Where it started
“Quitting my job was an excellent move” is a thought you wouldn’t expect to have while a 15-story building at the epicentre of an earthquake collapses around you.
Yet, it’s one of the few things I did think of - along with love for my family, partner and the stranger weeping in front of me - when I was in the Titanium Torre in Puebla on the 19th September 2017. Walls cracked, the ground shook, marble came crashing down. When everything stopped, I resumed my meeting in the car park, excited to be alive and to be launching Peak Pinole, the first range of sports nutrition made of pinole.
On the surface, I established Azure, my startup, to bring pinole, the favoured snack of the legendary runners in sandals, the Tarahumara, to the wider world. I spent my fieldwork throughout my PhD in boxing rings. I was the female captain of Oxford’s boxing team, winning BUCS in 2012. The year after that, I won regional championships in Mexico in the Puebla state, and in 2014, nationals of Belgium. Pinole fuelled me throughout. Now we are focused on winning prizes to grow like the Idea Idol and the Oxford Humanities Challenge.
We launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote the first energy bars (ever!) made of blue corn. I was inspired by the Tarahumara. You may have heard of the legendary runners in sandals in Born to Run. Did you spot the references to pinole though? It’s the Aztec fuel made of blue corn that keeps these Mexican ultra-runners going mile after mile.
But the core mission of Azure is to address the glaring deficiencies of a global food system I investigated for four years at the School of Geography and the Environment at Oxford University. Born from my love for the unpronounceable active volcano Popocatepetl and the people who live on it, these indigenous communities are the producers of pinole. My host family would prepare it into a hot drink that would hug me from the inside. It’s impossible to find unless you live in a rural Mexican community that make tortillas by hand.
As I came to intimately understand through my PhD, a product’s quality starts in the field. We’re dedicated to preserving the rich diversity of Mexican corn, indigenous farming techniques of intercropping and the lands they grow on.
We’re working hard to ensure Azure directly benefits our producers and their communities. That is why we sell directly to our customers: profits that would otherwise go to wholesalers and retailers are redirected to purchasing the manufacturing machines for our producers. With this model, our raw producers will own the infrastructure that turns blue corn into Peak Pinole. Thus the majority of the value created will stay in Mexico. Fair Trade 2.0.