Episode 61: Transforming Passion Into Business with Fiona Anchal

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Shivani Gupta 00:04

Welcome to the AskShivani podcast. I am so excited about having Fiona Anchal on our podcast today. I had the pleasure of meeting Fiona as a beautiful cooking instructor late last year in 2021, where I went to a cooking course organised as a surprise by my husband and it was not just for him and it was also for our kids. And some of the stuff, we have almost been cooking weekly since we do that. But let me tell you a little bit about Fiona. She is a passionate plant-based cook. She created an amazing business called wholesome bellies, just the name of its delish because she has a real passion for healthy eating and cooking. She was a home cook in her teens and grew up in the hospitality industry, spending a lot of weekends at the family restaurant, where her mom was the head chef and she was surrounded always by incredible cooks, wholesome bellies has been created to really help you create simple, nourishing plant-based meal in your kitchen. The intention is to inspire you to fall in love with vegetables, and how to transform plants into mouthwatering, unbelievable meals. So, people keep coming back. Now I could go on about wholesome bellies, Fionna. But I just want to welcome you. I'm so excited to have you on this podcast.

Fiona Anchal 01:58

Thanks for having me. Really happy to be here.

Shivani Gupta 2:02

Oh, that's so great. And Fiona, one of the things I'm always interested when I'm speaking to guests on this podcast is, you know, we don't get to where we've got to until we have these massive ups and massive downs. And so, share with the audience a little bit about what's been some of your, I guess, big turning points. And some of them are good, and some of them are bad, and some of them are often ugly. But to take us through a little bit of your major turning points in your life that's got to do to where you are.

Fiona Anchal 2:30

Yeah, sure. Thanks. Great question. Because you don't often take time to reflect the kind of are where you are. And you kind of don't know why you are where you are sometimes, right. So, where I am now is a quite a recent place, I guess wholesome valleys is new only opened last year. And I've been working in the new business slowly over a couple of years. And I'd say COVID, maybe cliched, as many are saying it but was probably it was definitely a turning point. And not one. Intentional prior to wholesome bellies, I had been working in fashion with my husband and our business called the uniform edit for 18 years. So, in clothing, in retail and corporate b2b with uniform, so definitely away from food. And I always had a passion for food. But in my mind, it was just a love and never anything that I thought could be more than a love. And I stayed with my husband and his business for many years and happy for many years and COVID hit, we found ourselves not selling for six weeks because nobody was going to work. So, nobody needed uniforms. And I guess this space those six weeks, probably more of time at home with not a lot to do. Because to be honest, I wasn't terribly motivated to spend the six weeks on building better systems. And I was just a bit I think burnt out to be honest. So, by the time that the six-week break arrived, I just gravitated to the kitchen, and I spent more time cooking and I had started cooking classes at home and I had done two before COVID hit. So, I spent those six weeks building content, not really knowing what it was for. To be honest, it wasn't a huge aha moment. And we got a little bit scared to be honest that our income would dry out because no, there was no talk of people going back to work. So, I said to my husband, maybe we need to start thinking about something else. Because one day you might go back to the uniform at it. But things like this could come up again. And we both work in our in the same business together. And that's not a safe strategy. That was my I came from, you know, We're husband and wife in a business together. That's always been great. But maybe I need we need something else.

So yeah, that was a big turning point. And it took through the whole pandemic for me to actually move through wanting to do more food. And as we got through business. As we currently saw it. We diversified and we changed things and I wasn't required as much as I was required before to be honest, we move to different supply chains, international chains became difficult. Anyway, I could go on forever, but basically a huge turning point because I was become my role had become a little bit redundant. And I never thought I could leave where I was because I felt so valuable. And what I've learned is that we're all replaceable and systems are there to I guess to free you up and what I did create last October was in the middle of a pandemic, a huge investment in a great big space in Brisbane and a whole big cooking school with which has a lot more going on than just the cooking school. And yeah, it came from nowhere to be honest. And I guess before those other turning points, my biggest one in terms of moving me into plant-based eating was my father's passing a little bit bittersweet because I lost my dad to heart disease, very sudden heart attack. But within six months of that, it opened up my eyes and my heart to why he left so early and how he could have still been here if we had known better. And I went vegetarian straightaway. And then now vegan and everything I do is about longevity, but not living a longer life just for the sake of it. But living a long life with quality. Being at my goal is to be at 80 and still do a yoga pose and stand on my head. If I can. Do you know what I mean? So, there's actually more. Yeah, they two pretty big ones, I guess that have bought me to my passion with food, particularly plant based and, in the business, I am now is the pandemic and my father's passing. So, two pretty, pretty difficult stages in our life to be honest. Yeah.

