Interview with Jesse Wilson - on why she is so Totally Devoted to her amazing range of lactation and morning sickness cookies!
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Jesse Wilson the founder of Totally Devoted and clever recipe creator of a range of all natural & allergy friendly lactation and morning sickness cookies. Her products and business immediately caught my interest because 6 years ago here in Australia when I was a first time mum, struggling big time with lack of milk supply there was nothing at all like these cookies here. Sure, recipes on the internet would have been there, but as a new mum with a baby who didn't sleep ever, was coll-icky and the stress caused by lack of milk supply meant that even if I'd wanted to find out how and bake them, there's just no way I could have! It takes every single bit of energy and time you have just taking care of your baby!
Since then and launching The Yummy Mummy Food Company to bring these amazing cookies from New Zealand to Australia, I've been so lucky to work closely with Jesse, but it recently dawned on me that while I know the story of how her cookies came into being and why she's so passionate about providing mums with the highest quality, allergy friendly products, you all here in Australia might not know the background.
So, we recently made cups of tea at the same time in our different countries and sat down for a virtual chat!
When did the idea for Totally Devoted first come about and why?
In the early days of feeding my second daughter I spent hours and hours with friends who were also breastfeeding. We talked about the challenges of breastfeeding and whether we were making enough milk. We had tried all the teas on the market but agreed they tasted like grass!
Back then you could find recipes for Lactation Cookies but no one was making them so other mothers could buy them. I spoke at length to a Medical herbalist friend and she suggested adding Fenugreek and Fennel as they are great milk boosters. With this in mind I create a cookie full of galactogogue (milk boosting) and other nutritious ingredients for mothers.
Did your 'before babies' time/career prepare you for life as a business person?
Yes! Before babies I worked as a chef and spent time Cheffing in London and France. I then returned to NZ and worked as a Chef in Wanaka. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided it was time to return to Auckland to raise my Family in Leafy Titirangi where I was raised and all my family and friends still were.
Tell me about the process you went through to determine the best mix of ingredients for the cookie range?
My daughter Maisie developed quite serious eczema at 3 months and it broke my heart seeing her scratch her face till it bleed. I visited doctors who suggested steroids and baths in bleach. None of this sat well with me so I started my own research and discovered that dairy and wheat play a huge part in eczema. I cut these completely out of my diet while I was breastfeeding and found she improved immensely. So I had her in mind when I decided they needed to be wheat and dairy free.
There's an age-old concept of food as medicine which I've always believed in and I sought extensive advice from naturopaths and herbalists about the cookie's ingredients, as well as food technicians on aspects like shelf life.
Our cookies are all based on this research to provide mums with the best possibly combination to help improve milk supply and overall health.
It took a long time to get the recipe right as back then not many people were baking this way. Its changed ALOT since. I took so much flak for using coconut oil as it was still seen as a "bad" oil back then. I was convinced it was the best option and I'm now glad I stuck to my guns as Totally Devoted cookies were the first to contain this amazing ingredient that's now widely considered a super food.
What made you decide to make your entire range allergy friendly?
For all the eczema/allergy reasons above and also I really wanted parents to have a lunch box friendly option, which is why our whole cookie range including the Family and Clever Cookies are all allergy friendly and now individually wrapped.
The cookies have since been endorsed by many natural therapists including Natural Medicine Practitioner Brett Friedman as having "wholesome nutrients [which] provide the delicate but powerful support of carefully selected herbs that address the health of both mums and their babies".
How have you juggled the growth of your 'business baby' with your real life growing children?
I have found the work/mum balance very delicate. There have been times where I felt so guilty for sitting in front of the computer answering emails. I had moments of getting very frustrated with the kids constantly asking me things whilst trying to respond to a work email. I learnt pretty fast that I had to designate time to work when Maisie was sleeping and Louie was at Kindy. I made a real effort to make sure they had lots of one on one time with me so we were all happy.
They are both now at school so it is definitely ALOT easier.
Totally Devoted has now grown beyond the shores of New Zealand, besides here in Australia, where else in the world are your cookies now available?
We now export our cookie range to the UK where they are distributed by The Milky Whey (http://www.themilkywhey.co.uk/) and recently a whole shipping container load went on their way to China, which is really exciting!
WATCH THIS SPACE....because Jesse from Totally Devoted has a lot of big plans coming up soon to grow and expand her clever and helpful range helping both mums and babies!