For all of those entrepreneurial spirits out there – this interview about Gabriella Esposito (@_gabriellaesposito_) is for you. Like many entrepreneurs, Gabriella wears multiple hats: Café owner, culinary creative, recipe developer and TV guest chef. How can a single person do so many different things and still manage to maintain balance? We asked Gabriella to give us a glimpse behind the kitchen door to find out a bit more about her entrepreneurial journey, her love for fitness and the importance of switching off.
Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.
I am the owner of Sana Café, a balanced eatery located inside the MYUTOPIA Boutique Lifestyle Centre in Cape Town. I am also a food photographer, culinary creative and entrepreneur.
Your resume is very impressive. What inspired you to start Sana Café (@sanacafect), Skinny Scoop (@skinnyscoopsa), SA’s first premium protein, no added sugar ice-cream and become a guest chef on the Expresso Show (@expressoshow)?
Sana Café is a funny story because if you had asked me a year ago today if I wanted to open up my own eatery I would have said absolutely not! Let’s backtrack to how it all began: While I was studying photography at Ruth Prowse School Of Art, I started an online bakery called Bake By Gabriella. I made customized cakes, macarons and healthy sweet treats for individuals, private events and Giovanni’s Deli World. The bakery started gaining momentum and at this same time, I found a love for health and fitness. This led me to enter the first of three fitness shows and resulted in my passion for creating macro-dense healthy desserts. After three IFBB Shows, a Diploma in Photography and a lot of hard work with my former business partner Jarred Plug, Skinny Scoop protein ice-cream was born. We launched in July 2015 and put our blood, sweat and tears into it for two and a half years. At the end of 2017, Jarred and I received an offer and we made the decision to sell. It was a bittersweet call that I sometimes wonder if we did the right thing but I think where I am now, it was the best decision.
I approached 2018 in finding my next big thing and used some of my time to travel, work freelance, commit to some charity work including the Ocal Global Journey 2018 for Change and enjoyed my first year of being married. However, after the thrill of the journey and two long, blissful overseas trips, I sat at home feeling uncomfortable, demotivated and, quite honestly, depressed. I had no routine whatsoever, I picked up a lot of weight after going vegetarian and just had nothing that was stimulating my work mode. One day I just got out of bed and thought that I needed to find some kind of ritual again so I packed my gym bag (with clothes feeling too tight in all the wrong places) and headed over to my favourite yoga studio (@myutopia_sa). It was then that an opportunity presented itself when Sandi, the owner, asked me what I was doing with my time and if I would be interested in taking over the management of her cafe. I can’t say I was 100% sure when I said yes but after finding a new spring in my step and feeling the driving energy in the studio, I knew I was in the right place. Fast forward to this year, MYUTOPIA moved location and I took over the cafe fully, rebranding it to be my own and that is the story of Sana (which directly translates to “She Heals” or “a healthy female” in Italian).
Expresso Show happened by pure chance! I was involved in a Chocolate Cake competition with Sunday Times back in 2013 and my cake ranked third place. It was there in Sandton JHB that I met Hilary Biller – the food editor for Sunday Times Food Weekly – and she had put my name forward to the SABC 3 show for in case she couldn’t make a slot. Obviously, this information was unbeknown to me and around a month after the competition, I received a call from Zola Nene inviting me onto the show. Since then, I have become a regular guest chef so it has been five and a half years of delicious excitement!
What are some of your daily inspirations, challenges and rewards as a busy entrepreneur/ instagram influencer?
The most ironic thing about my life is that what I preach is what I struggle with. Look, I do my utmost best to achieve it but it is a STRUGGLE and that is the ever-so-lovely concept of balance. Most days I achieve everything on my list but I won’t lie to you by saying I always feel good by the end of it. That is my daily struggle. Inspiration? The list is endless. I am so lucky to work in an environment with strong, empowering females and have friends who are just doing epic things. So I would have to say that my daily inspiration comes from the women I align myself with. Them and my Dad! He owns Giovanni’s Deliworld and he is just always on top of the game. Daily rewards would be my yoga practice and general training. I actually don’t know where I would be without it. And, of course, ALL the food!
What do you find is the hardest challenge balancing your work and personal life?
Time. It feels like there is never enough time to balance it all out. I can do it but then I end up ignoring whats going on in my soul and that isn’t okay. I think if I had to choose one specific thing it would be working on my long term goals. Being so busy, I am forced to live day to day – if I am lucky I’ll plan a week ahead! Balancing personal and business is hard, especially when it’s YOUR business because there is always more to be done. And when you’re passionate and excited about it, why wouldn’t you want to work on it all the time? Trying to get that through to others that aren’t in the same boat as you, however, is HARD.
You look amazing! What inspires you to stay fit and healthy?
Thank you! I honestly don’t know what I would do without exercise. Besides the fact that it keeps me sane, it really allows me time to escape from everything else and take a breather (ironically) from the daily hustle. There are obviously days where I couldn’t think of anything worse than training so I do commit to the occasional off day or opt for something restorative and more meditative like Yin Yoga or Vinyasa. As I get older I’m learning how to be more intuitive and listen to what my body craves. And very importantly, when you look good, you feel good. That’s what inspired me to stay fit and healthy. Only you can hold yourself accountable!
What does self-care mean to you? What do you do to keep sane?
