Tucked away on Salt Spring Island is a small business dedicated to making you feel better inside and out. Like many of B.C.’s innovative and creative small businesses, Moonshine Mama’s grew out of a quest to fulfil a need and find a product the founder, Melinda Divers, wanted for herself. Now, her range of health-giving, immunity-boosting turmeric elixirs and tonics revitalize and nourish people around B.C. and further afield.
We caught up with Melinda to talk about her journey from receiving a cancer diagnosis to becoming a thriving “foodpreneur.”
What’s your business all about?
The simple answer is we create a unique, flavourful, accessible concentrated beverage that unlocks the powerful medicinal, anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, immune-boosting, pain-relieving, energizing benefits of turmeric—all in a daily dose of an ounce per day. And it’s delicious!
What’s the story behind Moonshine Mama’s?
In the beginning, it started to solve a problem that I was having. I was searching for a good anti-tumour product after a stage 3 cancer diagnosis, and I found it really challenging to find something that seemed to have all of the qualities I thought were important. I researched the best things to add to my diet, and found that ginger, lemon, honey, and turmeric all had the cancer-fighting properties I was looking for, especially turmeric.
At first, I was really just consuming all these things but not feeling like I was getting all the benefits they had to offer. I wanted to find a way to easily and enjoyably consume all four ingredients every day. I did some more research and learned about the best ways to make to make it easy for your body to gain the benefits of the ingredients. So, I started to make it into this crazy, powerful elixir. And that’s the elixir we sell today, just with a lot of adjusting over a few years as I learned more about how to maximize those qualities.
"I wanted to find a way to easily and enjoyably consume all four ingredients every day."
Can you explain a little more about how your elixirs work?
It’s basically about unlocking the most medicinal elements of the ingredients, and combining them. Then I add flavours to make it taste good. They also have their added benefits. For example, we use elderberries, grown on Vancouver Island, that are proven to kill influenza A and B. That one’s really popular in flu season. Then there are the sour cherries, which are known for sports recovery. All the ingredients have some added benefit; the idea is to provide them in their most natural form, put them through the process to maximize all the benefits, and make it so it easy to consume. We can’t really make health claims, but we tell people what the benefits of the different ingredients are on our website.
Has demand for your products gone up recently?
In March, when the pandemic was coming down the pipes, we got so busy. We make immune-boosting elixirs, so sales doubled for the month of March. Then in April we did slow down like everyone else. We were probably sitting at 70% of what we would typically do, and it’s been slowly getting back to normal ever since. We’ve managed to keep everyone on, at first part time and now they’re all back to full time.
What products are particularly popular?
We have our main line, which is our concentrated elixirs. Within that line, the Original Turmeric Elixir has consistently been our strongest. It was our first and it just says exactly what it is. Some of the other flavours that we’ve added are kind of like dessert in some regard. The elderberries are really popular. We’ve also added some ready-to-drink products that are holding their own.
Where can people buy your products?
We are available in stores all over British Columbia, including the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Gulf islands, and the Interior. We’re also in stores in Calgary and Ontario now, and people can buy from us online. In fact, although we’d been thinking about it for a while, the pandemic helped to really motivate us to make online ordering happen so we could ship direct to customers. So now we’re shipping to places like Winnipeg and Halifax as well.
"I would say that, speaking as somebody who is a "foodpreneur," I've been inspired by all the progressive small food businesses. Generally, they have a greater purpose than just profit."
Why do you think it’s important for people to support small businesses?
I would say that, speaking as somebody who is a “foodtrepreneur,” I’ve been inspired by all the progressive small food businesses. Generally, they have a greater purpose than just profit. They have a higher purpose to change the way we eat and look at food for the greater good. That could include decisions based on how they operate and how it affects their staff and communities, and the planet. So, I admire the small independent grocers and health and organic stores all over B.C. and Canada that live that commitment. Especially during the crazy times of this pandemic, they are the heroes for keeping it going when it would be a whole lot easier just to give up and go home.
What are some of your favourite small businesses?
I’m a huge fan of kombucha, and I love Kindred Cultures. Another one is Salt Spring Harvest, which makes all these great vegan pâtés. The owner is very inspiring. She’s worked really hard to create a great product and has a great attitude about food as well. I also like another Salt Spring business, Culturalive. The founder makes kimchi and sauerkraut, and her motivations were health-related like mine. She was having some health issues, which led her to making all these great fermented foods. Another one is Yoggu in Vancouver; their coconut-based yogurt is a vegan substitute for yogurt and it’s so good. I also like Home Grown Living Foods. They make all these sprouted crackers and bagels. The founder had all these food allergies and started creating these for herself. I just love stories where people start out by trying to solve a problem.
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We respectfully acknowledge our place of work is within the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ/sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and that we serve the Peoples of the many Nations throughout British Columbia.