Chloe and Florence Van Dyke have been quenching the nation’s thirst for nine years with their sustainable brand Chia Sisters. They share what it’s like to work with family.
In their solar-powered former brewery near Nelson’s Tāhunanui Beach, half a tonne of tiny black seeds is being transformed into juices, smoothies and tonics. This is Chia Sisters HQ, where Chloe and Florence Van Dyke have been quenching the nation’s thirst for nine years.
Today, the sisters and their eight staff supply more than 20 products to 600 supermarkets and cafés in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
But roll the clock back to 2012, and it wasn’t like this. Neuroscientist Chloe had been helping her sister Florence, a lawyer and national triathlete, and their father Ben, a world champion swimmer, to find nutritious food which would help with their training.
“Classic energy drinks filled with caffeine and sugar weren’t doing the trick,” says Chloe, 36, who also studied herbal medicine. “Dad had been experimenting with hydrating chia seeds, which are packed with protein, iron and antioxidants. We blended them with blackcurrant juice in Dad’s garage and friends loved it, so we thought we’d give it a go.”
Florence, meanwhile, was ascending the corporate ladder in Auckland, watching as her sister knocked on doors and started making sales.
“I wasn’t passionate about law, so when Chloe asked me to become a Chia Sister in 2016, I moved back home and swapped my heels for a hairnet.”
It’s no surprise they chose to go into business: the sisters and their younger brother were raised with “hugely entrepreneurial” parents who did everything from running a backpackers in Alaska to operating a mail-order company from their living room.
Today, Florence and her partner, Cam Loveridge-Easther, live 10 minutes away from Chloe, her husband Marc Gutenstein and their three-year-old son Eli. And the sisters spend a lot of time together, both at work and off the clock, doing things like mountain biking.
“We never get sick of each other,” says Florence. “When you work with family, you have that intimate connection you wouldn’t have with a regular colleague. We know each other so well. We know when to push each other and when to give the other a break.”
“We also want the best for each other as people and that sits above the business,” adds Chloe. “We really look after one another.”
We also want the best for each other as people and that sits above the business
When it comes to division of labour, Chloe says they have their own areas of expertise, with Florence taking on the sales, marketing and admin, while Chloe looks after the product development and day-to-day production. Being family means there’s no need to tip-toe around each other.
“If we have a disagreement, there’s no polite fuming in the corner. We can be upfront and direct with each other and get it sorted. Business is all about highs and lows, and it’s cool to be riding those highs and lows with my sister,” says Chloe.
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