I touched on the subject when answering my inspiration to staying fit and healthy but yoga, running and weight training. That is what keeps me sane! Self-love is such an overwhelming topic. It seems so easy yet so impossible at the same time. As humans we are constantly bombarded with information telling us how to be better. How to become perfect. When did this become a thing? I mean, there is ALWAYS opportunity for improvement but geez, I look forward to the day that I am 100% content and not worrying about cellulite when I get undressed or a pre-menstrual bloated tummy. For me, self-care is about listening to what you need on a specific day and also looking after your body through eating nutrient-dense foods and movement. One of my favourite things to do is run a hot hot bath, add two cups of Epson Salts and anti-stress essential oils, light some candles, put on a good playlist and pour a fat glass of wine. It’s glorious AF!
Must have beauty products?
Avocado Oil: mix a drop to two with your basic face moisturiser for extra hydration. Blistex Lip Ice. Tinted Bebe Cream (I use the Sorbet brand). Bronzer and highlighter. LUSH sea salt face scrub. A purifying Lulu & Marula Facial at Eunoia Spa (@eunoia_myutopia) on Instagram for when I need some extra love.
What types of exercises bring out the best in your body shape?
I personally find that a combination of heated yoga, HIIT and weight training is the best for my body. And Pilates when I have time – really assists with my hamstring / hip injury and works the deeper core muscles!
What 3 tips would you give to women who want to start a business?
Get support from family and always know that it’s OKAY to ask for help. Record your WHY and WHAT your purpose for the business / yourself is. I always find that a mood board really helps with this. And finally, my biggest tip? You need all the passion in the world do go for it and that might mean not getting your standard 8 hour sleep every night. That might mean not being able to workout 6 days a week or seeing your friends for months at a time. But if it’s truly what you want to do, your passion and drive will see that through. If the start of your project doesn’t make you want to put all your time and effort into it, then I would relook at your idea entirely.
Take us through an average day in the life, the first thing you do in the morning through to the last thing you do at night.
Most days are different but in my average day: I wake up at 05:45 and lie in bed for 10 minutes. During this time I do an active meditation and mentally go through my day. Get up just before 6 and make coffee. Wash face, get dressed and head through to work to get there by 06:30/06:45. If time allows, I do a 07:30 yoga class. I then work at Sana Café until 16:30/17:00.
During the working hours I commit certain time slots for different jobs including the running of Sana, social media work I do for extra income, Detox in a Box – my up and coming business with Sandi Dekker – and some passion projects including Let’s Build Masibulele, an educate centre in Khayalitsha.
I will then either make my way through to gym at 17:00 and focus on weight training OR if my day is more open then I try get the gym at 10/11am for a quick power workout. The days I do this I end up working at Sana until around 18:00. I then head home, make dinner, play with my cat, prep lunch for the following day, have a cup of chamomile and catch up with husband, watch an episode of a series etc. I then pack my bags for the next morning and try get to bed by 21:00/21:30 where I’ll read for around 20 minutes.
What does your perfect day in Cape Town look like?
I mean, we live in the greatest city in the world and I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂 I have had numerous opportunities to move overseas but my heart lies in Cape Town. For me a perfect day includes going to yoga, spending some time at the beach, having an Epson salt & essential oil bath with a glass of wine + a face mask, reading a good book and getting to bed early!
Where are your three favorite destinations to travel to alone/with family/friends? Do you have any trips planned?
So we love going to London (we try to get here at least once a year to visit my Godchild and some family and friends) and then my two other favourite places to travel to would have to be Italy (namely Tuscany and Ischia) and Ibiza, Spain. We have plans to go to London and Amsterdam next year and possibly Sri Lanka if budget allows 🙂
What is your philosophy when it comes to food?
Eat food that makes you FEEL and LOOK good. Because if you look good, you feel good. Also, if you crave something random, chances are your body needs it so LISTEN to what your body needs and always remember to consume enough water and alkalising foods. And most importantly, carbs aren’t bad. You don’t need meat to get enough protein. And red wine is always a good idea.
What is your favourite home cooked dish? Who inspired your cooking?
My dad inspired my cooking right from the start and to this day he always does. Hmmm that is a hard one but I love a good vegetable soup and ratatouille + brown rice in winter! The meal I make mostly at home is soup and then mixed roast veggies which I serve with fresh rocket, tahini and kale chips.
Can you share your favourite recipe with us?
One of my favourite recipes to make for both at home and for entertaining purposes is my Sumac Roasted Cauliflower with Hummus, Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Pine Nuts – link for the recipe:www.wellnessinthecity.co.za/roasted-cauliflower-tomato-pine-nut-salad.
My biggest vice or what I can’t stand in others? Haha! For myself, it would be my stubbornness and for others, I cannot stand rude and entitled people.
Something you can’t live without?
Red wine, coffee, sleep and exercise. And not necessarily in that order.
What is next for you?
There is always something next haha! Right now, I am focusing on Sana and working towards the Detox In A Box Launch. I also have another eatery opportunity which I may look at but only middle of next year and working on future strategies for the Masibulele Educate Centre.
Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to talk about?
I’ve mentioned Detox In A Box which I am so excited about. Our page on Instagram is (@detoxinaboxsa). Then if you would like to contribute to the Let’s Help Build Masibulele project then you can contact me – follow them on IG: (@letsbuildmasibulele). I’m also working on a side project with my “all things food partner” Megan Daniels called Eat Magazine which is busy getting a rebrand but you can check us out in the meantime:(@eatmagazinesa) on IG 🙂
Sweet or Savoury? Literally both. It’s too hard to choose!
Hot or cold? Cold
Lips or Eyes? Eyes
Smoothie or Juice? Smoothie
Yoga or Pilates? Yoga
Coffee or Tea? Both!