Despite the growth of the wellness industry and the rise in health-conscious content online, people in the region still struggle to find localized content around leading healthy lifestyles. When it comes to products, there are a growing number of options and but enough personalization.
Mint Basil Market, one of the startups in Cycle 3 of Womentum by Womena and Standard Chartered’s Women in Tech, works with health experts to curate and vet a wide range of healthy and natural products for everyday living based on diet, lifestyle, and health needs through its online platform.
“We’ve been operating in Lebanon for more than two years and despite a revolution, COVID-19, an economic crisis, and the [August] explosion, we have still managed to grow,” says Vanessa Zuabi, founder and CEO of Mint Basil Market.
“That shows that when it comes to the products that they’re putting in their own body, the products that they give to their families, people want the healthiest and highest quality ingredients and products,” she adds.
Vanessa’s diagnosis with an autoimmune condition led her down the path of health and wellness, which eventually inspired her startup.
“It forced me to completely change my diet and lifestyle and I spent years learning how to regain control of my health,” says Vanessa. She had to learn to read ingredients and do extensive research to understand what was good for her.
Based in Lebanon then, she did not have easy access to the food and products that she needed for this lifestyle, and resources were was scattered and scarce.
She met with her co-founder Lara Noujaim in 2017, and they talked about the idea, seeing a clear gap in the market when it came to tech.
“Lara was working at a gaming company. She and I would always branch off at friend gatherings and start talking about startup ideas and I pitched Mint Basil Market to her. She liked the idea and so we decided to do it together.”
The two launched Mint Basil Market in Beirut in 2018, and now they have over 3,000 products available on their website – from food to natural beauty, cosmetics to eco-friendly household essentials. They are currently in process of launching a new mobile app and raising funding to expand to the UAE and GCC as the go-to health and wellness destination.
“We wanted to create a platform that brought the content, as well as the products together in one place to make it easier and more accessible for people to start their health and wellness journey,” says Vanessa.
According to their research, 60 percent of all chronic diseases can be mitigated through a change in diet and lifestyle. Mint Basil are also shifting a prevalent mindset that healthy living is expensive by curating and vetting products.
“We’re always looking for more affordable versions of healthy natural products. Buying purely organic products doesn’t have to be your route.”
In 2021, they will be launching subscription packages to make the prices of products even more affordable for their customers. “The price of health products now is far less than the cost of your health in the long term and this is something that we want to emphasize.”
Vanessa and Lara have faced many issues, including narrowing down their product-market fit, but a restructuring of their business model allowed them to increase sales by 56 percent. They did so by curating content and products for specific communities – keto, vegan, moms, diabetics – with the help of credible experts.
As they expand and scale, they hope to localize and root themselves across emerging markets, restoring the connection that most cultures and countries once had to natural ingredients.
“With globalization and processing of products, a lot of countries have shifted away from their original roots of health and wellness and all-natural ingredients,” says Vanessa.