Shivani Gupta 06:44

And look, I mean, I only came to the cooking course recently, but I thought you'd had it set up for a lot longer. It was pretty schmick and pretty organized. And so, you've only really been doing it a few months. But yes. Like he didn't go okay, well, I'll just start cooking classes from home, you obviously went this is going to be a proper business on set this up.

Fiona Anchal 7:05

Yeah, well, I've been home for a little bit. I just did a one every few weeks, and the demand got stronger. And I think I just got confident that it was possible. And you know, 46 now, so times not ticking. But if I'm going to do something, it's now right. I'm not going to do it. In my 60s, well, maybe but who knows, I just felt let's just go for it. Right? Nothing, nothing to lose. And I think the pandemic, it was so dire. And in our head, it was so difficult in business that I just don't think that I think if I've done it now I just the risk seemed less for some reason. I don't know why that seems crazy. But I felt like we'd lost a lot already. And there could be nothing really worse. I don't know why. But that's my headspace was there? If not now then it's never.

Shivani Gupta 07:54

Yeah, now that makes sense. And sometimes as you spoke about the future as well. And so, you know, when challenges come your way and obviously a lot have through the pandemic for one of your businesses. You've been reinvented yourself and really gone down deeper into your cooking and your passion for cooking. But you know, some people have a process some people journal stuff, some people deal with it. So, as you face these, but also other challenges, do you have a bit of a process? I know you, you know, sometimes speak about, you know, your key word for the year to tell. Tell me more about that.

Fiona Anchal 8:30

Yeah, I guess. For me, I've always been a curious person. Even as a child, I always questioned why, like, why do we wear a white dress on a wedding day? Like, just questions like that? Why does the man have to do that and the woman doesn’t? So, I think curiosity is probably one way that I deal with challenges. When something comes up, the initial reaction is what it is. And it's fear, and it's everything else. But then it's asking the question and being curious for me is, maybe this has come about for a reason. Maybe there's something for me to learn here. So that's one way like with my dad, for example, why did he go? Why did he die? Like what happened? I didn't sit in the blame was a doctor's fault. I had questions and curiosity; I think is what drives me to move through those challenges. And, and I'm just really big on getting to know myself better. I feel like we don't know ourselves well enough. So, I've always dug deep in self-development. Tony Robbins, the landmark forum, I could name lots of different courses that I've continued on. Really crazy things like seven-day water fasts, where you're, you're so naked, I guess because you don't have anything to hold on to emotionally because you've just got water is no chocolate biscuits and coffee to help pacify what's going on. So, my water fast was a huge process and turning point and I still find myself doing them for periods of time when I feel a little stuck, because I feel like they just help clear me.

And I try and have a daily practice and it changes. Some months. I'm great. Other months. I'm not so great. But it generally starts with quiet time in the morning, so up before everybody else. So, I've got two kids and a beautiful husband. But when they're up the house is full, so I try and be up before them. And I've practicing some form of meditation, whether I can fit in five minutes or 10 or 20. Sometimes it's quiet meditation, some might call follow a guided program. Some months I may just listen to some sort of scripture for 10 minutes of the mantras. Just changes. And I just try and move my body as many mornings as I can before I start my day. Yeah, that does change, right? Because we build different things. And we some moments were less stressed. And when we're less stress, I find, I don't practice as often as I should. And then the stress arrives. And it's, I've got to get back to that meditation practice. You know? It's, it's a changing process, isn't it?

Shivani Gupta 10:57

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. This wasn't going to be one of the questions I asked Fiona. But I'm always fascinated by people that meditate, particularly as you've gone through so much change through COVID. Did the idea of taking this passion and turning it into a business come through some of those meditations? Or did you use it to clarify or did you do some of that? Or was that just to know that you went, look, I've got this skill and passion, I'm going to do something about it. You know, I'm always curious around around that.

Fiona Anchal 11:27

Yeah, that's a great question. Um, in the last 10 years, I have set up a number of different blogs for food, and they've all failed miserably. So, I guess I always had a template in the back of my mind that there was something for food, but fear, I know now that fear stopped me. The fear of I wouldn't even say the fear of failure. I think my biggest fear is actually succeeding. Because then what do you do when you're successful? And it's a strange one, we all think we fear failure. But I generally I know now that I fear success, and I fear shining brightly, I actually have a fear of being bright, which is crazy. So, I've learned to give myself the permission to do that. And I think that's a slow process. But the biggest turning point for me was my water fast three years ago in Bali, where we literally water fast, and we learnt about health and wellbeing. So that complimented my, that gave me the confidence that I knew plant-based eating was a great way to live.

