Good Choice Initiative is proud to feature Birch Moon Wellness Co – you may have seen their Sweet ZZZs all natural tea in our Holiday Gift Box! We loved learning more about the makers behind their chaga (medicinal mushroom) and herbal teas made with wild-harvested ingredients that grow in the pristine Siberian forests. Read the full interview below to learn more about what wellness means to them, as well as their commitment to sustainable practices and giving back to our community.
- Tell us a bit about yourself (name, hometown) and how the idea of Birch Moon Wellness Co started.
Hi, I’m Olga, the founder of Birch Moon! I was born and raised in the far east of Russia. My childhood was pretty unremarkable–I grew up in an average Russian family, spent a lot of time outdoors and doing different sports, and when I was 16 and finished high school (we have 11 grades in Russia instead of 12), my family was fortunate enough to afford to send me to study abroad in Ottawa, Canada. So, in 2010 I moved here to pursue post-secondary education in marketing at Algonquin College.’
Once I graduated, I got a job and started my career journey with dreams of making it big in the marketing world and making a ton of money. That was quickly undermined by my health issues–I went through a difficult phase of depression and digestive issues. My lifestyle wasn’t the greatest either, despite the fact that I was always a very active kid from an outdoorsy family, an athlete in school. I think being far away from home, prioritizing career and financial success over my own health, and frankly, partying too much, ended up taking a toll on my body and mind. So, that’s when I decided enough was enough and I had to get back to my wellness roots.
Around that time I also met Roch (our co-founder), and we quickly fell in love. As a young and incredibly humble entrepreneur, he inspired me to think more outside of a traditional career box and be more open-minded to other ways of being successful in life. Together, we knew that we simply wanted to live good, conscious and healthy lives, take care of our own families, explore the world, and help make it a better place by being decent humans.
A few years ago, when I started working for a local fitness and wellness company, I discovered chaga mushroom and its incredible benefits. I was also surprised to learn that my home country was abundant in chaga mushroom of good quality and the governments along with the industry took very good care of ensuring ethical harvesting practices and the overall abundance of birch trees habitat in Russia ensured there was minimal risk of endangering the ecosystem. Shortly after my discovery, my father (who is still in Russia along with my family) also came to learn about chaga and we had a little bonding moment over how cool and powerful the mushroom is. While I never dreamed or really thought about having my own business, I did some research and was pretty surprised to find out that chaga was not nearly as popular as it deserves to be and decided to embark on a journey of spreading the word about chaga mushroom to the North American world. And that’s how Birch Moon was born.
- What does wellness mean to you? How do you practice it in your life?
I’ve always been an active and a sporty kid and never thought much about wellness beyond your standard “eat well and move”. Of course, I’m no longer a teenager and don’t have a mom taking care of my diet 😉 Over the years, I’ve learned that I feel my best self when I spend a lot of time moving outdoors, consuming holistic foods and am surrounded by loved ones. That’s essentially what my version of wellness is. I do love yoga and have been practicing it on and off over the past two years and it is something I would love to get more into, along with meditation and breathing practices. Roch and I also play a lot of volleyball and it’s one of our favourite sports.
Chaga is a medicinal mushroom that grows on birch trees in northern climates of the world (Russia, Canada, Europe, China and USA). People have been using it as a medicine for centuries but over the recent decades it lost its popularity. Chaga is considered the king of the medicinal mushroom world as it contains an impressive number of nutrients, minerals and vitamins in it. It’s very famous for its antioxidant potency (one of the highest found in foods!). The main benefits of chaga are the immune system support, blood pressure regulation and anti-inflammatory properties. Traditionally, chaga has been consumed in a form of tea, but today you can also find it in an extract form used as a supplement powder, mixed with coffee or hot chocolate. We currently offer chaga in a tea format and hope to introduce an extract powder in the coming year as well.
- We’re so happy to have included your Sweet ZZZs tea in our Holiday Gift Box – what do you think makes this tea special?
Unlike many popular tea brands, all of our teas are made with wild-harvested ingredients that grow in the pristine Siberian forests. Many mass producers of teas use factory farmed ingredients and add extra “natural” and/or artificial flavouring to elevate the taste and aroma of their products. We believe that humans lack access to nature and are bombarded with processed foods and drinks enough as it is. We don’t want to take anything away from our consumer’s health but give back to it–that’s why we use only wild-harvested medicinal herbs and mushrooms in our teas. Just nature, nothing else. I think that’s what makes us special.
- What are your social and environmental values? How are these reflected in your business?
We believe in the sacred powers of nature and thrive on a daily to do our part to help preserve it. Part of our values is to ensure sustainable harvesting practices. The abundance of life in the region we source our ingredients from and strict protection control allows for harvesting it without endangering the ecosystem. We work with local farmers who know how to treat the forests without causing any damage to the habitat. As we continue to grow, we aim to cultivate a company that can help create a prosperous future for our customers, our families and local communities. A future that puts nature’s beauty, human wellbeing, personal integrity and health of communities first. We want to achieve that by prioritizing sustainability over profits, continuously striving to minimize non-reusable and non-recyclable packaging, working with local suppliers in Canada and Russia to invest back into community growth and never undermining our customers’ loyalty with phony marketing.
I also currently work full-time for a non-profit organization and I’m extremely passionate about social and environmental justice. Birch Moon is a small piece of the puzzle that will help me give back to the world’s most vulnerable. In 2020, we’ve donated some of our profits to local and international charities and my dream is to be able to give back even more. I think that’s a big part of why I started a business, to be to make wealth that I can share with fellow humans.
And being a first-generation immigrant who has moved far away from my family, my current priority is to help bring my parents and a sibling here to Canada. Nothing is more important to me than ensuring the people who gave me the opportunity for a better life are taken care of. While the political, economical and social structures are not exactly stable in my home country, also I want to contribute to the growth of small businesses in Russia, which as a result will help uplift the economy and stability in the region, and will create opportunities for people in my home country to grow and thrive. We work with trusted and licenced manufacturers to make our products and packaging directly in Russia, rather than finding cheaper alternatives in labour exploiting countries.
- Do you have any exciting new products/collaborations or markets coming up you can share with our readers?
We recently launched new herbal tea flavours on our online store. We’re anxiously awaiting spring time to return to farmer’s markets. We’re also on the lookout for potential partners who want to carry our products in their stores, spas, cafes, so if any of your readers are fellow business owners, we would love to chat with them!