From being a life coach and theta healer, what made you become a chocolatier?
We live in a society that believes if you graduated as a graphic designer, you can only do designing jobs - it is a limitation set around most people by their family, community and self-belief. But in reality, we need to expand our reach and for me, CAHO Chocolate is a start to doing that. I chose chocolate because it gives good feelings and happiness to everyone. I wanted to put my energy into spreading happiness. Whether you want to say ‘I love you’, ‘I am sorry’, ‘Please forgive me’ or ‘I care for you’, these sentiments are often expressed with chocolates since they are most people’s favourite. Both theta healing and chocolate business are aligned with my vision of giving joy.
What led you to create healthy, vegan chocolates?
I wanted to make chocolate accessible to everyone, even people who have diabetes. My chocolate business came from my personal need to provide something healthy for my family who have been facing diabetes and thyroid problems. I lost my grandma to diabetes and my father is diabetic. Even my daughter has some allergies. It frustrated me to see my family members eat a bite of chocolate and then have a pill or an insulin shot. This led me to rethink chocolates and create a brand that everyone can eat without worrying about it harming their health. Diabetes in the UAE is exceptionally high, and people are overweight, so my chocolate offers a solution to problems faced by many people.
So, how exactly is CAHO chocolate different from other chocolate brands available in the market?
Chocolate is just a victim – in reality, it is the ingredients that are used in addition to cocoa that cause the real trouble. CAHO chocolates are vegan and do not contain dairy. While babies need a mother’s milk for growth, adults do not need dairy, and it becomes merely stored fat. Another common ingredient used by other brands is animal fats. These fats along with dairy are known to increase chocolate’s calorie content. We also don’t use palm oil – an ingredient responsible for mass deforestation and the decimation of dozens of animals’ natural habitats.
Do you plan on expanding your healthy food business beyond chocolates?
Through CAHO, we plan to carry on building awareness of healthy living and expand our product line of vegan, nutritional and ethical foods beyond chocolates to healthy meal options. My biggest goal is to have a chain of CAHO-branded wellness retreats – places where people can restart and re-boost their lives.
Have people warmed up to the idea of vegan chocolate?
Good quality is the best marketing tool. Since CAHO Chocolate started in December last year, I have learned that the quality of my chocolates is my most significant marketing tool. It has brought in customers through references and word of mouth from existing customers – the best feedback we can ever receive is a returning customer. Recently, a woman (one of our growing number of existing customers) purchased 90 bars from us as she was going on a vacation and wanted to take our chocolate with her to share with her family and friends.
How do you manage to stay healthy and fit when you’re surrounded by tantalising chocolate 24/7?
My lifestyle is simple – cook at home, read labels, exercise and breathe. I live an active lifestyle. Every day, I do yoga, one-hour treadmill and walk a lot. I do not eat chips or any junk food. I carefully look at the ingredient of food I purchase, read labels thoroughly and avoid every product that has any E numbers as ingredients.
What important lessons have being an entrepreneur and setting up a successful business taught you?
Success, for me, is touching other people’s lives. Through the medium of my chocolate business, I have been able to affect people’s lives directly and indirectly. I believe woman should support each other in accomplishing and building a higher benchmark, setting a good example for men to learn and appreciate female teamwork. At CAHO Chocolate we give space and opportunities to other female-owned and run brands to display their products, such as healthy food products and juices for free as a way to support female entrepreneurs.
Should people want to adopt a vegan lifestyle or a healthier diet because it’s what everyone is doing and is the popular opinion?
These days, nutritional advice is easily accessible from dietitians and the internet, but any change in your diet and fitness programme should come from your personal goals, not because it is a trend or pressure imposed by others. My advice is be yourself. If you are satisfied with how you are leading your life, no one has the right to tell you are doing it wrong. Have confidence and be happy with your life and body. Be at peace with yourself and love yourself – when you love yourself, you will be able to make the correct choices.