Change Is Female — Portrait N°6 Nicola Gryczka

How to Build a Social Movement?

By Rita Pater – Original published on:

During the Infoshare Conference I had a chance to interview a few amazing people. Among them was Nicola Gryczka — one of the most influential women I’ve met. She’s a CEO of a socially responsible project Gastromotiva, which is reinventing people’s mindsets on social gastronomy and raising zero waste food awareness.

This series has started on Women’s Day and is dedicated to women who make an impact on the world of business and new technologies. 
The whole #ChangeIsFemale project consists of ten interviews with ten women. Each interview has ten questions and a portrait drawn by me.

1/ Gastromotiva covers four countries, you might be seen as an extremely successful woman. What is your definition of success?

Achieving success is a consequence of what you’re doing. I’m focusing on why, which is in our case about making the world a better place and making the opportunities, giving access. So when I focus on staying true to that, the things will happen. And I think choosing the right partners and alliances has always been a key to success as well.

My success is not being in a hundred countries. My success is going to be when our learnings are applied around the world.

2/ Your goals might seem overwhelming, how is it possible to set them up?
It’s funny, my personal goals are also connected to my business. I think at Gastromotiva we had a very clear goal, what we’re building now is a social gastronomy movement.

I think first is the challenge of doing something new and innovative, which is again, process over with this industry.

Seeing an opportunity, I feel like we’re always a little bit ahead of what society is ready for, so it’s difficult. But we just start doing it, because otherwise nobody’s going to do it.

So I think it’s always challenging at the beginning and then once we got to the “Ah-ha!” moment from some investors, we got 1.5 million of seed money for the social gastronomy movement. And we’re like, okay, now it makes sense. But we talked about it for a few years before. We need a movement, we need to connect all the entrepreneurs, we need to go open source. They were like “yeah, yeah, whatever.” — and then one said they were ready and because we had already prepared for this path, the implementation was very fast.

Rita: That’s a good message, I think, for people who know they’re ahead of time. There are so many entrepreneurs who go to investors or government and ask for money, and they don’t get money, because it’s too early for such movements. So your advice is to just do it?

Yes, just do it. Another thing is that people tend to seek for perfection especially in this culture where failure is not well seen. While starting something just start doing it, cause otherwise time will fly and you’d be always at the beginning, start with something and build on that. 
That’s exactly what we did. We had the movement, started with an intern, we started working on a concept, then eventually it happened when it was supposed to happen. We had the path already, we had the background, we had initiatives — we simply started. In Mexico, we had no idea what we were doing. We just opened up. Now there are bad things to it as well, but I think you just need to be bold. Our goals are always bold. I think it’s important, when we’re working on our values as an organisation as well, to be courageous.

In order to do something, you need to be courageous. In order to think ahead of time, you need to bring the courage with you.

3/ What advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?

Five years ago was very peculiar to me. It was a transition time. What I would tell myself — do it earlier. Start doing. I think I would have done the career switch earlier. And I remember I was talking to someone that I wanted to change my career and that was my last year in business I wanted to switch. And I was saying to myself: “screw it, don’t think about it.”

I think if you just follow your heart — that’s extremely important. Don’t let people influence it. People say that you need to turn 35 in order to let go of what others think, right? Let go early, because if you start listening to your intuition, it’ll go right again. Start with WHY — it’s very important to me.

4/ What are your self-care routines?

I live in Rio, right? but I think it’s extremely important, I actually did not , so again, coming to five years ago, another advice I’d give myself — find the balance earlier. So I would just go, and work extra hard, and prove myself — yes, but take it easy as well.

One of my coaches told me: relax. You got here already. This, for somebody at 31 is extremely amazing. So I started relaxing, and my business partner, David, he’s very good at balancing — he taught me to take care of myself.

So my routine: I get up early. Very early, like 6 am, then I go to the gym and work out, I really enjoy it. I go to the ocean, I swim in the ocean, cause you know, the water, the mountains, the waves, the sounds, it’s all just so relaxing. Then I stretch at the beach, get my coconut water, take my bike, bike to work about 45 minutes, I take a shower and I’m there with my coffee, and I can start my day. 
I need to start my day fresh, because once I start work, I need to step out, and wanna give attention to everyone. So that’s really important, taking my time in the morning, like it’s two-hour routine of the ocean, of outdoors, of taking care of my body. And I remember to have breakfast every morning.

5/ What — in your opinion — is the movie everyone in business should watch?

Pursuit of Happiness — It’s never too late to change your career and “make something” of yourself. Also? Life is hard. Deal with it. 
The main inspiration here comes from our students that have been through the toughest times. They still find the courage to rewrite the history of their lives, while some of us complain over and over about the hardship of work problems. I have been part of the work environments where many people complained and did nothing to change their life. And so I think the message in the movie reflects this willpower to change your life, work and destiny.

6/ What are the apps you use? What are your communication channels?

