Pauliina Salmenhaara is riding the ‘healthification’ wave with her raw food consultancy.

What’s your story?
Since childhood, I was groomed for diplomacy, in alignment with which I got a masters in International Relationships, with a focus on Peace and Conflict Research. After 7 years of work, made up of a stint in the human rights departments of the Finnish Foreign Ministry and NGO work in Finland and Shanghai, my life took a 180 degree turn, as I entered the holistic world of alternative therapies and raw food, to heal myself of a physical, mental and emotional crisis. The results were so astounding that I continued learning, then practicing and eventually also training others in the field of holistic therapies and raw, vegan food.

What excites you most about your industry?
A decade ago my industry was exciting because very few people in Singapore knew what I was talking about. I was pitching the “healthy, clean” lifestyle to curious parents and helpers in the playground and the school yard. Now, it’s exciting, because we are on the cusp of change, with increasing numbers of people looking for guidance towards a healthy, mindful lifestyle, as well as being more aware of how they eat in terms of allergy, lifestyle or ethical requirements. The movement is going beyond weight loss to happiness as a whole. As a raw food, vegan chef, I am also immensely excited by the “healthification” trend taking place in culinary epicenters around the world, with big name chefs changing parts of, or even entire menus to plant-based ones.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Rather huge. Since childhood, I was drawn to China and was collecting literature and photo books on Chinese culture, philosophy, literature, politics and geography. I even studied Chinese language and Sinology at university for fun and met my husband when interviewing for a position in China at an elevator factory. I ended up as his project assistance in a Finnish town and over a secret dinner at a Chinese restaurant, our love was sealed, with engagement within a month of meeting. He eventually landed a job in Kunshan, which meant a base in Shanghai for 5 ½ years, after which we’ve been in Singapore for close to a decade. This part of the world just resonates with us and we easily melt into the environment here.

Pauliina smoking smudge stick cigar logo-rawio

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
With a base in Singapore for close to a decade, chosen multiple times over the US and Europe, the answer has got to be Singapore. The why is a blend of the comfort of life here, the political stability, the safety, the ease of public transport (things that make it easy on the family and allow more time for me to focus on work) and the many networks ready to tap into, the thousands of contacts ready to collaborate and form new networks with, the ease with which to set structures up and the general enthusiastic environment of supportive entrepreneurs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It comes from a song by French philosopher-rapper MC Solaar, which my husband always loves to remind me of. It’s the concept of taking a few steps back every now and then in order to advance. Sometimes when I feel I’ve hit a wall, I just pause, take a few steps back, breathe and allow for a path to present itself. “Alors je prends de l’avance , en prenant du recul, car prendre du recul , c’est prendre de l’élan.” Also, not to stick my tongue to a frozen pole under arctic conditions.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by Finnish pianist Lenni-Kalle Taipale. I saw him perform this summer at a village church nearby our summer house in Finland. It was just him and his piano, no programme and no notes. He sat down by his instrument, tuned into “an energy,” drew inspiration from it and started playing. It was an eclectic mix of various styles of music and took many surprising turns, impossible to predict what would come next, at times at odds with the previous notes, but coming together into a whole. It was a brilliant mix of pure talent, experience, genius, knowledge, intuition and on-the-spot inspiration. Beyond this, it was a pure expression of exactly what he felt at that very moment, unfiltered, imperfect, whole. Imagine having that level of comfort with your field of expertise, that you can show up in front of an audience and not only perform ad hoc, but have an absolute ball doing so.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
This is not a recent learning, but one that becomes clearer to me each time I re-realise it: how tiny we are as humans in this vastness of the universe and just how vast that universe is. Can I take it a step further? I’m blown away by the sensation of my tiny self in the vast universe and the simultaneous feeling that that same vast universe is within me.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Learn certain lessons faster, without going into a full-blown drama each time. I think I repeated certain loops a few times too many before I learned my lessons and was able to recognise the signs and not get pulled into it again. I know it’s popular to theorise that each lesson learned is a valuable one and one wouldn’t want to change anything, but honestly, sometimes I think we could switch on a bit faster.

How do you unwind?
If it’s a moderate, daily type of unwinding, anything from meditation, massage and sleep to beer, Netflix and chips. If it’s a bigger need to unwind, I put on the music, preferably with a deep bass and move my body so that I move that restless energy out. Sometimes I need to just get out and see the sky and get wet in the rain and at others, it’s immersing myself in water and imagining all my worries being washed away. Water has always been very cathartic for me.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I’m going to be predictable and say Bali, where I’ve been going to since 2000. Specifically, Ubud, where I’ve probably stayed at about 20 different villas and hotels, first with my husband, then with our one daughter, then with both and sometimes just by myself. Ubud is a raw food haven for me and I eat myself through town, getting inspiration from all the raw food, vegan restaurants. I also have an affinity with the culture and people and feel a certain home-coming when I go there.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go: Reflections on the Teachings of Zen Master Lin Chi by Thich Nhat Hanh

Shameless plug for your business:
Book a free 15-minute phone consultation with Pauliina to talk about your dining vision for a special occasion. Remember, “Although its about the food, its never just about the food.” A meal is an event, but when we engage our senses, it becomes an experience. Experience for yourself the junction of the delicious, the sensual and the mindful. Surrender to your senses and experience the world of smoking guns, spiralisers and the six senses. Each breakfast, lunch or dinner is crafted according to your preferences.

How can people connect with you?
E-mail: [email protected]
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest: rawinsideout

Twitter handle?
PauliinaSal

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnectsCallum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

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