We had the good fortune of connecting with Rita Joubran and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rita, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
I was raised by hard working parents who immigrated to the United States in the 1960’s. Watching them work hard day in and day out while giving back whenever and wherever they could really impacted me. My mother has a strong work ethic, to this day, she wakes up at 4am and is out the door at 5am. She works 7 days a week/10-14 hours a day-never complains and always has a smile on her face.

Ever since I can remember, mom made sure we always fixed our beds before we left our rooms in the morning, and this was way before the popular University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address by US Navy Admiral William H McRavennever had over 15 million views. If you’ve never watched it, you’re missing out. He starts off his address by saying, “If you want to change the world start off by making your bed.” I, like him, thanks to my mom, believe that accomplishing a small task like fixing your bed every morning sets the tone for the rest of your day because small tasks really do matter.

I believe that I have a successful business because I do care about the little things as well as the big things. I pay much attention to detail because my work is not just a job; It is a reflection of who I am and where I’m from. It is a way for me to do what I love while giving back. It hasn’t always been easy but I’m constantly learning from my mistakes which also makes us better.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
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.

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. I loved 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. The idea for Old Country Olive Oil was born in 2016, when 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.

Making Old Country Olive Oil isn’t always easy. It’s one thing to pick, press, bottle, and ship a few hundred bottles or so, but as production for shipping overseas increased, we had a lot to learn! Unforeseen obstacles happen every day. Some things we can plan for and others are just completely out of our hands. For example, this year I had to buy diesel fuel in the black market to fuel the generator that presses our olives due to the lack of electricity in Lebanon. Securing glass bottles and labels was almost impossible due to supply chain issues and let’s not even talk about shipping. Our container was delayed multiple times and once it arrived at the port it was pulled for 2 separate rounds of inspections. Not only did we have to absorb the fees for said inspections, but customs broke over 100 bottles causing us to have to replace over 1400 labels.

“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 most rewarding 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 and this year will be no exception.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m not from Arizona but I would definitely encourage them to go hiking and enjoy the gorgeous mountains and fresh air…and a little spa time never hurt anybody!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

I’d like to thank my parents who taught us to work hard, never forget where we came from, and to always be grateful for the opportunities that this great country has to offer.
My husband, Nabil Joubran, who always believed in me and my dream of taking over this business. He is always ready to pick me up when I’m down and is so encouraging.

I’d also like to thank Marcia Smart from Smart in the Kitchen. She helped mentor me in more ways that one and I will be forever grateful to her.

Website: https://www.oldcountry-oliveoil.com/

Instagram: Old Country Olive Oil

Image Credits
Megan Snell

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