Ghanim Al-Sulaiti is a vegan entrepreneur and founder of the many sustainable businesses such as Evergreen Organics- Qatar’s first vegan restaurant and the first vegan café in the world ‘Green and Go, healthy fast food for when you’re on the go’; Mylk- provides alternatives to dairy products; Botany- skincare products and spa; Paper Cut- provides sustainable and eco-friendly packaging; all under the umbrella of Enbat Holdings, a vegan investment company.
His all businesses are sustainable, specialised, eco-friendly and organic. He is running these successful businesses for the last four years. He has become a popular name in the Qatar in such a short time. Below are the parts from an exclusive interview with Ghanim to know more about this vegan businessman:
Q.How long have you been running these businesses?
Ghanim: I have been running all these companies now for almost four years but by profession, I’m an engineer and I studied in the US. I’ve lived there for four years back in the days. And, I then developed a passion for veganism, health and sustainability, which have led me to open my own vegan restaurant and other vegan businesses.
In addition to my businesses, I have been working with Doha Metro as a tunnel engineer for the last seven years on their Red Line South Doha Metro Project which I finished as a contractor.
I also write a column for the Gulf Times, where I mostly write about health and wellness.
Q. How does it feel to have achieved all of this in such a young age
Ghanim: Overall, I am very blessed and very grateful for all the opportunities I have had. I always have to remind myself that I chose to do this. I’m not being forced to do this. I can just sit and do my full-time job, and I have to admit that it’s not as easy as it looks. I have gone from managing 40 people in a restaurant to 150 people in my businesses so it’s a lot of pressure, especially when you have to be ethical, train people in a certain way when you have certain standards. Things have to be done in a certain way. It’s part of the vision; part of the ethos of the company, but I want to do all this. I want to create change and make opportunities for people and create this kind of experience for people in Qatar because it does give me a lot of joy at the end of the day and I have learnt a lot. I feel I have done the right thing. I would not ask for it to be any different. Each process has taught me something and I have grown from it. I am very happy.
Q. Has it been easy getting into the sustainable business industry?
Ghanim: It’s a lot of work and commitment because the industry that we have chosen is not a very easy industry, especially being a very niche market-oriented business. However, I think, because I live this lifestyle, it was a little easier for me, since I use my own products in all my businesses. I am my own number one customer for all of these businesses before I am the owner of the businesses. So before selling something to the consumer, I need to be buying it myself and I need to use it. And if I’m not using it, then it’s not going to be under me. I mean, if I’m not using my own products, then how can I market them. Secondly, if you’re not using your own products, how would you be able to say exactly what they can do and are capable of.
Q. You’re vegan. How did that come about?
Ghanim: So, going vegan is definitely a journey and it’s not necessarily a goal. It’s more of a path that I’ve taken because I felt better. Let me take you back a little bit to where and how I started back in 2013. I was living in the US at that time. One morning, I was watching ‘Good Morning America’, which is a very famous show in the U.S. They were talking to this author called Kimberly Snyder, who was talking about her book called ‘The Beauty Detox’. The book talked about how food can change the way you look, the way you see the world, how food can have certain powers, antioxidants and nutrients.
And for me at that point, that was new to me. For me, food was just something to eat because you need to stay alive. When I heard that information, I went, got the book and started reading it. The book talked about how you should be ditching meat and dairy and how it’s bad for you and for me.
That was completely shocking because, I mean, I used to drink milk every day, eat chicken, fish, meat. And, so for me to wake up after reading the book and realizing that I should be exploring that option because I didn’t buy into it immediately. I said, okay, you know what? I’m not going to buy into it. But then, you know, when you have the information, and you feel there’s something true about it, but then you’re not sure why. And, I think what happened was I started introducing more options in food. I started ditching milk, eating more salad, more fruits and vegetables, focusing on reducing my meat intake.
You know, I started feeling better, in terms of digestion. I never used to really like vegetables, so for me this was quite a transformation. A few months later, I woke up and suddenly looked at myself. And, I was like I’m vegan now because I’m not eating any meat, fish or dairy products. I went vegan for a year as a challenge, and I haven’t looked back since!
