Sydney-based entrepreneur Natalie Moubarak is a 31-year old mother of two children and the proud pioneer of Austraila’s first-ever hemp water, +hemp (pronounced plus hemp).
But what’s gone into the product – aside from vitamins, antioxidants and omega 3 – has involved 18 months of naysayers and closed doors, $100,000 of Moubarak’s own money, and little else other than sheer determination.
After departing her career as a real estate project marketer following her pregnancy, Moubarak took on her new role as a mother to one and then two children in a relatively short space of time.
In true entrepreneurial spirit, she spied an opportunity with a run-down property in Earlwood and turned it into a successful organic and vegan cafe, fending off misbelievers who thought Earlwood was not the right market for such an offering. In the first three months, the cafe was turning over a profit.
Through her cafe, Moubarak – who has suffered from psoriasis for twenty years – discovered that mixing hemp with moisturising cream did more to relieve her condition than any other prescribed cream she’d ever tried. From there, she started exploring how hemp could be bottled up in one drink that would offer dual benefits of both nutrients and hydration.
Moubarak began to closely follow the legislative journey of hemp, which had not yet been officially legalised as a food. She hedged her bets and banked her concept – which would eventually become +hemp – on the belief that it would eventually be legalised.
“I knew it was only a matter of time so I took the risk,” Mourabak told Yahoo Finance.
But juggling a cafe and two children was no easy feat. She eventually sold the business at a tidy profit of 45 per cent, which freed her up to conduct further research on the hemp process.
Sticking to her guns
With a resolve to create a product that was all-natural, Moubarak demonstrated her unwillingness to compromise on quality. Deeply involved in the research and development of processing hemp water, she visited hemp farms across multiple states and brought on board food technologists. At several stages, it would have been easy for Moubarak to have the hemp water produced overseas or for her to cave to the voices that urged her to add sugar and preservatives to the mix.
“I didn’t want to do it,” she said. “With a lot of research and a great food technologist we made our formula work.
“It was actually easier adding these ingredients into my hemp water and actually would have cost me a lot less, but dedication in finding a right way putting a drink on the market that is really all natural has ultimately paid off.”
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
In between the research she was conducting, meetings with manufacturers, bottlers and hemp experts and paid trial testing, Moubarak faced up to doubt from friends and family who thought she was spending too much of her own money and time into a risky venture that could potentially flop.
Rather than buckling, however, the challenges only emboldened her, which she believes has ultimately led to her success.
“I’m not the typical Lebanese-Australian girl who is a stay-at-home mum; I wanted to get myself out there, work hard, and take risks,” she told Yahoo Finance.
Her former job had played a part in cultivating a mindset of tackling the impossible. “Even during my time in real estate, there were many challenges of what was expected from me, which pushed me to work harder and overcome the norm.”
Surrounding herself with her family, too, had been a major factor in her self-belief. “I also have a very supportive dad who believed in me and really encouraged me to do my best.”
Forget work-life balance
Moubarak has a piece of advice for other ‘mumpreneurs’ who are told they can’t play mother to a child and a business at the same time: involve your kids.
“Don’t think that kids should stop your or hold you back,” she said.
“I got my kids involved during my whole business journey – they came to the shops, helped with customers and helped pack the boxes.
“They’ve been educated about hemp and its benefits too and really want to get involved. I think you should try to involve your kids within the business journey rather than keeping them separate.”
After several beverage distributors Moubarak had cold-called turned her down, she finally ran into a bit of luck after she had a chance encounter with a major distributor at a petrol station where she’d been attempting to flog her samples.
Now, +hemp is now stocked across select IGA stores, Caltex and BP petrol stations and a number of other retailers.
This Sydney mum is already looking far beyond her home city, with her sights set on releasing new flavours as well as global expansion.