Island Nourish meets Island Naturals' Lindsay Allen
Something a bit different in this blogpost. I don’t know about you, but I’m always fascinated by peoples’ stories. How they came to be who they are today, why they do what they do, and what inspires and motivates them. I particularly like to hear the stories of female entrepreneurs and small business owners: their struggles, their successes, their favourite sandwich... no detail is too small. Some might say I’m a nosy-parker. I say that, as a small business owner myself, I take inspiration from these tales and try to glean as much business, and life, wisdom from them as possible.
With this in mind, I decided that I’d like to have a chat with Lindsay Allen, the founder and owner of Island Naturals in Grand Cayman, and to hear her own story. As someone interested in wellness, I have been following the growth and evident success of the Island Naturals brand for several years and this year Lindsay is a finalist in the Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Lindsay and her team currently operates three separate spaces, the Island Naturals Café, which is a healthy eating mecca in Cayman designed to meet the needs of the more health conscious of the consumers on the island, the Island Naturals retail store which is stocked to the brim with all manner of supplements, vitamins, health food products and clean cosmetics (among many other product lines) and the Crystal Shop which sells beautiful crystals, jewellery and gifts.
Despite her busy day, Lindsay very graciously agreed to meet over a coffee in her café and, as we chatted, the story that unfolded about the very rocky beginnings of her business did not disappoint. She described how she came to the island in 2009 as a bartender. She found it frustrating that the choices for healthy dining on the island were very few. Even fewer when you factor in that she worked long and late hours. Ultimately, she ended up settling for the carb-laden options at the bar where she worked. She was exhausted from long hours and a less than perfect diet. Eventually this took a toll on her health and she got sick. Really sick. She started trying to make herself well by adopting a regime of supplements and superfoods, which she had to bring in from Canada as there was nowhere on island that could supply what she needed.
It was during this difficult time that Lindsay had her lightbulb moment. She knew that she had to open a healthy eating restaurant and a health supplies store. She wasn’t sure how she would do it, but she knew she would do it somehow. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs so she believes it’s in her blood. She hustled hard and opened the retail store first, and then, later, the café. Some of her stories of that time are pretty hair raising. She was still working full time as a bartender to make ends meet and she encountered terrible staffing problems – she was let down several times and her chef abandoned her at the very last minute before opening. I asked her whether she ever felt like giving it all up. She says that when she looks back on that time now, she can’t believe that she got through it. But she never gave up. She says she just knew that she was doing the right thing. This was something that Cayman needed and she was the person to do it. I asked her how she kept going. She said that she just kept reminding herself that every drink she was serving at the bar was helping to build her dream. This was literally the case when a regular looking guy she got chatting to in the bar about her business dream left her a $1000 tip. It turned out that he had built his business from the ground up too. He believed in her. She used the cash to pay the first rent due on the café. I got goosebumps.
Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength. The café is bustling and the retail store is increasingly popular. As an industry, wellness is booming, and I can only imagine that the Island Naturals brand will also continue to be a great success. Lindsay loves the team of like minded people that she’s built around her and is excited for the future. To wrap up our talk, I asked her what she was most proud of. She said that she was proud of the Cayman community for being open to natural health and embracing what her business stands for: high quality, high standards, truly healthy brands and products. Personally, I think Lindsay can also be extremely proud of herself. What an inspiring woman. Oh….and her favourite sandwich is a falafel wrap. If you were wondering.