Dana Elemara (31) left her mathematical background and a well-paid career at Goldman Sachs to start something meaningful. Arganic, based in Shoreditch, London, is a consciously-minded company supplying exotic ingredients direct from the farm to the food and cosmetic industries. Launched four years ago, Arganic works with the likes of Marks and Spencer, Selfridges, Ottolenghi and is stocked internationally. The Telegraph credited Arganic for ‘bringing argan oil to the UK kitchens’ and ES magazine featured Arganic as one of their ‘top three ethical companies’.
I’ve always been a morning person and wake up enthusiastic, normally starting the day at 6:30. The first thing I do before I look at my phone is read something inspiring for 20 minutes. I always have a business or development-related book to read in the mornings and a relaxing book on hand for before bed. I walk to the office at Second Home in Shoreditch. I avoid public transport at all costs as it gives me anxiety and I find walking relaxing, you spot things you would miss otherwise.
I’m a passionate person so part of the reason I wanted to start a business was to fuel some of my passions, after all, life is short! I genuinely love the product I sell; I use it every day and believe in what it stands for in terms of fair-trade, sustainability and health. Having a brand gives you a platform to spread positive messages and when you choose to work within an ethical industry you get exposed to good energy all the time. I work extremely hard but I feel as though I’m really living. The most useful advice I’ve been given is that one day in the business world is like a week in terms of what you can achieve. At the time, I was stressed about a deadline and my client Andreas, a famous greengrocer in Chelsea and an experienced businessman, gave me this pep talk. You have to seize the moment!
I graduated with a pure mathematics degree and left a well-paid job at Goldman Sachs to embark on my entrepreneurial journey. To get into this line of work I would start by focusing on something you are really interested in and network and attend events related to that. It helps to know what’s current and will give you ideas. If you are stuck for inspiration, either do something a bit crazy or go for a long holiday. I had to do this type of ‘corporate cleansing’ after I left Goldman Sachs.
Now my favourite part of my job is communicating with our lovely customers and being out in the fields in Morocco on the farm we work with. I only hire people I want to be around and given the fact that I’m relatively young we tend to become friends. On the flipside, sometimes ‘being the boss’ can be difficult and I have had to have some tough conversations. I don’t have role models as such, but I recently had a very long chat with Craig Sams who founded Green & Blacks and was a treasurer of The Soil Association. He’s a phenomenal innovator with the environment in mind, and I find him so inspiring that I was genuinely humbled that he was interested in Arganic.
I take a solid lunch break and never eat at the desk like I used to at Goldman Sachs. Lunch is my largest meal and I like to include plenty of raw stuff. I’m also a bit of a chocoholic and love Amelia Rope bars, medjool dates stuffed with nut butter or even Comte cheese! I used to work around the clock before realising this wasn’t sustainable and so now I finish by 7pm and don’t check emails in the evening. Outside of work I love to cook, draw, visit art galleries, go for long walks, visit markets and have cups of tea in nice places with friends. I love to keep fit and find Classpass a very convenient way to squeeze in a workout wherever you are. I’m also the queen of 10 minute meals. I grew up on an Ottolenghi-esque diet full of colourful, flavoursome food thanks to my Iraqi mother. Being really busy and often tight on budget was not going to stop me from eating well so I found creative ways to throw together quick, cheap and tasty meals. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
As I child I actually wanted to be a teacher! I looked up to a few of my teachers and in some ways I feel that they changed my life. As an alternative career I would definitely want to do something creative and preferably involving travel.