Healthy ambition . . . Getting excited about opening the doors to Inu Nutrition Bar, are (from left) Carn Parata, Sonya Mathewson and Luana Baird. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Her own personal weight-loss journey has inspired Sonya Mathewson to start a business and help others do the same.

Inu Nutrition Bar is opening on Saturday, April 9, in the Esplanade, beside the Oamaru Rowing Club, at the former Penguin’s Nest cafe.

It will offer ‘‘loaded’’ teas, high-protein smoothies and pre and post-workout shakes.

The mother-of-five lost 20kg about 18 months ago, by drinking two meal replacement smoothies a day for three months.

After seeing her success, partner Carn Parata, and friend — and now staff member — Luana Baird tried the same method, and had similar success stories, both losing 15kg-20kg.

‘‘So we all had really awesome results, and just over the last year there’s just been so much interest in people just wanting to get healthier and things like that.

‘‘I started to look into opening this nutrition bar so I could just reach more people, I guess.’’

The loaded teas were herbal tea based, sugar free, with vitamin C, aloe vera and guarana — a ‘‘natural clean energy’’, Ms Mathewson said.

The smoothies were under 250 calories, included 21 vitamins and minerals, and contained 15g-25g of whey, soy or plant-based protein.

‘‘I like telling people, you’re just replacing the V with the tea, or the pie with the smoothie.

‘‘If someone’s looking for something, like a contractor, you know, they’re looking for something really quick to eat, smoothies are so much more nutritious, and you’re getting everything that you need out of it, like a full-balanced meal, and it’s fast.’’

Ms Baird said it was less about the weight loss for her and more about feeling healthier overall.

‘‘I used to drink Red Bulls every day for years, and I haven’t touched one in a year now, which was huge, yeah.’’

While Ms Mathewson’s weight-loss journey had not involved intentional exercise, she had always been busy.

‘‘I had three kids under 4 when I started, you know. I was fairly active without going to the gym.

‘‘But now, after I lost that weight, now I have the energy and the confidence to go to the gym and to start to lift some weights.’’

She now had one shake a day for breakfast to maintain the weight loss, and drank the teas, which she said helped with the ‘‘brain fog’’.

Ms Mathewson had three young children aged 5, 3 and 2 with Mr Parata, and also two teenage children.

Mr Parata had recently started his own landscaping business, called Hardscapes.

‘‘That was another reason that made me want to start my own business too, was watching him start up his own business. I was like, ‘what could I do?’,’’ she said.

After a long time in the main caregiver role, she was ready to do something for herself and provide financially for her family, while Mr Parata was hoping to be able to spend more time with their children.

‘‘We can balance it quite well.’’

That Inu was positioned between the Rowing Club gym and CrossFit 564 was more good luck than good planning. It had not been their first choice of premises, but an initial lease had fallen through, and now they could not be happier with their location.

‘‘It was really awesome, actually, how the building popped up. I’d been looking and I drove down here one day, just driving around, and I saw this place and thought, it hasn’t been used for ages.’’

Ms Mathewson said her landlord had been amazing, and was not charging rent until she opened her doors to the public.

The issue of the worldwide pandemic had held up supplies and meant Inu could not open between Christmas and New Year, as they initially hoped, but everything had eventually fallen into place.

‘‘Everything’s worked out, even though there’s been challenges.’’

The name Inu is Maori for drink, and there was also a children’s menu called Iti Inu, with ‘‘unloaded’’ teas.

The recipes and products were inspired by a friend running a similar business in Australia.
Inu would be open 8am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm at the weekend, for now, to see what worked.

Ms Baird was full of praise for MsMathewson, and the support she and Mr Parata gave each other.

‘‘They’ve done an amazing job. They’re so busy with kids and working and doing this, and all these other hurdles that get thrown at them.

‘‘I mean, I take my hat off them, they’ve done a really amazing job. They’re a good team for sure.’’