WhatsApp is very strong in my life, unfortunately. It’s very good, cause it’s immediate, but it gets very mixed up with private life at some point. And then it can get a little out of control, so I think it’s good to find balance between email and WhatsApp. I use Economist. I use The Economist all the time. I like audiobooks, too. 
With our teams we started using Telegram, because we had Whatsapp shutdowns in Brazil. We use Salesforce as a CRMthen we have Asana as project management tool. The Mexico team uses Slack. 
Microsoft supports us, so as a social organisation, we have a lot of pro bono tools — Microsoft gives us a licence to Sharepoint, cloud, everything, so we use their services as well. Those are the main ones.

7/ How do you support women leaders?

There are 80% women at Gastromotiva. I love mentoring, I love guiding a bit through. I love spreading the word and hearing the stories of women, which is why it’s amazing that you’re doing it as well. Cause I think it’s important, I mean, to share the positives, yes, but also their challenges. And I think it’s important to start speaking up as well.

I like speaking up, just because people get inspired, like I often got when I was a student. I like being there for young women, I like inspiring them, but they also inspire me. And that is what motivates me even more.

I think raising the voice is very important. We were talking about a different level of women equality etc., and one of my friends in Jordan, started a web series with women success stories or just stories in general. Because young girls, they don’t have many stories out there to inspire you to get you motivated.

There is no one out there to do that. If you start telling these stories, you’re like, I’m not alone and you follow them and you think ”I can do it!” It is important to raise our voices. And I’m not just focusing on the females, but I do it because of young people in general.

8/ When you go to a new place and you start your initiative there, what is the biggest challenge people experience there?
I think success is based on trust and trust takes time. I try to establish trust on all levels, so if you think about it, like, if our students that are trying to reach communities, they hear “nothing is for free in life”. People there say: “Oh, you wanna give us education for free? Nothing is for free. You want us to vote, there must be something you want.”

Gaining trust with the public we’re trying to serve, is as important as gaining trust with investors.

For example when we get funds we specifically refer to it as social investment, and not just philanthropy or social good, but like it’s social investment, cause it’s an investment in future, then they need to understand. And because we’re investing in something that’s oftentimes intangible. There’s a big thing around impact investment, questions like how do you measure you Return On Investment? If it’s fifty financial and fifty social impact. It takes time. It’s intangible, so the biggest challenge of impact investment is to build trust. So it’s trust you will invest in the right area, trust you will use the funds in the right way, trust your decisions about the future.

Trust in general is a huge challenge, but the biggest opportunity as well.

9. So what does it look like? You have your headquarters in Brazil. Imagine I’d like to introduce your idea to the Polish society. 
How would I do that?

The closest person that’s a part of our network right now is in Berlin. They’re called Uber den Tellerrand — talk to them, see what you can build. And secondly, what we’re working towards, with our social gastronomy movement is towards an open source, like I mentioned.

We have an online platform — sort of a digital table, it connects all of us. And we have the events, the gatherings, physical sense of belonging. And then we have the hubs. The hubs are local spaces, we have the methodology that can be applied anywhere, so you can build a hub in for example Warsaw. You don’t need to be a social entrepreneur, but you can be someone who hosts the hub and invites over entrepreneurs, creates space for dialog exchange and designing actions. The hubs connect through a platform that has methodologies from around the world. So the idea we’re building now is that Gastromotiva is taking everything online.

We’re gonna standardise and provide our learnings of the last 16 years, then the other organisations will be the part, so you can find the best practices, you can find toolboxes, you can find things you can apply to your local context.

Uber den Tellerrand works with refugees. It’s a problem here (on Poland) as well. You can apply to your own realities, it’s about integration and opportunities. Ask yourself “what is my problem? which organisation do I feel closest with?” so you can choose it to apply it. We’re creating engagement strategies now, so people can find an open source, anything they want to implement in their countries.

10. The greatest thing I hear is that you rely on community, because without it there is nothing valuable.

Yeah, you need local community as well, so I would say that it’s local. Perhaps we’ll create a local community.

And food is local. It’s produced in our backyards but you need to realise you’re a part of the global system. That’s the reality. That’s why for us it’s so important to have the local community hubs and the global platform that then connects everyone.

Nicola Gryczka is currently the CEO of GASTROMOTIVA, a Brazilian social enterprise, founded by chef David Hertz, that works with food as a tool for transformation, offering gastronomy training towards employment, food entrepreneurship classes and nutrition education for under privileged communities and food waste solutions in four countries. Since 2016 she has started to work with innovative solutions to stop the vicious circle of food waste, such as a food surplus product line, online educational content and tech solutions to scale the impact globally, involving the powerful convening power of chefs. Nicola’s passion lies at the cross road of grass route activism and policy making, especially in fields of food, agriculture and education, at the intersection with technology and innovation. Co-founder of the global Social Gastronomy Movement that aims at making our Food System more inclusive, Nicola has been selected as one of the MIT SOLVE finalist for innovative solutions and start-ups that will change the world.*


One thought on “Change Is Female — Portrait N°6 Nicola Gryczka

  1. says:

    One non-profit organization came to Davos to show participants that there is a better way to manage our resources. Brazilian-based Gastromotiva takes food that is destined for the rubbish dump and turns it into meals for people in need. Bananas are, apparently, a particular problem. “It ranks as the world’s number one most wasted food,” said CEO Nicola Gryczka .

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