It's not for everybody, but I know that it is one great modality. And one great way to stay healthy. And I got that confirmation through the learnings in that seven-day seminar while I was a water fasting. But during that process, I was introduced to Rebirthing through an Australian guy called Michael. And he during our water fasted intensive breathwork sessions, where we did a process of breathing that goes for a solid hour and a half, where you just breathe, but very, oh, very strong breathwork. And it's called rebirth. And through that process, I actually came away from Bali reborn, knowing that there was another purpose for me, and I knew that it was food in some way. I didn't know if it was a cooking school, but I knew it was food. And I went home and I started that blog again. And this time, it actually flew it was the blog that I now have the business name, I called it wholesome Bellies, didn't know what it was. But I knew then that that was the right path. And I came home and continued rebirth in Brisbane with a lovely lady called Braylon. And I did 10 weeks with her and continued and I just freed up a lot of dark energy that I had. That's the truth and a lot of grief I had from my father's passing that I thought was gone. But it was not it was still in me, removing stereotypes on who I thought I should be, who my parents thought I should be a lot of work. It was a lot of self-work. And it was hard. There were sessions where it was hard and I cried and it hurt and I just wanted to go back to who I was. And I do feel reborn in a weird kind of way. I know that seems really strange. Strange, maybe. But yeah.

Shivani Gupta 14:10

I don't think, it's I don't think it's needed at all. And so, where you are now and obviously, we've started off this year with the pandemic still around you know even wave in terms of what occurs in our society and schools and organizations, etc. When you look into the future for you, Fiona, what are some of your aspirations? What are some of the things you know, and look that might be a year out? For some people, it's a lifetime some people it's five years, what is your future as you consider it? What are some of the things that you go, I would so love to do that, more of that or less of that, personally or business?

Fiona Anchal 14:16

Yeah. Two years ago, I would have probably given you 55 goals. I'm very goal orientated person. But having gone through what I've gone through with this rebirthing process, to be 100% honest, my aspirations is to feel peace and joy as often as I can. I don't have a huge vision of host for wholesome Bellies. I just want it to be what it will be. So, I guess I aspire to do less and be more and that's not very specific. And it's really new for me, not being very specific. But I just want to be really happy, like, I just want to wake up happy. And I am happy most of the time, but I don't. Yeah, just not having things weigh me down. I know there's things that are going on in the world that are horrible, and they're completely out of our control, and learning to let go more, and having more time doing the things that I love. And for me, luckily, work is what I love. So, it may be a lot of work. But it's not really labeling things for me anymore. It's just being who I am and doing what I do. And if one day, it's no longer what I'm doing, then I want that to be okay with me. And not that I failed, or I've made the wrong choice. If that makes sense. It's just a flow a little bit more just to go with what's going on and be able to change your mind. And it's okay, you know, I don't want so many people like, oh, but I thought you were never going to do that. Or I thought you said you were going to do X Y Z. And I don't want that anymore. I just, yeah, I'll just go where I feel I need to go at that point in time based on what I need. And my family needs is probably really important, too. If they need me at home more than that's where I'll go. And if they're okay with that me, then I can go other places, I guess. Yeah. Does that make sense?

Shivani Gupta 16:46

Yeah, it so does, I think you covered in one word, which was, you know, flow, then I'm gonna not be determined by the fact that I have to do that. And it's really interesting. I'm starting to read more and more about women that are starting to adopt that because it's made them very successful in one area. But then they still feel quite unhappy. And there's a number of women, I've listened to their podcasts or heard them interview or even people on this podcast where people are just going look, I don't know, you know, I don't know yet. But I'm going to use kind of my intuition and my heart in my head to make those decisions as I go. And they may, they may change. And they may or may meander. And I might be very specific. But I'm just not going to determine one set path in terms of what the future holds.

Fiona Anchal 17:35

Yeah, I think there's power in that I really do. And it doesn't mean that you're flaky or fluffy. We don't have goals. I just think there's power in just moving a little slower as well. Like just like, where am I going? Like, what's the rush? And it's not always easy. I still have moments every day where I'm like, oh, I haven't got enough people in that class. Come on, and hustle, hustle. And then I'm like, No, it's okay. If we only get eight. That's perfect. That's exactly how it's meant to be. But I'm constantly reminding myself and I think that's the next phase of my journey is learning to detach from what I think I need or what I think looks right. And learning to be in flow. Because if I'm not in flow, I have moments of flow. But my aspiration is to actually probably allow myself to flow a little more and less control what's going on. And be okay with something not working out sometimes.

Shivani Gupta 18:28

Yeah, yeah. Now, that makes sense. Do you have any philosophies, leadership philosophies, again, whether they apply personally or business wise that you love.

Fiona Anchal 18:09

Blade with kindness, it's on my uniform T shirts, hashtag ATFT or the effing time, blade with kindness, I think I can't go wrong. Not oh, again, another one. That's not always easy to practice. We just need more of it in the world. And I think lead by example. And I think my biggest leadership role has been as a mother, because they're watching me 24/7. I mean, you can lead in work, but you can go behind closed doors and not be a great leader or be a leader when you feel like you need to be in almost put on that mask. But as a parent, they're watching all the time. So, I think leading by example, would be a big lesson that I've probably only really understood as a parent, that is a great leadership quality in business as well. Walk your talk.

