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Interview: Inspiration from Clearspring Founder, Chris Dawson

Interview: Inspiration from Clearspring Founder, Chris Dawson
Entrepreneur and visionary Chris Dawson launched his organic food business, Clearspring, 20 years ago. Helen Hokin catches up with him to find out his secret for success and longevity.
HH: It is 20 years since you launched Clearspring. Can you describe how it was starting a new business venture all those miles away in Japan?
CD: In 1993 I was working at a trading house in Japan and supplying a UK company with Japanese specialities. I soon saw the need to establish an international trading house in the EU, to facilitate the stocking and easy distribution of the organic Japanese foods which I had developed in Japan. So when I finished my work at the office in Tokyo, I went home and started working at night setting up Clearspring. It was certainly a bit frightening  considering the physical distance and time differences and juggling a full time  job with the entrepreneurial spirit needed for a start up company.
I spent my holiday leave coming to the UK working at Clearspring. Even though there was not a conflict of interest at any time with the company in Japan, sales at Clearspring  were rapidly increasing and finally in 1998 I decided it was best for me, my family and Clearspring to come to the UK to run the company full time.
HH: Did you ever feel like giving up and what kept you going during the early years?
CD: When I was a teenager, I used to train for long distance running races by running up and down the steep road where we lived.  I knew that I had to reach the top of the hill every time, regardless of the challenge. This  determination has always stayed with me.
HH: What is Clearspring’s philosophy?
CD: The foundation of the company is food integrity. Organic premium quality Japanese and European foods skillfully prepared by artisan and professional producers. It's all prepared according to authentic, traditional recipes and our own original recipes developed for the current demand for 100% vegetarian/vegan foods and ingredients. They are wholesome, easy-to-prepare, great tasting daily foods for optimum nutrition. And we don't use artificial additives, MSG, colourings, preservatives or refined sugars. We also believe in ethically sourced food, made using environmentally sustainable and non-GM products which support communities

HH: What do you think has made Clearspring the success that it is?
CD: Keeping the above promise and staying true to our ethics. Basically, my brand promises premium quality Japanese specialities and Organic Fine Foods that are authentic, versatile and support good health. Made to traditional recipes by master artisan producers, they bring you full, authentic flavours of some of the most exciting food cultures from around the world. They respect local food traditions and are made using finest ingredients without artificial additives, colourings or preservatives.
We always works directly with our producers to build long term partnerships of ethical trade that support sustainable organic farming and benefit local communities.
HH: Can you tell me a bit about one or two of your most interesting producers in Japan?
CD: From 1980 to 1997, I worked day and night, to convert many Japanese producers to use organic ingredients. They resisted at first, as they didn't know or believe there would be a demand for organic Japanese foods abroad. We created the market for their organic foods abroad and today they really appreciate it. I am a huge fan of our Hatcho miso which has been revered for centuries as the most famous miso in Japan, and celebrated as the miso supplied to the Emperor of Japan for over one hundred years. It's a pure soya bean miso of concentrated nutrition with 80% more protein and 25% less salt than either long aged Brown Rice or Barley Miso. It is produced by a line of miso craftmen spanning five centuries who use large seasoned cedarwood kegs to fully mature the miso for up to 3 years. Visiting this supplier is truly like going back in time.
HH: Do you have any advice for new food business start ups?
CD: The commercial world is extremely tough but do not get disheartened.
Also don’t under estimate the costs involved in managing your  QC and QA obligations.
HH: What does the future hold for you?
CD: There are nearly 200 independent countries in the world today.
We have reached 40 So there's still plenty of work to be done.
More information about Clearspring here
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9 August 2013
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