Clara Brannigan sits down to chat with Dave from the Happy Pear to ask for some advice on how students can live a healthy and happy life, even at the most stressful of times.
Dave Flynn invites me to sit in the Garden of the Happy Pear in Greystones. I sip on a wonderful latte made by one of the baristas called Anto. Dave eats something bright and delicious looking from a glass jar.
The Happy Pear has moved from one success to another over the past 14 years. Dave explains how it all began. “I was walking down the street one day, and a piece of broccoli fell from the sky.” He begins to laugh. “Ah no, it came from an evolution of things. We had changed, when I say we I mean me and Steve, being my identical twin.” He reflects, “by the time we finished college we were a bit disillusioned, we’d bought into the American dream of ‘money makes you happy’, then once you’re successful you can do what you want. We were playing semi-pro rugby, we were doing modeling and we had degrees in business. We thought we were going places.” A note from Steve eventually revealed how he felt: ‘I’m going away and I’m not coming back until I am Happy, and I know what I’m into.’
Steve bought a one-way ticket to Canada and the brothers travelled separately for a number of years until Dave received a call from him. “He called me up one day, he says: ‘Dave, Dave, do you want to try and start a health food revolution?’ I thought that meant revolution with like big rallies and placards! Then he goes: ‘do you want to start a vegetable shop?’ So, aged 24 we started a little vegetable shop with an idea of changing the world and making it happy and healthier and building a community. Right in the start, it was all about using business as a vehicle for social change to create a world we’d want to live in.”
Social media has been a huge factor in the Happy Pears’ success, especially their Instagram, where they vlog their daily lives. Steve explains how useful it has been for their brand. “Well, we always felt we had a strong message. We weren’t doing it to have a fleet of Ferraris or Armani suits. We were doing it because there was a higher cause.”
‘’We ended up doing a podcast with Russell Brand. He’s over here filming and I think he had watched the Netflix show we’re part of: Somebody Feed Phil, and we had met him a couple of years ago because we were doing stuff with Jamie Oliver.”
“As soon as social media began to take off we felt totally out of our depth at first, but realised we could use the platform to amplify our message and to inspire people to build a community and be healthier.” Dave thinks back to when they first began to advertise: “I think we started on Facebook but before that, we used to put up posters, like physical posters, on lamp posts about our baking festivals. The best thing before social media we used was the local parish bulletin for our ads. That’s how we got the word around.”
Now, the brand has become international, with people regularly travelling to be part of the ‘swimrise’, everyone morning Dave and Steve head to Greystones beach and swim while the sun rises and now people join them every morning as a community thing or people just travel from different places to join them. Lately, the twins have attracted other celebrity attention with Russel Brand being featured on their Instagram stories. “We ended up doing a podcast with Russell Brand. He’s over here filming and I think he had watched the Netflix show we’re part of: Somebody Feed Phil, and we had met him a couple of years ago because we were doing stuff with Jamie Oliver.” The pair or (pear) recently worked in collaboration as part of Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube network. “Russell got in touch, came in and left his number and said he’d love to hang out. We swam in the sea, did some yoga, he came for brekkie. He’s a cool guy.”
‘’You think you’re bulletproof and invincible and you can burn the wick everywhere – but I think during those periods when we were drinking like fish all night, we didn’t feel like ourselves. I felt more like myself when I went away. I needed to go by myself into new environments to see what I was interested in outside of the peer pressures.’’
At this point in the interview, Dave’s two lovely daughters joined us. The air was filled with giggles and laughter as they clambered onto their Dad’s lap.
Dave offers some advice from when he and Steve were both fresh out of college. “You think you’re bulletproof and invincible and you can burn the wick everywhere, but I think during those periods when we were drinking like fish all night, we didn’t feel like ourselves. I felt more like myself when I went away. I needed to go by myself into new environments to see what I was interested in outside of the peer pressures.” When it comes to food, it can be difficult for students living out of home for the first time. It’s easy to succumb to the temptations of convenience food and using the dominos vouchers that are handed out during Freshers’ Week. Dave ponders, “I think there will still be the people who eat pizza and drink cheap beer, but then there are other people who will be more conscious about what they eat. For those people, it doesn’t have to be that expensive.” Dave and Steve have a series of YouTube videos that feature student-friendly meals. “We’ve shot videos where we’ve given ourselves 25 euro for the week and we cooked enough for 8 meals in an hour. I think the expensive foods are meat, fish, cheese or processed foods. It’s not vegetables and fruit, rice and pasta.”
“I think when you’re twenty, have fun, get stuck into life, be curious and really try learning as much about yourself that you can. You know maybe you’ll look back at your college experience and you wished you would have gone on that trip or not have taken things so seriously.”
So, what according to the brothers, are the top five ingredients every student should have in their press? “Definitely porridge and tinned tomatoes are great. Coconut milk is good as you can quickly throw stuff together with it. I always love tamari, it’s like a wheat free soya sauce and brown rice is a great option too. Each of these ingredients can be fleshed out if you have some vegetables.’’
‘Don’t take life too seriously’, is the two brothers’ mantra in life. They explain that there are many routes to happiness. “Food is just one aspect of it. I think when you’re twenty, have fun, get stuck into life, be curious and really try learning as much about yourself that you can. You know maybe you’ll look back at your college experience and you wished you would have gone on that trip or not have taken things so seriously. Your exam results, although important, do not define you. You just never know, you might be studying business and then at aged 24 you start a vegetable shop. Then ten years later it’s much more than a vegetable shop.”
The pair have a few plans for the coming year, but Dave does not forget to reflect on how far they have come. “Well over the last 14 years, it’s gone from just me and Steve to about 170 other people working with us. We have products in the UK now, so we have been really focusing on that and we’ve loads of stuff going on online.” They also have plans to expand their farm. Dave discloses his favourite thing that has come from setting up The Happy Pear: “the people have been the best bit of the journey. The age-old saying, as cheesy as it is, figure out whatever you’re interested in and turn that into a job. Nowadays it’s even easier to make a living. But the most important part is about making a difference.”
The Happy Pear’s food products can be found on our own very campus in Centra. Don’t forget to check out their Youtube Channel, for healthy and easy recipe ideas.