I never felt successful before M’OISHÎ because it was like wearing a mask the whole time,” says Carole Moawad, founder and CEO of the hugely popular Japanese-style mochi ice-cream brand. “I felt trapped in my job, not having ownership of my own life.”
It’s a sentiment that will resonate with a lot of people who get up every morning and dedicate their day to something they’re not passionate about. The difference with Carole, however, is that she decided to change her story.
Although she was coming up with two or three business ideas a week in order to pursue her dream of going it alone, she does recognise how valuable her previous career was, telling us, “Working in a multinational firm like PwC definitely gave me both professional and teamwork mindsets, as well as fantastic exposure to many nationalities and backgrounds.” Although she had plenty of good ideas, none of them felt job-quittingly good enough until she tried mochi ice cream for the first time in a Japanese restaurant in Beirut. “I instantly fell in love with everything about it – the flavour, the mix of textures and the concept of transforming a traditional mochi cake into a unique dessert,” she says enthusiastically. “It was after my delicious first encounter with this traditional Japanese dessert (and because of my love and passion for food) that I decided to launch my very own mochi icecream concept in the UAE.”
Saying goodbye to the comfort of the corporate world was a scary step. At the time, Carole didn’t know that M’OISHÎ would thrive and she’d go on to open multiple outlets across the UAE. Although she recalls leaving her job as being “liberating”, it certainly wasn’t an easy decision. “It was like starting a new relationship!” she recalls. “But it felt right, and I really threw myself into every aspect of the business. The first year was a rollercoaster, filled with many highs and lows, but overall it was a continuous state of excitement and going up a steep learning curve for the entire year.”
Despite the challenges that she’s faced along the way, like scaling up the production while keeping the same recipe and taste, Carole thrives on being her own boss. She loves “being able to wake up every day knowing that I will be doing something I love that is also bringing more happiness to this world.”
As a CEO, she has the flexibility to plan her own day, but it revolves around M’OISHÎ. “I usually wake up around 7am, go directly to the gym to exercise for an hour, shower and head to the office,” she says. “I always try to schedule some meetings in the malls where I have M’OISHÎ shops so that I have an excuse to visit and interact with customers.”
Although she sometimes has dinner with friends, or has a quiet night in with a book, when you run your own business there’s no such thing as ‘clocking off’, so she often ends the evening with work. “I finish my emails with Netflix in the background,” she explains casually, as though none of it seems like a chore.
M’OISHÎ’s next phase is already well underway, with the first franchise having recently opened in Saudi Arabia. Carole likens the step to “handing your baby to someone else.” And it’s easy to see why relinquishing control of something with your brand name on it would be so tough. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with great advisors who helped us develop the franchising model, manuals and contracts,” she says, noting her confidence in the team she has so carefully assembled.
While onlookers may see what Carole’s achieved and think she’s living the dream, she still has big ambitions, wanting to take the brand worldwide and turn it into a Japanese café concept. With that said, she definitely doesn’t feel like she’s ‘made it’. “There’s still so much to do and I still feel like a start-up!”
Whatever happens next, however, M’OISHÎ has given Carole ownership of her own future, and that seems like a pretty good measure of success to us.
From the November 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia
Styling by Kim Barik
Photography by Jes Luisse