What's your favourite recipe or product on your website? Why is it special?

To be honest, my favourite way to consume MM elixirs is straight-up as a 1oz shot over ice and sipped slowly. I like to feel it! But, my favourite drink that I make with it is the Mama Mojito. Just add loads of fresh lime and mint! Yum!

When diagnosed with cancer, you turned to nature to heal. Was there solid medical guidance when you "started mixing natural ingredients," or was it a series of happy accidents in Mel's kitchen?

Mostly happy accidents, though I needed to learn how to extract the potential, which came over the first few years of making it. Because of my involvement in the yoga group and Baba Hari Dass, I was interested in Ayurvedic Medicine. We had picked up a book somewhere at some point called Ruddock's Homeopathic Vade Mecum, among other books. So I read about the ideal beneficial daily dose of turmeric. In addition, I learned about the process of activating turmeric to draw the curcumin, the most medicinal component of turmeric, out of a locked cell. Without this process, most medicinal values are not assimilated into the body. That process involves black pepper and heat. And turmeric is water-soluble, so it exits the body before being fully absorbed. Lemons help the process as they contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid that blocks an enzyme in our bodies that prohibits the absorption of turmeric.

"going back to that simple thought of obtaining nourishment from nature led me to try using all the superfoods"

I needed to make it more bioavailable. That means to hold the turmeric in the body long enough for it to be fully absorbed. That is where the coconut oil comes in —it binds with the curcumin and holds it long enough to get into the bloodstream. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. Folks figured all of this out thousands of years ago and incorporated it into how food would be prepared by combining spices and medicinal ingredients and heating them in healthy oil. We seem to want to complicate things by taking them in high-dose pills, etc. But, going back to that simple thought of obtaining nourishment from nature led me to try using all the superfoods in their most natural form as much as I could.

How did Moonshine Mama's happen? We'd love to hear a few secrets or less-known stories that transpired.

It was born of a need to heal myself. And then, as I got well, I wanted to share that healing potential with others. That is the simple truth of it.

What non-negotiable and fundamental values do you associate with Moonshine Mama's and why?

We are committed to our community. We want to be there for them as they were/have been there for me. Connection to our community is number one. We want to be low impact on the planet while maintaining the highest standard of products. We do not add fillers or ingredients of which we are unsure. Our products are all-natural and organic. We try to make the best decisions so that the impact on the planet is low. We use glass bottles and recycle and reuse as much as possible.

At MM, our goal is to take care of our team. Our goals are living wages, self-care, and we are working on an educational fund to help all (but especially female team members) gain the training they need to feel empowered in their work.

How many and what were the products on the list when you first started?

It all started with the mother of all Moonshine Mama's, our original Lemon Turmeric Elixir —that was it. We currently have nine elixirs. Five classics that we produce year-round: Lemon Turmeric, Lime Turmeric, Sour Cherry Turmeric, Sublime Supergreen Turmeric and Spiced Elderberry Turmeric. Four flavours are seasonal, meaning we wanted to use Canadian-grown ingredients, but have to rotate those flavours based on when we can get the local ingredients. They include Strawberry Turmeric, Raspberry Turmeric, Blackberry Turmeric and Cranberry Turmeric. Part of the idea with the seasonal elixirs is that our bodies crave seasonal ingredients at the times of the year when these ingredients are in their full ripened glory! So it's nice to offer those ingredients exactly when it's good for us to have them. It's fun, too, as you grow to miss them and welcome them back each year!

We have added two flavours of shrubs (drinking vinegars) and a brand new line of loose teas to the offerings as well. We love to create and innovate!

Working with pure and natural ingredients, tricky active formulations, making them preservative-free —it must have been a challenging ride and will continue to be so. Do you remember facing any significant roadblocks along the way?

Being that I did not come from this industry other than the retail end, it has all been challenging. I am talking about label requirements, required certifications, the key roles in a business as you grow, logistics as you expand, the need to move stuff across the country or into other countries, and pricing products. I refer to my job title as #1 Problem Solver because that is what I do all day! I have some excellent help now and am grateful I have survived long enough to find the help!

My family members remain my biggest fans and motivation. Most of my family have become involved in the business in many ways, from running the kitchen, working in innovation and product development, running markets, and driving deliveries. I am blessed with an extended MM family that have come to be a part of the team and brings the same sense of commitment. Everyone wants to get our elixirs to the people that find benefit from them and everyone thinks it's the best product in the world! That makes the job of chasing this train easier and so fulfilling. We're in this together!

What's your family's role in your life and Moonshine Mama's success story?

We are committed to our community. We want to be there for them as they were/have been there for me. Connection to our community is number one. We want to be low impact on the planet while maintaining the highest standard of products. We do not add fillers or ingredients of which we are unsure. Our products are all-natural and organic. We try to make the best decisions so that the impact on the planet is low. We use glass bottles and recycle and reuse as much as possible.

At MM, our goal is to take care of our team. Our goals are living wages, self-care, and we are working on an educational fund to help all (but especially female team members) gain the training they need to feel empowered in their work.

Three lessons to share with budding entrepreneurs or family-run small businesses — what would they be?

1.

Be respectful of the help you are given. Acknowledging that support in thank-yous, shout-outs and little gestures leave a good impression that you value their time and energy.

2.

Do your research and do it right the first time. Label changes, etc., cost so much! Do it thoughtfully.

3.

Build out a good team and make clear job descriptions. It makes it work better and is more transparent for all. Support and empower them!

4.

Understand your numbers. Everything has an impact. If you want to be in the game for the long run and if you're going to grow, get that down. It would be heartbreaking to invest so much time and energy and then trip out of the gate.

5.

Write down your core values and your goals and keep them accessible at all times. Refer back to them with big decisions. "Does this support my core values? Does this get us where we want to go?"

What's your vision? Where do you see yourself and Moonshine Mama's, say in the next five years?

My goal remains as it has in the beginning: get our elixirs into the hands of the people who find benefit from them. I had no idea that we would be creating a new category in the food and beverage industry, but that is what we are doing! There will be no confusion over that category in five years —elixirs and functional beverages will be well understood.

We have spent so much time educating people about our products, what an elixir is and how you can choose to consume products that enliven and add value to your life rather than the opposite. Finally, people are starting to demand it. The industry is scrambling to please this new consumer with higher standards that wants value for their hard-earned money. They don't want empty calories and devoid promises. Consumers want a partnership. "I will support your company, but you give me the highest value for my money."

If you so much as give them any indication that that is not your intention, they will turn away. So we aim to show them where we constantly stand — with them. We want the best for ourselves and our families, and we understand that our consumer wants the same. They want a quality product grounded in good values and a high bang for the buck with their community and the world. They demand integrity on all levels. People are learning that a self-serving intention has led some parts of the industry, and they are victims of that. Compromising the health and wellbeing of themselves and their families to make it easy and profitable does not work anymore. Quality and integrity does. Our customers know what they are getting.

I expect five years from now we will be across Canada and the USA. We may be a household name as this new wise, no-bullshit consumer demands products such as Moonshine Mama's.