Hannah Mellsop is the latest to be accepted into our LIFT programme. She is building her business Real Rad Food. Real Rad Food is raw, vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, and, most importantly, downright delicious. Hannah and the team specialise in raw balls, celebration cakes and slices - all of which can now be delivered nationwide, hallelujah!

Hannah has been partnered with Melbourne-based entrepreneur mentor Pana Barbounis, Founder of Pana Organic. Pana is originally a chocolatier, but has become a bit more than that now. He is the designer of Pana Chocolate. Pana has 50 employees, but, has built his whole company so that there is no hierarchy. It’s how he likes to go to work and it’s how he believes his employees like to feel.

We recently caught up with the foodie duo to find out more about them. Read below to find out where Hannah's determination came from, why Pana never studied and more.

Hannah Mellsop:

What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

A passion for healthy food and social media lead me to start Real Rad Food. I knew that there was a massive demand for healthy and allergen friendly food made more available both online and in the cabinets of cafes across New Zealand.

So, there I was, a 21-year-old, with a passion and determination like no other that hasn’t faded ever since. We are now in close to 80 cafes across the country and have an online store that just reached 10,000 orders.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda?

Personal development as a business woman and leader. A clearer idea of what the next five years look like in terms of scale, new product development, systems and efficiencies.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

I grew up with four brothers that lit a competitive fire in my belly that has never gone away. They are my biggest critics and most loyal supporters.

Pana Barbounis:

​What got you into your line of work and how did you end up where you are?

I've always had a great relationship with food, especially with growing up in a European environment - food was always the central point. Gathering and feasting with love is a massive part of my life.

I didn’t study. I am not a textbook person. I completed high school and I went to my first franchise expo when I was 17 – which none of my friends were into! It’s funny when you go back 22-24 years ago, Subway, for example, wasn’t here and I remember speaking to the guy who worked for Subway about bringing the franchise over. I was negotiating bringing on a franchise or something like that. So that was 23-24 years ago.

I knew that I wanted to be self-employed from when I was 5 years old. I come from parents who don’t have a lot of money and I realised that you could make more money that way. So, I knew all my life I wanted to be self employed, but to what I wasn’t sure. It turned out to be food. I started at 16 or 17 in food and I still love it. If I restarted my career today I would be a chef. I’ve done a few courses here and there, but nothing formal.

What are you looking forward to getting out of this process with Soda?

It's more about the support and giving back that is the reward. Especially working alongside ethical brands. Hannah is someone I think I can really help.

Tell me something not everyone knows about you?

My name is actually Pana - not everyone knows that!

*Some of this interview was originally published on theunimpossibles.com here.