What's in a name?
We know, it’s curious. What is a beluga bean anyway?
Well, it came time to name our Academy. Many of the descriptive names we were imagining were already taken or a bit dull. So, we decided to go the other route for naming a business, which is to choose something kinda cool and then build a brand with meaning.
Beluga lentils are a super-food as they pack a nutritional punch way above their tiny size and weight. They’re not technically a bean, but are in the same family. The Academy is business skills and bean counting, as well life skills and being full of beans.
So…we invented Beluga Bean.
Meet the founders
I developed a questioning attitude when I was nineteen years old. Because of an early interest in food and health, I applied this first to what I ate. I realised there are norms in the food chain that don’t make sense, from conventional farming to the rubbish in processed foods, and I changed my diet to eat better. I discovered that conventional wisdom, in general, isn’t always smart. And ‘normal’ isn’t always good enough. And I decided that I didn’t want to be a sheep and follow the crowd. I wanted better.
I’m American. I was born in the Deep South and grew up near Boston, but after graduating from University, I moved to England to date a guy I’d met on a night bus on Lower Regent Street. A bit of a late starter, I spent my twenties working in the wine trade, having a ball, getting to know myself better and wondering what I might possibly do for work.
I married the bus guy, Brian, and five years later opened Planet Organic in 1995, the first organic supermarket in the UK. My mission was to promote health in the community and my slogan became ‘Eat well: live better’. It was a roller-coaster journey and I was a pioneering woman in a tough retail world. But I believed that values-led, commercially-driven business is good business. And I was right.
I see health as the foundation of wellbeing. But as Planet grew, I explored other areas of wellbeing such as psychological, economic, occupational and spiritual, realising that life could be better in these ways, too. In my late thirties and early forties, I had three children, and by 2009, I found myself choosing between my business and my babes. I stepped away from Planet so I could be a great mom and Brian and I moved the family to Tuscany for a while to slow things down.
After a beautiful three-year Italian interlude, we returned to England in early 2013 and I began my second professional chapter. I wanted to have more fun. I started delivering speeches to inspire entrepreneurs, mentoring start-ups, teaching healthy baking and writing my fourth cookbook, ‘What to Eat & How to Eat it’. This was fun. And then it was time to take to pull it all together into a second business.
Then in 2016, I met Sam Wigan. We had similar ideas and knew we would work together. We designed and started to build an Academy for life skills and business skills for the stuff that enables you to navigate better through life and work. For me, this work is the sum and expression of everything I have admired, studied and learned over the last thirty years. We launched Beluga Bean Academy in 2017 and are growing a family of like-minded peeps. And having fun.
Over twenty years ago, when I graduated from university, I was looking for answers to big questions. My bookshelf accumulated ‘The Road Less Travelled’, ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ to name a few. I also attended a series of self awareness seminars and was amazed to discover that much of what I had been reading about was coming alive as a reality in my life. This was an awakening of what I have come to know as ‘The Teachings of The Heart’, and so begun a deep commitment to lead a more loving, joyful and Heart-led life.
I went on to develop a prolific career as a sculptor, creating beautiful bronze statues for top art collectors. I also maintained my commitment to the world of transformational learning and development, co-founded a charitable education programme for youth, led innumerable personal development seminars for adults and built a successful practice coaching individual leaders.
Alongside all of that I was fortunate to also marry my incredible wife, herself a powerful woman with a successful career. Together we have been kept busy raising our two energetic sons (now in their teens), including significant periods of time when I took the lead as ‘stay-at-home dad’ when they were very young. I believe this experience is one reason I feel such empathy for people juggling full on careers and young families, and am so acutely aware of the need for new ways of doing and being to create more ease and fulfilment.
Helping others to unlock their own greater awareness, creativity and accomplishment is one of the joys in my life. I believe the world needs more people who are willing to embrace the wisdom and power of who they really are, and to learn how to express this more fully in their lives. I have seen that when we do that, everyone benefits.
Looking back, I can also see that the mentor relationship has been a constant for me, developing deep friendships with, and receiving extraordinary value from, leaders in specific areas of work and life mastery. A mentor is more than a teacher, they become a trusted friend and guide. For me, mentor relationships have been a whole life process and truly one of my great blessings. We all need inspiration, guidance and support in life. Mentoring accelerates our journey and it makes senes to access it when we need it.
Founding Beluga Bean with Renée is in many ways the fulfilment of my commitment to community, learning and support, assisting others in their trajectory of accomplishment and greater happiness, and having a whole lot of joy whilst doing it.