Honoring Lebanese Female Entrepreneurs on This International Workers' Day
May 1 marks International Workers’ Day or, more commonly, Labor Day, when all productive members of society are recognized for their achievements. The aim of this blog post is to highlight the endeavors of a number of female entrepreneurs in Lebanon who are slaving over their dreams with nose to the grindstone. While the majority dabble in the food and beverage industry, they hail from completely diverse backgrounds, proof that a mere hobby can evolve into a passionate and gainful enterprise.
Here are these women wonders, in no particular order.
I may have a sweet tooth, but truth be told, I yearn for simple tea cakes, particularly if they’re healthy and wholesome. Those who follow me on Instagram are no doubt privy to the toddler-friendly cakes I bake incorporating yogurt, fruit, and natural sugar – either honey or molasses. Which is why I readily identified with pastry chef Laure’s artisanal cakes counting among them flavors such as cinnamon swirl, vanilla red fruit, Nutella marbled, candied orange, zesty lemon, almond, carrot, nut vegan, and molasses vegan, to name but a few! Her loaves are not only moist and delectable, they are aesthetically pleasing and would beautifully grace a brunch gathering or picnic outing.
Laure, formerly a banker, is the sister of Michel Schoucair, the creative culinary guru behind concepts Crave and Wrapsody earlier this decade. You can intercept Laure and her lovely loaves every Saturday morning at Souk el Tayeb in Beirut Souks and at seasonal fairs and festivals.
|Homemade artisanal cakes by pastry chef Laure Schoucair|
Maha, 26, is a recent AUB graduate with a master’s degree in civil engineering, but she’s busy supplying Beirut with her healthy homemade peanut butter, chocolate spread, and granola. First introduced to peanut butter by her dietitian, Maha strove to incorporate healthy fats into her regimen. She quickly realized she could easily reproduce the nutty spread sold on shelves, and often at a lesser cost. So she started buying raw peanuts, roasting them, processing them in a blender, and adding honey and vanilla to achieve a desired consistency – or viscosity, the appropriate term for us engineers! Her HazelLust chocolate spread sources imported Belgian 70% dark chocolate to form a healthy alternative to Ferrero’s infamous “cocoa spread.” Not only are Maha’s creations deliriously delicious and high-quality, they’re cheaper than any other homemade equivalent by a landslide!
If you want to get your hands on a jar, visit the Instagram page here or WhatsApp Maha at +961 76 659 014.
|All-natural peanut butter and chocolate spread|
United by their curiosity for clean, wholesome, and nourishing foods, Cynthia Farhan, a media manager, and Angela Sawan, a dietetics and nutrition specialist, started experimenting with sourcing their own produce directly from Lebanese farmers and were appalled by how readily available and affordable so-called trendy foods are. Kale, baby gem lettuce, cage-free eggs, grains, microgreens, dairy – they’re all grown or produced locally and don’t command a fortune. Why, then, are restaurants and cafes and even epiceries charging exorbitantly for them? Shouldn’t high-quality food be accessible? The duo put their heads together and launched “Green Junkie,” a delivery kitchen that serves the greater Beirut area. The menu, spanning everything from all-day breakfast to salads, sandwiches, mains, bowls, dips, desserts, smoothies, and quenchers, was innovated by Chef Sally Jane, an American culinary guru, food writer, and consultant who resides in Beirut and runs supper clubs, cooking classes, and a catering business.
Look them up at Green Junkie, and dial +961 1 44 88 01 / 02 for a taste of their fantastic fare (open Mondays through Saturdays, 9 AM – 9 PM).
|In the foreground, Green Goddess Salad with poached egg; in the background, Taco Salad|
Serving as the creative strategist at the family-owned and operated American imports emporium Wesley’s Wholesale, Farrah Berrou knows a thing or two about the food and beverage industry. Holding two bachelor's degrees in both biology and graphic design as well as a minor in advertising, the 31-year-old got into wine not too long ago, pursuing certification as a connoisseur and seeking out vineyards and wineries every weekend in an effort to acquaint herself with local producers. Now she’s launching her very own Lebanese-centric wine classes and tastings under the title “B for Bacchus” and the clever slogan “no froufrou, just glou glou.” The inaugural session is happening this Saturday, May 4, and classes will be held on a monthly basis at the gourmet section Orange Label inside Wesley’s Hazmieh. Come summer, Farrah will even be hosting a class on "Women in Lebanese Wine"!
|Roman mosaic of Bacchus, god of wine (photo source: stock photo, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, copyright Steve Estvanik)|
If you live in Lebanon, you understand the enormity of personalized favors like sweets and mementos at special occasions. I’m talking weddings, baptisms, First Holy Communions, Palm Sunday, and even your baby’s first tooth: each milestone has different symbols and souvenirs attached to it, and it’s social suicide to overlook them! Leave it to the creative flair of Sally Issa Obeid, the visionary behind SweetLand who can dress up a candle for Palm Sunday more elegantly than we can our own children! She is an imaginative genius, but I can’t say I’m surprised – after all, she does hail from the Issa family (ahem, ahem).
So don’t even break a sweat when you’re planning your child’s upcoming birthday and need an artistic intervention – her table setups belong in an arts and crafts magazine! Find a gallery of her work here.
|That ravishing candle I'm wielding on Stephen's behalf? That was crafted by Sally of SweetLand!|
There are so many other illustrious women deserving of mention, including Muriel Moukawem of Mukagraf whose greeting cards are the first to incorporate a trio of languages (English, Arabic and French); Farah Malhas and Amani Kandil of the cake lounge Afaf, which pays homage to the former’s grandmother; Rachel Krayem Mezher, the design creative behind Golden Fingers – Chocolate & More; and Sarah Saroufim, who just days ago was announced by MAD as the Lebanese winner of the Absolut Vodka creative competition for her stunning bottle artwork. This month, Sarah will go on to Sweden to compete against other entrants from around the world.
|Sarah Saroufim's winning artwork entry in the Absolut Vodka competition broaches mental illness using the pun "don't keep things bottled up"|
There you have it: Lebanon is brimming with driven women who are showing us exactly what it takes to be a lady boss! Are there any in your life?