Health Conscious Startup Raw ME: Founder Layla Al-Dorani Wants You To Feel Better Founder Layla Al-Dorani talks about Raw ME, the 100% Qatari-owned startup and recognizing the gap in the market when it came to readymade healthy products.
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"Living in Qatar for the past eight years, I discovered the lifestyle and eating habits in our community were unhealthy. I also recognized the gap in the market when it came to readymade healthy products and that is how the concept of Raw Middle East (ME) was born," says Layla AlDorani, Founder and CEO of Raw ME.
Raw ME is 100% Qatari-owned, and it was registered in 2010 but began operations in 2012. The company was financed through personal investment and revenue generated from the business. "We grew organically, from starting in our small shop in Barwa Village of 80 sq. m. to designing and building a state of the art production kitchen in an industrial area of 550 sq. m. The team began with two people, including myself, who was producing, packaging and delivering. Jump to today, and we are now 12 and continue to grow."
Al-Dorani says that while cold pressed juices are a growing trend concept, it's still relatively new for Qatar. The production and procedure of cold pressing is the slow process of extracting nutrient dense juice from fresh produce using extreme pressure exerted through a hydraulic press. As a result, "cold" is used to describe the hydraulic press technology that minimizes oxygen and heat so little oxidation occurs during extraction. "This method produces the longest, lasting, highest quality unpasteurized juice, rich in color, flavor and nutrients. It's as close as you'll get to what Mother Nature intended."
Raw ME is a plant-based food and beverage organization, which offers Qatar's first premium cold-pressed juices, nutritional detox cleanses, corporate fruit baskets, and bulk juice services to hotels and customized services for events. "We handcraft and deliver high quality fresh products made naturally from only fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Eating clean is a life-changing event that will not only make you feel better in the short-term, but over time will have a drastic impact on your overall health."
Al-Dorani also underlines the importance of Raw ME's cold unpasteurized process in which their products are created. "We make sure temperatures stay below 46°C to preserve the integrity of the fruits and veggies, and maintain the vitamins, minerals and enzymes they have to offer. [Our products] are free from additives, chemicals, added sugar, artificial flavors or colors."
Since Raw ME was launched, Al-Dorani adds that their vision is to create honest products in which their customers can trust and be a positive value to their clients' lives. At present, their health conscious clients are 40% Qataris to 60% expats. "As people strive to improve their lifestyle through exercise and diet, there will always be a need for healthy, convenient and accessible products. Raw ME offers just that. We are the only company in Qatar that produces bottled cold pressed juices and vegetable blends."
And, like most startups in Qatar and elsewhere, Raw ME has also encountered some challenges. "We suffered from the same challenges that most people face in Qatar when it came to launching our company," adds Al-Dorani. For instance, sourcing equipment, finding quality staff members, renting affordable commercial space, raising capital, but most importantly introducing a new concept that was foreign to government regulators in the country. However, those challenges were overcome through creative solutions.
"If a client asks for something, we do our best to meet their specific needs. Regardless of the struggles, Raw ME has to endure to make sure the delivery happens." On a positive note, Qatar has a lot of business opportunities, despite the fact that is it a tough market to enter. "The government laws are complex and rigid, and the country's environment offers limited resources. Examples of barriers include online sales, municipality understanding innovative business models, deliveries and mailing system, payments online, available retail space, inflated prices, and staff hire."
For this reason, Al-Dorani advises young Qataris who are eager to become entrepreneurs to understand thoroughly all the requirements and limitations from the government. "A great idea takes much understanding of the government regulations on what is and isn't permitted, because you will run into many roadblocks that could directly affect the success of your young business. These obstacles, many times, will have nothing to do directly with your business, but must be addressed in order to proceed with your daily operations."
Al-Dorani adds how today they are proud to be Qatar's leading healthy brand, and supporting the country's National Vision 2030 for a brighter and healthier future, and "also, becoming a leader in a sector other than energy." As a result of Raw ME success including winning local entrepreneurship awards, they have received several inquiries to expand outside of Qatar.
In addition, the organization has also developed five flavored raw healthy meals and snacks, which will be unveiled soon. "As we succeed covering the local market, we look into franchising our brand in the near future."
RAW ME GETS RECOGNIZED
2011 Second place Al Fikra Professional Business plan competition
2012 Best Qatar Entrepreneurship Business plan award at the Bedaya and Silatech Launch
2013 Top 50 startups and semifinalists in MIT MENA Business Plan Competition and the only country representative
2014 Bedaya Recognition Award 2014 of successfully completing the Al Ta3amel program
2015 First place Entrepreneur Achiever Award Reyada Competition Social Development Center