Jumana Al-Awadhi is a translator and a published writer with more than 300 articles under her belt. Fluent in both English and Arabic, Jumana specializes in holistic nutrition, a field that she excelled in while living in the UK. Upon her return to Kuwait, Jumana noticed the lack of a strong health and environmental consciousness amongst the general population. Sadly, youngsters are enticed daily to eat the wrong types of food because of mass advertising and a general lack of awareness, and with the growth of the video games industry, the proliferation of TV programs, and ubiquity of computers or smart phones many children remain sedentary for unhealthy periods of time.
When her first child was born, Jumana began to regularly buy books to read to him in order to improve his lexical skills. Even though she purchased a great number of these books, she always felt something was missing. It soon occurred to her that children’s books in Kuwait were lacking a local flavor. Ever curious, Jumana began asking other parents whether they felt the same, and shortly after, she realized that every one she contacted wished to see a localized approach embedded in these stories as well. After much hard work and the help of a legion of supporters, Jumana published the first of her “We Love Kuwait” book series targeting children’s development. The book focused on nutrition and healthy lifestyles in order to help children make smarter choices.
Three years after the publication of her first book, Kuwaiti parents sought more material from Jumana. Observing an overwhelming demand for books that catered to educational establishments, Jumana expanded her production to accommodate whole classes and bulk sales of her books. The void in the market for educational tools that teach children manners, environmental values, Kuwaiti culture, health and nutrition, was slowly filling up. Jumana distributed her book series to major book outlets in Kuwait as well as through book fairs in private schools and elsewhere.
Reflecting on the journey of publishing her various book series Jumana says “the message is not to be afraid to think differently than anyone else, or to be different from others. Follow your passion, follow your heart and do what you like.” She has witnessed many of her close friends commence and end business ventures because they imitated a trend and failed to establish a unique brand offering. Although very successful, Jumana attributes her achievement to a calling rather than a business strategy. She embarked on her venture with one book with the sole interest of her own child at heart, accompanied by the desire to benefit Kuwaiti children in general. This calling clearly tapped into the needs and wants of other parents, eventually leading to the creation of the series. All of Jumana’s books are geared toward the improvement of the Kuwaiti child’s lifestyle. She has more than 14 books sold in major bookshops in Kuwait, and several that have been tailored specifically to the needs of corporations such as optical stores, oil companies, clinics and hospitals.
Jumana’s books are filled with puzzles, rhymes, and pictures to engage a child. The main objective of the books, however, is to raise awareness and enhance children’s wellbeing. Thanks to a high demand for her product, Jumana’s business soon expanded to the point of establishing a headquarters, hiring staff, and opening a bookshop, which she managed herself for almost eight years.
Recently, Jumana connected with her Twitter and Instagram followers and notified them of an open position in her bookshop for the breadth of two years. The position would include liaisoning with retailers and distributors, handling book fairs, managing sales, publishing books, and basically assuming the role of “owner” – without having to invest the initial capital required to launch an enterprise. Jumana has had to create this position so that she herself can focus on another project that requires her total immersion.
“Jadi Morgen” is Jumana’s latest endeavor. Fundamentally, it is an organization that provides organic meals to individuals with busy schedules who prefer convenient and practical solutions to address health and weight issues. Upon conducting several studies on Kuwaiti eating habits, Jumana discovered that people tend to consume certain types of food while neglecting others. Jadi Morgen hopes to address this challenge by offering a series of dietary solutions for consumers on the go. These include gluten free and lactose free meals, naturally nutritious meals, meals that are free of sugar and hydrogenated oils, and meals that do not use artificial or mass produced ingredients.
Jumana attributes the foundations of Jadi Morgen to her upbringing. She grew up watching her health-conscious parents personally preparing all their meals. From a very early age, she recognized the importance and inherent value in exercise and a healthy diet. She says, “I owe my special talent to make healthy and yummy food to my parents first, years of experience in the kitchen second, and studying nutritional science third.”
Jumana remembers her family obsessing over health and nutrition. She spoke about her father who read nutritional books instead of bedtime stories to his children. Jumana’s mother, on the other hand, grew her own vegetables in an organic garden. “Our guests and friends always admired our food at gatherings and parties, and they always asked us for recipes. It is thus quite natural that we should start a business in this field.” When Jumana’s friends and relatives were not asking her for her mother’s recipes, they asked her to teach them how to cook. When Jumana announced that she would be offering cooking classes, they would be fully–booked almost instantly. Even Jumana’s own nutrition professor, who is herself an icon in the field, used to ask Jumana for recipes and admired her techniques.
Speaking about her new venture, Jumana says, “Jadi Morgen is very close to my heart because it was inspired by my three-year-old daughter Jadi, just as my first project, We Love Kuwait, was inspired by my son Dhari.” “Jadi” is the ancient Arabic name for saffron, the most expensive and aromatic plant in the Arabian Peninsula. Jumana chose this name in particular to reflect the organic ethos behind her business. Unlike other health food companies, Jadi Morgen aspires to not only deliver nutritional meals, nor to prioritize diets and special weight-loss recipes that might cause harm to an individual’s long term health, but rather to empower Kuwaitis and steer the country towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle in general. Jadi Morgen will offer Kuwaitis information about healthy cooking techniques, DIY methods to grow their own food, and wellness camps to provide the best environment for families and their children to improve upon their day-to-day consumption habits.
Jumana also finds it imperative to support the purchase of local produce. Buying imported food products that are labeled “organic” does not contribute to Kuwait’s move towards adopting organic lifestyles. Healthy organic food is also fresh organic food. Since it takes years for a farm to be certified as organic, and the process requires a significant investment, Jumana intends to support local farmers by buying their produce and connecting them with others who seek the same product. Jadi Morgen will also provide local farmers with a team of organic experts to train them in the processes required to convert a farm into an organic one. Jumana strongly believes in the benefits that can be gained from eating whole foods, and explains that these nutrients boost people’s immunities, managing weight, improving energy, and nourishing both the body and the mind. She dreams of a day in the near future when there will be a noticeable decrease in the amounts of processed, refined, canned, or frozen food that Kuwaitis consume.
“People in Kuwait are ready to go organic!”, exclaims Jumana. Most of her students are constantly seeking ways to break bad eating habits. In particular, they look for methods and recipes to provide their children with a wholesome organic diet. “During a child’s early years, we build his eating habits, determining the ingredients he will be used to, and the ones he will prefer over others.” This is why she encourages young parents to become more conscious about turning organic. Thankfully, Jumana feels that she has a respectable support network with other likeminded individuals who are willing to spread information regarding the organic industry in Kuwait.
Both of Jumana’s entrepreneurial ventures, We Love Kuwait and Jadi Morgen, aim to improve the level of awareness and health consciousness in Kuwait and fill a gap in the market that many Kuwaitis clearly want to see filled. Jumana wants to thank everyone that facilitated her progress over the years, from the friends that stood by her, to the bookshops that sold her books. And although she has gained massive support and encouragement from segments of the population, she recognizes the challenges ahead. “We are not for everyone,” she says with a grain of sadness. But isn’t it time for Kuwait to prove her wrong? If the health, attitude, and achievements of our children matter enough to us, we must seek alternatives to Fast Foods and processed ingredients. We must help Kuwaiti farmers regain their importance and the responsibility of providing fresh and high quality food to the populace. It is time for the female leader of Kuwait’s organic revolution to get her rally.
By Nada Faris