Sometimes in life, you come across people whose passion for something speaks louder than they do. That was the case when I first met Maryanne Thompson. Not only is she a woman after my own heart – caring deeply for the environment, she is a woman who has made helping it her life’s work.
Having seen how little regard the hospitality industry generally has for the earth, Maryanne took matters into her own hands and created a catering business which seeks to produce healthy food with minimal impact on the environment. Her company is leading the way in eco-friendly hospitality and the demonstrability of her practices begs the question of why others aren’t doing more?
Speaking with her, you get a feel for how much she knows about environmentally friendly products, initiatives and organisations. Her knowledge of the hospitality industry is also second to none. She knows the space she works in like the back of her hand. Perhaps more to the point, she knows what needs to change and she won’t be stopped from doing something about it.
Earth Champion Name: Maryanne Thompson
Company Name: Holistic Hospitality
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have always had a passion for the environment and food. I grew up in Hervey Bay and started in hospitality when I was 15. I trained to be a chef and then travelled around Australia working in the hospitality industry for many years. I began my Environmental Science degree in 2000 in Hervey Bay and landed in Brisbane in 2002. Working in Southbank, managing the Boatshed at the Regatta and training Hospitality at TAFE kept me busy and in 2008 Holistic Hospitality was created.
2. What is your business and how does it benefit the world?
Holistic Hospitality hand-makes healthy, non-processed, fresh food for functions and events. (Such a thing is rare in the catering business.) We are able to cater for occasions hosting 5-5000 people.
All of our suppliers are environmentally and socially conscious, we avoid use of polystyrene or plastic, we compost our food waste (where possible), we prepare all our food to order as a means of reducing equipment usage, storage and waste.
This is in addition to offsetting our carbon emissions from deliveries through tree planting projects and community donations, growing our own herbs and vegetables as much as possible and sourcing local, organic ingredients where we can.
Furthermore, we offer discount catering for not-for-profit organisations who work in the environment and community space.
3. What inspired you to create this service?
The amount of waste in the hospitality industry, and the lack of healthy food options offered by caterers. I also wanted a business that worked with NFP and other organisations to give back to the community.
4. How can people help your initiative?
Whatever industry you work in, think about the environment. Think about the impact your business is having on it and aim to reduce that impact. Introduce green initiatives and support environmentally conscious stakeholders throughout the entire supply chain. And of course, employ green caterers!
5. What has been the most surprising thing that has happened in the establishment of your business?
How it has grown into a full-time occupation. Originally was just a side job but I always hoped it would grow into my primary job. To see it come so far is a really great achievement.
6. Who was your greatest role model/mentor on your journey?
My parents. Mum always composted and did eco-friendly things. She never made a big deal out of it – it was just the way things were done at our house. Without forcing anything, she instilled these good practices in me. She also raised five kids, so I have a lot of respect for her for that.
Dad inspired me to always want to learn more. He trained as a teacher here in Australia, and then went to teach in Papua New Guinea in the 60s and 70s. He went on to become a diving instructor, then a paramedic. He proved that you are never too old to try new things and because of that, I have always had an interest in learning more and training.
Dad always told me he didn’t care what I did as long as I was happy. That was always so reassuring and such a wise piece of advice.
7. What has been the biggest challenge for you?
There are never enough hours in the day. Catering is very demanding business, both physically and mentally. Anyone who has owned their own business would know how exhausting it is. To have the added pressure of being on your feet in hot kitchens for up to 15 hours a day is brutal.
8. Did you ever want to give up? If so, what made you persevere?
Yes, many times. Fierce determination not to go back and work for anyone else, got me through. I was determined to make it work. It is very hard to stay afloat in the industry as it is very uncertain and short term focused. It is very difficult to have a steady cash flow. But I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.
9. Where would you like your company to be in 5 years’ time?
I would like it to be more involved with not-for-profits. I’d also love to partner up with other like-minded businesses for projects and events. Basically, I’d love to work with more people who want to do good things in the world.
10. Do you have any advice for others wanting to follow their dreams?
Just do it. There’s always going to be a reason not to, and it’s always going to be hard, but follow your heart. It’s so worth it when you get there!
Do you know an Earth Champion? Let me know about them at firstname.lastname@example.org