Today we’d like to introduce you to Rita Joubran.
Rita, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a proud Houstonian, born and raised, and the daughter of two Lebanese immigrants who came to the United States in the 1960s. Our family has been bringing culture and diversity to this great city of Houston since 1977 when we opened the very first Lebanese bakery (in our backyard) which later turned into one of the most authentic Lebanese restaurants in the city.
I have been involved in the family business for as long as I can remember and I have always been especially fond of my family’s olive oil. In fact, some of my fondest memories are of when I would travel to Lebanon on family trips and my grandmother would tell me the most amazing stories about her most prized possession – her olive trees. My parents would always bring olive oil back for their personal use and a few hundred bottles to sell in the restaurant. “Olive” talking to customers about the rich history and love that goes into making each bottle of Old Country Olive Oil.
I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009 and I remember praying for patience (which I am still working on) and for purpose. I was frustrated and I knew that I wasn’t able to continue working the very long and demanding hours that it takes to be in the restaurant business, so I continued helping my family on a limited basis, remaining mindful of my physical limitations.
Little did I know that through my MS diagnosis came many blessings and much purpose. A customer and family friend rode the MS150 in my honor just months after my diagnosis. Meeting him at the finish line was one of the most amazing and overwhelming feelings that I had ever experienced. That’s when I knew that everything was going to be ok. My husband was so inspired that he rode the MS150 the very next year, and the year after I got motivated and we rode it together (and we had over 50 family and friends at the finish line). We began fundraising for the society because we truly believe in their mission and we know that they are a good steward of the funds that are being raised. I am grateful to be on a miracle drug, made possible because of funding by the MS society, and I am committed to paying it forward until the day that no one has to ever hear the words, “you have ms” ever again. We have helped raise over $500,000 since our involvement thanks to family, friends, and Old Country Olive Oil.
About four years ago, I decided to take over the olive oil business from my family, who while being very supportive, thought I was crazy to think that I would be able to take it to the next level. But I had it all planned out in my head; I would talk about it on social media, set up tastings, and I was going to add $5 to the bottle and give it directly to the MS Society.
So, that’s exactly what we did. The first year we brought 1,600 bottles and we sold out in five months! Since then, repeat customers have been reserving their bottles to ensure they are guaranteed their needs for the entire year because once we run out, they’d have to wait until the next season comes around.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
No, it hasn’t always been easy. It’s one thing to pick, press, bottle, and ship 300 bottles or so, but as production for shipping overseas increased, we had a lot to learn!
Also, last season, for example, our container was delayed almost four weeks and we didn’t receive inventory until Christmas Eve. We had many corporate orders that were not able to be delivered/shipped until after Christmas. Luckily, our customers were extremely understanding and we didn’t have any cancellations. In fact, one customer sent out cards that said, “some things are worth their “weight” in gold, liquid gold that is”… it was neat.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Old Country Olive Oil story. Tell us more about the business.
Old Country Olive Oil is a premium extra virgin olive oil of the finest quality nature has to offer. It is cold-pressed, unrefined, and unfiltered. The olives are hand-picked and carefully selected from our family’s groves in a tiny village in the South of Lebanon. The families of this village have cared for and harvested the olives for centuries, making oil and soap for their personal use and livelihood.
In today’s world where most everything is processed, it is important to our family to continue harvesting our olives in the same fashion that our ancestors did centuries ago. It is with great love, care, and pride that we promise never to sacrifice quality, and continue to provide a product that is so rare and precious. It is our ultimate goal to maintain that promise.
“Olive” my job more than I ever thought possible. I am most proud of the fact that we are able to continue our family traditions of the “old country” and share them with the “new country.” I also love the fact that we are making a quality product that is delicious and healthy. The best part is that we are able to give back to a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Last year, our company gave back $15,000 to the MS Society.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
A good luck story in business.
Marcia Smart, from Smart in the Kitchen, who I had never met before, stopped by and sampled some olive oil at one of my tastings, smiled, and walked away. Shortly after, I was told that she liked the olive oil, but didn’t have her wallet to buy a bottle. So, I insisted that she take a bottle and worry about paying me later. This ended up being the beginning of a friendship and a mutually beneficial business relationship because not only did Marcia love Old Country Olive Oil, but she also uses it in just about every cooking class! And, no, I do not pay her to do that. She has helped bring so much credibility to my product and helped educate people on unfiltered olive oil. I also personally love how she teaches eating healthy by creating delicious and simple recipes.
I love that our product raises awareness about healthy eating and MS.
- 1L Old Country Olive Oil $40
- Old Country Olive Oil Soap $8
- Spices $8
- Website: https://www.oldcountry-oliveoil.com/
- Phone: 2812354141
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: oldcountryoliveoil
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/evoooc/