Q&A: Oiling the wheels of social enterprise

This week we chat to Jacqui Manoukian and Hind El-Aoufi, co-founders of youforher – a social enterprise that produces pure organic argan oil for culinary and beauty purposes. The enterprise gives more than half of the profits back to the co-operatives of Moroccan women who source the oil.

ISB: How did you first discover argan oil and its benefits?

HE-A: I grew up in Morocco, eating Amlou for brekkie on bread – a healthy, delicious substitute for peanut butter or Nutella – made of argan oil, almonds and honey. Argan oil is a local treasure and well-known for its healing properties. Mum would always use it on herself and me since I was a baby, and I kept the ritual going. Other than cooking with it, I use it on my hair as a conditioning mask and on my skin as a powerful, healing moisturiser. I now also use it on my baby girl before bath.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge in getting the venture off the ground, and how did you overcome it?

HE-A: One of the biggest challenges is attracting new customers. As a new brand, quite innocently, we believed “we will build it and they will come”. It’s hard work, building awareness around our product and engaging new people. I believe in authentic leadership and being yourself, which also means exposing yourself to strangers, sharing your personal background. Running a business in the digital world requires exposure, courage and vulnerability. We want to shift the way businesses do business and hope it resonates with our customers, too.

ISB: I understand sustainability is very important to you both – how do you incorporate that into your day-to-day operations?

JM: Every decision we make, we have the environment in mind. Our argan oil is sourced sustainably from the UNESCO Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve. Our oil itself is all natural, raw and organic. We aim to minimise wastage, supplying our product in recyclable glass and delivering in raw, paper-based packaging. We are proud members of one per cent for the planet, and annually we will carbon offset our shipments from Morocco. We are forever learning, so as we grow we will continually aim towards having a pure positive impact on the environment.

ISB: Why did you decide to go a different route in your business journey

and make your venture a social enterprise?

HE-A: To me, working with purpose was my biggest career shift. I was a cultural transformation consultant, and often one of the biggest challenges organisations were facing was a lack of purpose. When I later volunteered for the asylum seekers center in Sydney, it brought me a sense of achievement and purpose. I then started a social impact and sustainability practice within Capgemini. Our goal was to create a shift for businesses towards a “triple bottom line”: People, Planet, Profit. I decided then that I needed to walk the talk and create a business that would make a difference for our world, and make my own baby proud of me one day.

ISB: How do you go about ensuring you run the business effectively and efficiently despite the fact that you are both living on different continents and outside Australia?

JM: At the start, Hind was still living in Sydney with a full time job. So we knew from the beginning that we had to set up the supply chain to be “hands off” and use third parties. We knew it would be more costly upfront, but that it would set us up for success in the future. Thankfully with all things digital, we were able to manage everything via email and phone. Now with Hind in Dubai, ad hoc we call upon local friends if really need be! Between us, we manage well working across the time zones, relying HEAVILY on Whatsapp and ToTok.

ISB: And, finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on your journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business in partnership with a friend?

HE-A: Know yourself and your business partner well, and how the two of you work together, so you can make the best team out of your strengths. I am a big believer in positive psychology and the power of diversity and the importance of unleashing each other’s strengths rather than trying to change each of us to become more similar. I love it when we disagree and diverge because it makes our business stronger. Being kind and grateful for your partner’s perspectives and embracing their differences is what can really make you stronger.

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