It’s (unofficially!) summer, so it’s no surprise that we’re thirsty. Yes, there are vending machines full of sodas and sugary energy drinks, but what we’re about to uncover is a delicious and healthy drink brand, based in a small Connecticut town. The town might be small, but Simply Originals’ message and taste is anything but. Hear Meghan Varas’ refreshing story, and we bet you’ll agree.
What about Peru has inspired your drinks?
All of our products are inspired by my husband’s Peruvian heritage. Peru has a wealth of natural resources and the Peruvian people have long been known for their healthy, vibrant lifestyles. Our products are based on the actual beverages—chicha morada and emolientes—that my husband Renato grew up on, both of which are naturally packed with “good for you” stuff, and actually taste good as well.
Chicha morada, the most traditional drink of Peru, is as common to Peruvian households as lemonade is to American households. Peruvian moms literally make a pot of chicha morada on the stove and then let it cool down for the family refreshment of the day. Emolientes, or herbal infusions, are offered throughout Peru by local street vendors who use fresh herbs, botanicals, etc. to steep a hot emoliente.
Simply Originals Chicha Morada Purple Maize Infusion and Simply Originals Flaxseed Herbal Infusions reflect these long-standing homemade traditions, but with less than half of the sugar and calories of the homemade recipes.
What gave you the idea to start Simply Originals?
For as long as I can remember, my husband had the entrepreneurial “bug”, and it always seemed to circle back to his Peruvian roots, as did his wealth of innovative ideas. So as I sat pregnant with my second child (in 2006) listening to his ideas for what seemed to be the millionth time, I insisted that there was no better time to bring his traditional elixirs to the “natural and organic” industry in the U.S.
Both of us tend to be “foodies” who truly appreciate real foods and their multitude of flavors, so this “idea” just seemed to be a natural extension of our lifestyle. And so there it began.
What are the pros/cons of working with your husband?
Now that’s a loaded question! Where do I begin? Working with your spouse is a constant compromise. (And we’re both type A personalities, so imagine!) You learn things about yourself and each other (ex. ways of working, limitations, expectations, “strengths” and “weaknesses”) that in an ordinary office environment (ex. sans your spouse) you may never be forced to acknowledge in such a raw, in-your-face manner. The boundaries of “work life” and “personal life” are too often blurred, so this is something that we are constantly trying to better manage.
Renato’s unparalleled determination and passion for our products is a real driving force, so our combined talents offer limitless opportunities. Working together allows me the flexibility to take on “work” while still playing a very active role in my children’s day-to-day, and to push-back when it becomes too much. I know first-hand that this flexibility is something that is often sought by working parents but seldomly found in the corporate world (still), so I truly appreciate that aspect of it. Simply Originals has also afforded me the opportunity to explore different (creative) roles outside of those that would have traditionally been presented to me with my corporate finance background, and that’s a great bonus!
You’re based in a small Connecticut town. How does that speak to your company?
It was with full intention that we rooted our brand in this small Connecticut town. It really is like no other. The people here are social, and socially conscious, lively and living life to the fullest, a true community that gives back and embraces the “local” business or vendor; they themselves are inspiring.
Simply Originals hopes to successfully emanate that same spirit and strong character. And as Simply Originals is still very much a fledgling brand, we rely heavily on “grass roots” marketing, which again is something that our small town supports and fosters. And it was, after all, our local town markets and eateries that were the first to carry Simply Originals beverage infusions.
Were there any women who inspired you to succeed?
What woman hasn’t inspired me? The women who I literally observe every day are an inspiration in helping me to find life balance, and fresh, new perspectives. . . .
The woman next to me on the cardio machine working to grow her body and mind stronger. The numerous talented and bright women who’ve bravely started their own venture while juggling other priorities like raising a family. The women who volunteer in the schools and community to build a better future for our children. The professional woman who not only does her job well, but helps her team to reach their collective goals. The full-time mom who lovingly cares for her own children, and offers to help her neighbors to do the same. Women are amazing. We are much too hard on ourselves, and (it’s no secret) too often on other women as well. We need to do better at embracing the things we do well, forgiving ourselves for the things that we don’t do so well, and at helping each other to find the “balance” that we all strive to attain. My observations of these women make me reflect on just that.
But most of all, my two daughters inspire me to succeed—not just professionally, but personally. I would hope for them to someday appreciate what my husband and I are trying to now build, to aspire to do great things because of it, and to do it better than me!!
Some time ago I was given a gift from my former boss—another driven, intelligent, well-rounded woman and a true advocate for fellow women. This framed artwork reads, “By coloring outside the lines of her life she found her passion.” This still hangs on my office wall.
GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of Meghan’s job? Would you ever start your own business? What type of business would it be? What job would you like to see featured here?