Since Mother’s Day takes place this month, we decided to shine a light on Michaela Misikova who is an amazing mom, entrepreneur and outdoor enthusiast. Michaela is the founder of Gingeraki, a Vancouver, BC based business that is famous for their cold pressed ginger turmeric elixirs.
Michaela has two sons, ages 3.5 years and 10 months. She started her business Gingeraki in 2020 when her first born son was only one year old. Today Michaela will share with us:
Her experience of starting a business while being a new mom
Advice for mothers who want to start their own businesses
Her experience and useful tips on camping with a baby and toddler
Tell us about your career before moving to Canada.
Michaela: Back home in the city of Martin, Slovakia, I worked in corporate fields in the areas of human resources and accounting. After finishing my master’s degree, I moved to Vancouver, BC, Canada in.
My very first job here was cleaning hotel rooms. Then I found a retail job at a shoe store—and at the same time I took on work as a barista and sales person at an outdoor apparel store.
I met my husband in 2017 through mutual friends in the local and tight knit Czech community. We were both camping at Garibaldi Lake, and there was a party in the woods with a few DJ’s. After that we encountered each other again on a hiking trip, and we quickly fell in love. Now we have two kids, Elliot, who is 3.5 years old, and Matteo who is 10 months old.
How did Gingeraki get its start?
Michaela: I always enjoyed juicing before starting Gingeraki, and I loved attending farmers markets. Back when we lived in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver, BC, I used to spend all my money at the nearby farmers market. And I would think, “What could I sell there? I would really love to be a part of it!”
Up until 2020, I only made my ginger turmeric elixirs for myself, my friends, and family. Then in 2020 someone told me about the Fort Langley Village Farmers Market, so I applied last minute and got approved right away. I only had one week to get my products ready for sale for the first time.
How was your first farmers market experience?
Michaela: I managed to quickly prepare about thirty bottles of Gingeraki to sell. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions, vendors were not allowed to give open samples of their food and drinks to customers. I didn’t want people to purchase entire bottles and then realize it was too spicy or not like it. So I found little glass bottles with caps from the dollar store, sterilized them, and filled them with small servings of Gingeraki—in order to provide a safe way for potential customers to sample my elixirs. That idea worked well, since quite a few people came back the following week to tell me that they really liked my product, and decided to purchase full bottles.
How do you balance your role as a mom and business owner?
Michaela: The hardest thing about the business is doing it next to the kids. When I started Gingeraki in 2020, our first born son Elliot was one year old. I felt very guilty to do work when I was with Elliot because I couldn’t focus on him while focusing on work.
Although I usually worked on the business during Elliot’s nap or after he went to bed, there were still demands such as phone calls or emails that I had to answer right away. So I often felt bad about getting distracted while we were in the middle of playtime.
We decided to put Elliot in part-time daycare when he was two years old. It was hard for me because I didn’t feel ready to have him in daycare, and I wasn’t sure if he was ready either. I originally envisioned staying at home with Elliot until he was at least three years old (or as much as possible)—because back home in Europe, it was normal for daycare to start at three years old.
The first few months of this new arrangement felt like a success—I was able to focus on work on the days Elliot was at daycare. And on the days he was home with me, I could focus on him. But after four months, he started feeling very unhappy at daycare. I had to trust my instincts and pull him out of daycare.
With Elliot with me full-time again, I shifted to working on Gingeraki during the weekends and afternoons when my husband came back from work. Then, after about six months, when he was a little older, we found a different daycare for Elliot, where he was able to develop bonds with the teachers and feel very happy. It was such a relief.
Who helps you with the business?
Michaela: This business is definitely a team effort amongst my family members. My brother who was in Canada on a temporary work visa, helped us at the weekend markets and in the kitchen. That was a very big help, he was someone I could count on.
My husband also helped a lot, driving to set up at different markets. And there was my mother, mother-in-law and father-in-law—coming to help out with the business and care for the grandkids too! My sister came a year ago in May 2022 and now assists full-time in the business.
What advice do you have for moms who want to start their own businesses?
Michaela: Don’t try to force it. Focus on the balance between business and family—and this could be the scariest part in the beginning—because when you’re starting out, you don’t know how to do that yet.
You might start to blame yourself—thinking that maybe you’re not capable of handling both the household and kids while managing the business. But maybe don’t push that much. Of course you want to grow your business, but you can allow room and time for the business to grow organically. Try not to sacrifice your family life for the sake of the business.
Describe how starting Gingeraki has affected your lifestyle.
Michaela: The years before I started Gingeraki, there was sort of a countdown in our heads, ticking down to Friday at 3pm—when we could get in the car and go camping or hiking. Every single weekend, rain or shine, we would go. Then suddenly, we found ourselves in a situation where we wouldn’t camp for several months at a time.
For the first year we were determined to be in as many markets as possible. So we decided to finish the summer and enjoy it as much as possible, knowing that our focus would be shifting to weekend markets. Even though the choice was intentional, not having weekends to ourselves was a challenge in terms of family balance.
In the second year, we decided to create a better balance between family and business. My husband worked part-time for that year, and took Mondays and Tuesdays off so that we could spend more time together as a family. Now he is back to his regular work schedule, and my sister helps with the business full-time.
Tell us about your first camping trip as a new mom.
