Zahra Al Shaikh and Manal Al Zayani have recently kicked off their new enterprise, Verve Superfoods BH. WTM caught up with the duo and learnt that it’s never too late to follow your passion.
Zahra Al Shaikh and Manal Al Zayani met way back in 2002, and have since become best friends for life. They found that they have many things in common, and topping the list was a passion for a healthy lifestyle, workouts, and spirituality. After years of brainstorming for a suitable idea for a joint venture, their shared interests and solid friendship translated into the birth of Verve Superfoods BH.
Zahra is mother to two girls and a boy. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from India and an Islamic banking diploma from Bahrain. “I have worked in the banking sector for more than 10 years and quit my job in 2011, after finding out about my third pregnancy,” she tells us.
A few blissful years into the throes of domestic life, and Zahra felt the need to do more. “I was very happy with my decision to stay home and be a full-time housewife, but I realised after a couple of years that staying home and not being productive was not my cup of tea. So I began exploring my options and attempted a few business projects on my own, but did not pursue any of them,” she reveals. “On Manal’s recommendation, I decided to join the Institute of Integrative Nutrition of New York to become a holistic health coach. I will be graduating in March 2016,” she says.
On the other hand, Manal, a mother of two boys, has always been sports-oriented. “I have been into fitness since school days; playing basketball, volleyball, handball, tennis – you name it, I’ve played it! I even won a gymnastic championship at intermediate school! But I never thought of considering fitness as a career.” Manal worked in the banking sector for 14 “long” years, and finally decided that it wasn’t her calling. “I took a big step and went on to study personal training and fitness coaching in the UK. I graduated from the European Institute of Fitness in Lilleshall, UK, as a master personal trainer and weight management coach in November 2013, and started fitness coaching since then. Immediately after I got back, my next step was to study nutrition. I graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in February 2015 as a holistic health coach.”
Armed with their respective qualifications, this duo is upbeat about the venture they’ve started together. Zahra says: “Based on our studies, we have chosen a business that we are both passionate about, and we started Verve Superfoods BH, specialising in making healthy, natural, sugar-free granolas and snacks using organic and superfood ingredients without any artificial flavouring. We wanted to introduce superfoods and their health benefits to the region and that is what we are working on.”
In keeping with healthy eating trends, the ladies have received a fantastic response to their business enterprise. “People have begun to understand the importance of eating clean and the benefits of organic food. We have participated in the Amwaj Colour Marathon StrEat market and recently the Sports Festival at the Bahrain Stadium. Both events were a huge success; we got the opportunity to interact with athletes and non athletes, and everybody really liked and appreciated our products and are now our customers. As health coaches, we enjoyed having health-related conversations with many. A lot of people were excited about our products and happy that these are finally available in Bahrain,” says Zahra.
This two-member team has big dreams for the future. “One day we want to see our products in the supermarkets and in other GCC countries. We want to hold health-related workshops where we can help other people reach their goals. We also plan to launch a book on healthy cooking. Our goal is for people to have easy access to super-healthy food, rather than junk food,” she adds.