Shivani Gupta 19:35

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and when you look into, you know, some of the other things that you want to do, too, I think it's fascinating to know, in terms of just saying, Look, I may or may not be doing this, or I may be doing this, I just kind of 100% know yet, and I work that out. And so, when you you've got two kids, you've been in business for a long time with your husband, and now this business. And you've talked a little bit about that, like you're trying to get up earlier than everybody else. But are there other things that you do for your wellness or do you have rituals, whether they're daily or whether you do them once a year? Do you do things for you that kind of feel bad cup, and I know you spoke about that fasting, but that was about three years ago? Tell me a little bit more about how and what you do.

Fiona Anchal 20:21

I make a point, at least pretty much every year to take a trip without my husband and without my children. And it may be on my own. It may be with a girl friend, it may just be a weekend. I think it depends on what's going on before the COVID and lockdowns, I would go traveling for a week or two at a time. I've been to India before on my own when my babies were little and did volunteer charity work there. I haven't had that opportunity lately; I feel like I'm a little bit more grounded in home at the moment. And that's just the phase we're in right now. Right? So, it's weekends away. So that would be a big one. And I say without my husband, because I think when we've been together for 20-25 years. And I think when you're together with someone that long, it's very easy to become one person and forget yourself as who you are. And now you're a mother, and a husband and a business owner and a sister and you've got all these roles. So, for me going away by myself or with one friend works for me because I get to just be me again, and I don't have to worry what I'm doing. My kids are watching if I've had too many wines or whatever it is, say a few words I shouldn't I just get to kind of be me again. That would be number one. I have coffee with my husband every single morning that sort of a ritual. And it's a five-minute event, but it's just the two of us on our veranda before our day starts. And I do that, I think for our wellness as a couple. It's just a little thing we do. They're the main thing is really an eating a pretty well balanced, healthy diet. So, eating well most days and taking my vitamins and supplements is just something that happens every day, without too much thought nowadays. That would be my main things really.

Shivani Gupta 22:13

That's amazing. I love that I have the sandwich with my husband. Almost every day we go and have a coffee with to buy coffee was to go out and be like so much time. And you know, it's costing a bucket of money. Why don't we just invest in a really good coffee machine?

Fiona Anchal 22:30

Yeah. Well, today morning, it was literally two and a half minutes. I think I hadn't finished mine before we had to leave but it was the bad coffee. Yeah, let's do it. And it's just that was that's all we had time for today. And that's okay. But we just make that a thing that we just do. And I don't know why it's so important. But it's just a little thing. The kids aren't allowed to talk to us. They have to just kind of wait around to have to do our thing.

Shivani Gupta 22:54

That's really sweet. That's gorgeous. Fiona, tell the audience where they could learn more about you do, but also the amazing, the cooking courses I we did one before Christmas. In fact, the food was so good. We ended up cooking the entire thing on Christmas Day as our Christmas meal. And I think my husband's just given me a surprise as a Christmas present. I'm coming to another course on a different culinary experience next month. I'm so looking forward to that. But if people want to find out more about you and the courses that you run, what's the best place to find you?

Fiona Anchal 23:35

Yeah, so they can visit me on Facebook or Instagram at the two social platforms. It's just at Wholesome Bellies. And then on my website, it's just https://www.wholesomebellies.com.au/ where they can find our classes, were based in Brisbane, currently everything we do is in a physical location. But there are a lot of great resources on our website. So, lots of recipes for free things they can do, we run some really cool events as well. So, diamond paint nights, vegan long table dinners. And we will be starting to work on a cookbook which is exciting, and some sort of online classes so people can actually, that aren't in Brisbane, engage with us and learn a bit about what we do.

Shivani Gupta 24:21

That's amazing. Fiona, I look forward to staying connected and learning more and applying that into me and my family from cooking and it's been just such a pleasure having you on.

Fiona Anchal 24:34

Thanks for having me and it was so lovely to meet all four of you. You have such a divine family your children are just the perfect example of incredible parenting and leadership Shivani honestly, they’re gorgeous.

Shivani Gupta 24:45

Thank you Fiona, I know that I don't feel like that all the time that I'm stuffing up their lives but it's so nice for you to acknowledge that.

Fiona Anchal 24:52

Do you know what one one little thing on that Tony Robbins seminar? One thing he said once is doesn't matter what you do, you're gonna mess up your children. And I know that's really difficult to hear. But it's quite company knowing that you do your best and your best is good enough. And I think that's just a huge lesson for all of us. They're writing everything, yeah

Shivani Gupta 25:12

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you Fiona for being on today.

Fiona Anchal 25:15

My pleasure.

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.