A symbol of empowerment both on screen and in real life, Sarah Michelle Gellar has gone from slaying dragons to launching her own business. Foodstirs, a line of healthier baking mixes by Gellar and her business partners, Galit Laibow and Gia Russo, launches this month in the States (Australian availability has not been released at this time). The Emmy-winning actress says her children, Charlotte, 6, and Rocky, 3, inspired her to create the company. They wanted to bake with her, but she knew nothing about baking. So, she went to the supermarket to buy a mix, but they were all filled with ingredients that Gellar could barely pronounce. “I didn’t want to give that stuff to my children,” she says. After discovering the many benefits kids get from baking, Gellar says she was convinced that there was a business opportunity there, so she went for it.
Recently, Gellar took a break from her busy schedule to chat with us about work, her recent bout of empty nest syndrome, raising independent children and what she and her husband of 13 years, actor Freddie Prinze Jr., like to do on date night.
MT: How scary was to jump into a new venture that involved something you knew nothing about?
SMG: It was scary on every level and incredibly intimidating! I had to change gears. I didn’t know anything about baking or launching my own company or being a woman in this industry.
MT: What inspired you to overcome your fears and just jump in?
SMG: I want to show my children that you should take risks and try things and you should never be afraid to fail. If I didn’t do it, and then someone else did, I’d be thinking, ‘Gee, I could have done that!’ I never want to be that person who thinks I could have or should have. I want to live by example.
MT: What kind of skills did you have to learn to get Foodstirs off the ground?
SMG: Well, first of all I had to learn how to turn my computer on! (Laughs) My husband jokes that I speak an entirely different language now, with all of the terms that go with having a business online, from SEO to SEM. It was literally learning a new language for me. I’ve also learned how to bake. I test recipes and taste products and bake constantly, sometimes late at night, sometimes early in the morning. We’re not a big corporation that has huge kitchens all over the world that tests this stuff, so we’re doing all the work in our own kitchens.
MT: Are you finished acting forever, or are you just taking a break from it right now?
SMG: I don’t have the time to commit to acting right now. When I commit to something, I commit wholeheartedly. I’m in the office every single day, I’m in the kitchen, I pack the boxes myself. I’m involved in literally every aspect of this company right now. I think actors have an interesting platform, and there’s nothing wrong with people who can be spokespeople and they put their name on something and they promote it. But, Foodstirs is a daily blood, sweat and tears passion for me. That said, being on “Star Wars Rebels” has been a great way to keep my creative acting side going, because it only requires a couple of hours of my time every two to three weeks or so.
MT: Do you have more flexibility with your schedule now that you’re not acting full time?
SMG: I definitely feel like I have a little more control over my schedule right now. But, at the same time I’m working even longer hours. There’s a lot more downtime on a set, which I don’t have right now. But, on set I can’t just take Halloween off because I want to go trick-or-treating with my kids. There are 300 other people also on set who rely on me to be there and get my work done. If one of your children gets sick, you can’t just say, ‘I gotta go home, my child’s sick,’ and leave everyone standing there.’ It’s tricky. Actors have it really good – we have great trailers and we don’t have to work year-round — but we give up a lot, too.
MT: When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing with your kids?
SMG: I enjoy the moments. I was so busy in my twenties, I was moving so fast, and it’s like once I had kids I finally learned to stop and enjoy moments. For instance, when we’re walking somewhere and the kids stop to look at a leaf for 20 minutes, I just enjoy that. I enjoy looking at the world through their eyes and seeing the magic and seeing the beauty and seeing the inspiration out there in the world.
MT: Are your kids close to each other?
SMG: My kids are obsessed with each other. Just this morning they finished breakfast and we had some time before Charlotte had to leave for the school bus and I said, ‘What do you guys want to do?’ And Charlotte said, ‘Rocky, do you want to go play in my room with me?!’ and he was like, ‘Yeah! Mummy, you no come!’ They just wanted to do their own thing together just the two of them.
MT: You were a “girl mum” first. Was it hard to make that transition to “boy mum,” too?
SMG: No, because my daughter was always interested in both ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ things. She was like the princess that wanted to build stuff. For her third birthday she wanted a toolset. And people were like, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet you got that for Rocky when you were pregnant,’ and I was like, ‘Oh no, that’s Charlotte’s.’ And she’ll be the first one to tell you that the Black and Decker tool set from Home Depot is hers.
MT: Do you ever find yourself parenting your kids differently because of their genders?
SMG: Freddie sometimes says I’m harder on Charlotte because she’s a girl. And sometimes I’ll say that I think he’s harder on Rocky. Maybe it’s because I know how difficult girls can be. But, I try really hard to be as fair as possible.
MT: What’s one of your biggest challenges as a mum?