Michaela: Since camping was a natural part of our lives before we became parents, we decided with Elliot, “Let’s see if he will like it too, and if he’s unhappy with camping, then we’ll decide to do something else instead.” Just go with the flow. And so far, he loves camping! I think kids are naturally happy in the forest.
Elliot was three months old when we took him on his first camping trip to Jones Lake. He had a super cool crib, actually. In the back of our van, we had a queen mattress on a bed frame that my husband built out of wood. Beside us, Elliot slept in a bassinet where he was very cozy in his baby bunting suit. Eventually we invested in a rooftop tent where we could all sleep on a king mattress above our van.
Miraculously, on his first camping trip, Elliot slept through the night for the first time! Maybe because of the fresh air and the little forest sounds such as frogs and rustling breezes—like nature’s white noise machine. I did wake up several times in the night to check on Elliot. Was he too warm? Was he too cold? But he was fine! After we returned home though, he went back to waking up at 3am for feedings.
Tell us about your first camping trip after your second baby was born.
Michaela: Matteo was only seven weeks old and it was summertime. My mom came and we all spent two weeks camping in the Canadian Rockies at a campsite. We thought, “Let’s go and try, and if Matteo is not ready, there are still hotels and motels in the area.”
What about camping and hiking during the potty training stages?
Michaela: When Elliot was still potty training, we took his potty with us to the campsite. But I remember when we went on a back country hike, Elliot was at the end stages of his potty training. At that time, I brought more clothes and took some diapers in case it wasn’t going to work. It was a four-day hike, so we had to pack everything with us for the 30km hike.
When Elliot was out of diapers, we packed several extra waterproof covers for our mattress to deal with accidents in the night. And honestly, that stage was not convenient because of all the laundry by the time we got home.
Can you give us some packing tips for camping with kids?
Michaela: For kids, I usually pack one good light jacket and one good warm jacket. If you’re able to invest—choose merino wool clothing. Normally Elliot could wear his one good merino wool shirt for three days. We fold clothes in a nice organized way and place them into a tight bag so that it’s compact inside our backpacks. Waterproof bags are also handy to fill with what we need, and attach to the exterior of the backpack.
What kinds of toddler or baby-friendly foods do you usually pack?
Michaela: On our first backcountry trip in Cape Scott, my husband was dying from how heavy his backpack was. I also thought I was going to die by the time we were half way through the hike—my shoulders were so sore! In addition to Elliot’s footmuff and diapers which added weight, we packed fresh carrots and rice. Those fresh foods were so heavy, but unlike adults, babies can’t eat protein bars all day!
We have learned that lentils are much lighter to carry—and they are packed with protein. So bringing lentils to make lentil soup, and adding carrots and sausages is a good option. Nowadays we can buy freeze dried “backcountry food” meals for camping. We just need to add boiling water. I usually like curry style meals.
We also buy pre-washed, pre-shucked fresh peas from the grocery store. They are lightweight, healthy and can be eaten raw as a snack, or tossed into a hot meal. Elliot is a big fan of dried fruit such as apples and mango (without added sugar). Like most kids, Elliot loves to “snack around”. When he got older, we gave him nuts to snack on as well.
For cooking, we keep things simple and have invested in lightweight pots and pans, and a Jetboil stove.
During long hikes, how do you prevent your baby or toddler from getting restless and cranky in the baby carrier?
Michaela: Even when Elliot was eight months old, he couldn’t walk yet—but at the same time, he didn’t want to sit still for long periods of time. We would stop every two hours during our hikes for breaks to have water and snacks, and let Elliot crawl around.
While he sat in the carrier, we would often tell him stories and sing songs—I remember once we sang “The Wheels on the Bus” continuously for an hour! Picking off little pieces from the trees for Elliot to fiddle with was helpful too. And he loved blowing on dandelions.
When Elliot got bigger and more aware, we played a game that my dad used to play with me, that involved looking out for hiking trail signs and markers. The person who noticed the most signs would be the winner.
How do you educate your kids about nature and wildlife?
Michaela: My husband has a huge passion for trees. He can estimate the age of trees and recognize pretty much every type of tree. Elliot shares his dad’s passion for trees too.
Regarding animals, Elliot usually grabs those little free activity books for kids available at provincial campgrounds. They have colouring pages, wildlife facts, and fun quizzes inside.
These days Elliot is very much into maps. So we keep printed maps of the BC west coast in the car all the time. He’s starting to know how to identify rivers, lakes and trails.
What are your go-to activities for toddlers and kids?
Michaela: We usually keep our phones on airplane mode to avoid distractions, but we use them to play audio books, which helps to calm Elliot down inside the tent before naptime. We started with downloading stories that he was already familiar with—ones where he’d seen the picture books before. That made it easier for him to imagine what was happening in the stories. Elliot’s current favourites are The Gruffalo, and other tales written by the same author Julia Donaldson.
Doing arts and crafts in nature is also lots fun! We usually pack a few natural paints and brushes to paint rocks, wood and leaves that we find. When we forget to bring our paints, we even use pieces of cooled down charcoal leftover from the fire to draw and paint! Elliot loves creating art in the forest and he’s always so happy to take his artworks home—like a souvenir. Our backyard is full of painted rocks from our camping trips.
Matching games are also another great way to keep toddlers entertained. I look forward to the future when Elliot will be old enough to understand how to play board games.
Thank you, Michaela, for sharing your story and advice with us today!