Carole Mouawad is the woman behind M’OISHÎ, brand dedicated to a Japanese dessert – homegrown in the UAE. If you’re unfamiliar with desserts from Japan, Mouawad’s concept is derived from mochi, which is a traditional Japanese rice sticky dough, and “mochi ice-cream” is when ice-cream is enveloped within a layer of mochi to make a delicious sweet treat.
Carole Mouawad developed M’OISHÎ after she had discovered mochi ice-cream on a visit to her home town of Beirut, and went from a corporate career to launching her own mochi café in Dubai’s prime location of City Walk in 2017. Proving that anything is possible if you follow your passions, M’OISHÎ now has 13 concept cafes within the UAE and a franchise in Saudi Arabia.
The inspiring female founder’s brand not only focuses on delivering a delicious and unconventional Japanese dessert, but also maintains a premium quality by serving up mochi ice-cream made with premium raw ingredients sourced from Japan. In awe of just how quickly M’OISHÎ made it from concept to now becoming a popular dessert within the UAE and Saudi Arabia, we wanted to find out just how Carole Mouawad made it happen and managed to track her down for a chat about what it is and where it all began.
Tell us a little about the concept of M'Oishi, where did it all start for you?
I hadn’t ever really planned this. With a background in health management, I had started my career working at Saint Charles Hospital in Lebanon, before moving to the UAE in 2014 where I worked at Eternity Medicine Institute, Munich Health and then PWC. The thought of launching my own mochi ice cream café struck me in 2016, during a holiday back home, in Beirut. It was during this trip that I tried mochi ice creams for the first time, and instantly fell in love with everything about it – the flavor, the textures and the concept of transforming a traditional mochi cake into a unique dessert. That’s how it started – upon landing back in the UAE, I started laying down the foundations for M’OISHÎ, while continuing to work my 9-5 corporate job.
Were you familiar with Japanese desserts before coming up with your concept?
I have always been passionate about food, but I was more familiar with Japanese cuisine than desserts specifically.
What made you want to develop your own brand of mochi ice-cream?
I fell in love with the idea of mochi ice cream the very first time I tried it. I would say it was my love for ice cream and Japan’s unique culture as well as creating beautiful and playful desserts that drove me to launch M’OISHÎ. I wanted to add some beauty to this world with tasty desserts!
From your own menu and range, what are your favorite flavors?
Coconut, Salted Caramel and Dark chocolate. I personally prefer the richer, creamier flavors than the fruity ones.
What was life like for you before you embarked on your journey to introduce the Middle East to M'Oishi?
Corporate life! It was a continuous search to find something better, to find a purpose. I hated corporate life, no passion whatsoever.
Working 9-5 and trying to establish a business is no easy feat, at what point in your journey did you make the decision to give up your day job?
At the opening day of the first shop. When I saw people’s reaction when they taste the mochis and saw the sparkle in their eyes I knew this is the right thing to do. I felt this has a huge potential and if I don’t give my full attention, I’ll never make it happen.
What is the meaning of M'Oishi?
Oishi means delicious in Japanese, I added the M to the name to reference it back to mochi ice cream.
What would you say have been your biggest challenges in creating M'Oishi and how did you overcome them?
Acquiring an all-new skill set - this world is completely new to me. I overcame these challenges by being open minded and humble. Open minded to all ideas, opinions and suggestions, and humble to ask people who know better or anyone really. I used to (and actually I still do) ask kids for advice on what they would like, moms for the best way to offer it to kids, etc. The customer knows best and I love going to my customers to inquire what they would like us to offer.
M'Oishi has several branches across the UAE and one franchise in Saudi Arabia, what kind of response have you had from your Saudi audience and do you have plans to expand in Saudi?
Saudis have been our biggest fans in Dubai from the day we opened. We always had big orders for weddings and events. We knew that launching in Saudi was going to be a success. We definitely have plans of further expanding within Saudi to Jeddah, Dammam and more.
What words of advice would you share with other women who also aspire to be entrepreneurs, like yourself?
Don’t waste your time playing the victim and caring about people’s opinions, focus on your target regardless of the gender difference.
Lastly, as an Arab woman, what empowers you and how do you use your position as a founder and business woman to empower others? What is your motto?
My background, my family and friends empower me. I’ve been lucky to have really supportive family and circle of friends who encourage me despite of all the challenges. I owe them a lot for my success. I love sharing my insights and guiding other women entrepreneurs to unconditionally help them throughout their own journey. My motto is to never give up.