SMG: All of a sudden you have to think about somebody else’s welfare 24/7. What are they doing? Are they happy? Did somebody pick them up? Are they eating right? Did they have enough vegetables? Children are reliant and dependent upon you.
MT: How do you see your role as a mum evolving as your children are getting older?
SMG: I think I’m a little bit more confident. I’m like, ‘OK, they’re doing great. Something’s going right.’ I think I’ve relaxed a little bit. But, I definitely had a little bit of empty nest syndrome when my daughter started kindergarten this year. Her school day lasts twice as long as last year, and she takes the bus. I barely let anyone else drive her around and now she’s getting on the school bus and going to a school I’m not a part of! I was so actively a part of her preschool, I even helped build it. I was there from the first drawings to the first brick that got laid to when it was in our friend’s backyard because the building wasn’t ready. Now, Charlotte is in this very big, established school that goes from kindergarten to 12th grade.
MT: Has she had trouble adjusting to her new school routine?
SMG: It’s the reverse. I’m having a harder time than she is. She’s the one that’s saying to me, ‘Mummy, it’s OK. It’s just a bus to school. I’ll be fine.’
MT: Is she getting more independent socially, too?
SMG: She had her first sleepover the other day. It almost did me in. I was up the whole night. She was one of the only two kindergartners there. The rest of the girls were first graders. I spent the whole night panicking, even though the mum hosting the sleepover was someone I knew well, my business partner Galit. She sent me pictures of Charlotte asleep, saying, ‘Go to bed! She’s out cold. It’s fine!’ I wanted to spend the night downstairs in their guestroom, but I sort of got kicked out.
MT: How have you helped Charlotte be so independent?
SMG: By letting her make her own mistakes and letting her learn from them. I think as a parent our most important job is to give our kids the skills that they need to be able to go out in the world and make decisions for themselves. Too often we put our kids in these bubbles, like we take the jump ropes out of schools because some kids can’t jump rope and everybody gets a trophy for joining, but that’s not preparing them for the real world. Not everybody comes in first place and not everybody can jump rope really well and that’s OK because those people do something else well.
MT: How do you reinforce that lesson at home?
SMG: Charlotte’s best friend can hula hoop better than Charlotte, so Charlotte doesn’t want to hula hoop at all. I tell her, ‘Instead of being frustrated because Scarlett does it so much better than you, ask her to teach you how to hula hoop better.’ Learn! Learn from those people who are better at something than you. I think that’s a very important lesson, one I’ve had to learn too.
MT: You grew up in New York City. You live in L.A. What are the benefits that you see in raising kids in big cities?
SMG: I think some of the advantages have to do with the access to things. The museums, the different types of people and different ways of living — not everyone lives in a house, people live in apartments too. You know just all of those different viewpoints and different types of people.
MT: OK, so let’s switch gears. You’ve shared some cute date night photos on Instagram. Where do you and Freddie like to hang out when you’re alone?
SMG: My favourite date night spot is in my kitchen. Freddie cooks and we just get to sit and relax. Going out is great, but then you’re looking at other things — you’re seeing a movie, you’re with other people — and I think that true connection really happens when it’s just two people.
MT: You also shared this really great photo on Father’s Day, with the message: “I loved you before children, but that love is intensified.” How else has your relationship changed since having kids?
SMG: We can’t be as selfish, we can’t be as ‘I’m gonna do this project here.’ Or, ‘Hey, let’s go to Bali for two weeks!’ Now, every thought is about the kids. We went from being at the top of the list to being at the bottom of the list to maybe not even being on the list. Our whole mindset and focus has changed.
MT: What do you do when you finally have a little bit of alone time?
SMG: I don’t know what that is! (Laughs) I take my moments when I can get them. I always said you know you’re a parent when your airline flight becomes a holiday. I flew to New York the other day for 36 hours and everyone thought I was crazy. I was like ‘Are you out of your mind? I’m by myself on an airplane for six hours!’ I told everyone the internet wasn’t working on the plane. I read a book. I had a drink. I was by myself. It was great.
MT: OK, last Q before I let you go: What’s something about you that would surprise people?
SMG: I don’t know because I don’t know what people’s perception of me is. I think that’s what’s always hard. When I first started acting, I played this really bitchy character [Kendall on All My Children] and everyone’s like, ‘Okay well you’re always going to be the bitchy friend character. No one’s going to see you as a hero or heroine.’ Then I got Buffy and all of a sudden nobody wanted me to do Cruel Intentions…so I don’t know what people’s expectations of me are. I mean, I hope I’m not a disappointment. I always get that I’m shorter in real life than they thought, so maybe people would be surprised to know that I’m really tiny. I’m mini. I’m only like 5’4” or 5’3”.
Photos: Courtesy of Sarah Michelle Gellar (top); Instagram (the rest)