Q. What was the reaction of people around you when you went vegan?
Ghanim: My family was very supportive and they also enjoy the things I enjoy in terms of food. However, there were people who thought I was crazy. A lot of people asked me questions like why are you doing this, what does Qatari culture and religion say about this? I didn’t have all the answers, so I took a step back and decided I needed to educate myself more because I wanted to answer people’s questions. I knew I felt better, but that wasn’t enough.
Q. How did you find the answer to people’s questions?
Ghanim: I travelled a lot between 2014 and 2016, I went to numerous countries, not just for the travel experience but also to learn more about veganism by meeting people in countries like China, Spain, France, Italy, the US, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia who, though not necessarily vegan, ate more plant-based foods. While travelling, I had great experiences with people in vegan restaurants. Some were purely vegan, some semi-vegan. but everyone had ideas, and I got a lot of energy from these people and lots of answers.
Bali was, perhaps, my biggest inspiration. Bali has a lot of influence in terms of wellness and wellbeing. I was able to educate myself more on the benefits of veganism.
I also did my training as a health coach and educated myself about holistic nutrition. I even studied plant-based nutrition at Cornell Medical College University. I did lots of reading, and questioned all aspects of my decision from culture to religion, to find any logic that would not allow me to be vegan. I got many answers and a lot of aha moments, all positive and so I am completely vegan now!
Q. What was the vegan scene like in Doha at that time?
Ghanim: I think coming back to Doha after that, I felt a little bit disappointed because this lifestyle wasn’t here, and people weren’t really aware of veganism either. This brought an idea to my mind. I thought if I needed to stay in Qatar, then I need to create that lifestyle for myself here, and people also started asking me a lot about being vegan. They wanted to try it. That’s what inspired me to open up Evergreen Organics with Jawaher Al-Fardan, my business partner, in 2016, and it’s been a huge success because of the healthy, plant-based foods we’ve been serving to locals and expats in the community.
Q. Let’s move on to some more personal stuff. Tell us about your siblings.
Ghanim: I have three brothers and a sister.
Q. Describe yourself in five words.
Ghanim: Visionary. Very passionate. Fun; I like to laugh a lot. Futuristic. Optimistic
Q. What do you do in your free time/to destress?
Ghanim: I normally sleep early at around 9 pm, wake up around 5 am and go to the gym. But, on the weekends, I go out with my friends and stay up late. We drive around, sing and just let it all out. Relax. It’s a stress releaser during the weekends.
I also watch TV. I put a sitcom on usually. Right now, I am watching an Egyptian version of ‘Candid Camera’.
Q. Tell us something people may not know about you
Ghanim: If I like something I can watch it again and again, and similarly, if I like some food, I can eat it again and again. I don’t get bored very easily, and it’s the same with my businesses. I never get bored with them. I try to do different things all the time with my businesses.
Q. Who are you inspired by?
Ghanim: Definitely Kimberly Snyder. I am also inspired by Beyonce and I follow her a lot and how she’s grown her business, how she’s dedicated to her work and gives it her best. She doesn’t need to talk so much about her work, because her work talks for itself. That’s something that’s important for me.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Ghanim: Beyonce. I also listen to a lot of Arabic music. Music is part of the journey when I’m driving.
What do you enjoy eating the most?
Ghanim: Sweet potatoes, fresh and dry figs and dates.
Q. What are your hobbies?
Ghanim: I love walking. Reading.
What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs?
Ghanim: Always think about three aspects:
- Is your business making people healthier? If it’s not, then please don’t do it.
- Is your business good for the environment? If it’s making the environment worse, then stop there.
- Is your business making money? If it is, continue doing it.
If these three things come together, for me, that’s a very successful business in my eyes.
Also, if you know how to utilize the resources, there are a lot of resources in Qatar for locals and expats.
Follow Ghanim on his vegan journey through his personal social media channels
and his business social media channels:
- Instagram: @Evergreen_Organics / @bo_ta_ny / @bo_ta_ny_lab / @papercutqatar / @greenand_go / @enbat_holdings
- Twitter: @EvergreenOrg / @BO_TA_NY / @PapercutQatar