneurial spirit before starting The Hardihood, having had many ideas but little clue as to how to get them off the ground. The fact that The Hardihood’s success grew through social media almost overnight forced us to get serious about the world of business. There’s been a lot of faking it until you make it, and although we’re still learning on the job, we’re very confident about our vision for the future and feel grateful that, between the two of us, we have the passion and skills to stick at it.
Afternoon treats: ripe cherries and a Hardihood raw salted caramel cake
The Hardihood was born out of a number of factors. The first was creativity; we both wanted creative freedom over the project we’d be working on. The second was the desire to make the world a better place, which sounds dramatic, but it was around the time of founding The Hardihood that people were really waking up to the perils of refined sugar, and we wanted to make a dessert option that addressed this. We wanted to make a dessert that looked good, tasted good and felt good too. The third was building a lifestyle for ourselves and our employees that actively supported work-life balance; for example, having a work schedule that’s flexible enough for female employees to return to work after baby number two or in which male employees are able to take a generous amount of time off for paternity leave.
Raw cakes from The Hardihood
It’s wonderful to see an inspiring example of female friendship and business partnership. What is your advice to women who may be thinking of going into business with a friend? How do you make sure that your friendship remains a priority, and that you both feel heard and valued within the business?
It’s funny, we often say that we have to approach our relationship like a marriage these days. When things get tough it’s not like either of us can just leave the room, we’re both hugely passionate about The Hardihood being a success so whatever disagreements – professional or otherwise – we have, we have to face them head on, which I believe is hugely helpful for personal growth. It’s important to make space for honest and direct conversation, but it’s equally important not to get into the habit of treating each other too familiarly. When you’re spending such a lot of time together it’s easy to start speaking to each other as offhandedly as you would to your siblings and this can sometimes be inappropriate within a professional environment. You’ve got to be patient with each other and remember that you’re growing together, so your inputs are both equally valuable. Even though we’re only a small team of 3, we often sit down and talk about our company culture in ways that would support the size of the company we want to grow to. We value transparency, a can-do attitude, a good sense of humour and efficiency above all else, and so we push ourselves and each other to behave in a way that reflects this. At the end of it all, we’re still the best of friends and make time to discuss our lives like we would if we weren’t tackling the pitfalls of running a small business together daily.
What are your top tips for people who want to give up refined sugar, or create more general healthy eating habits?
Even switching your ordinary sugar to coconut sugar is a great place to begin. Or begin by getting in to the habit of reading the back of anything you buy that is packaged. A lot of the time sugar is sneaked into things that you’d consider savoury, like pasta source or hummus. It’s one thing indulging decisively in something, but eating something savoury and then discovering that you may as well have just had a donut is frustrating.
Daisy and Leah’s new cookbook
Would you tell me a little about your book, Raw Cake?
We always hoped the book would be an insight for beginners into the world of raw cake. It’s beautiful enough to be a coffee table book and accessible enough for everyone. We were both self taught raw chefs and we found that a lot of the books we read in the beginning were hugely complicated and contained ingredients that even google couldn’t find. We use a lot of repeating ingredients with the option to add superfoods throughout. We’re particularly proud of the glossary at the back – it tells you a little bit about each ingredient and what we find it good for.
Get the Raw Cake cookbook here.
All images, apart from the second listed, which is my own, courtesy The Hardihood.