Our friendship is based on so many mutual likes and similarities, but nothing is stronger than a bond based on a mutual passion. We’re Yasmine and Ramah, childhood friends and restaurateurs.
We both met in elementary school while attending Dar Al-Fikr School, we hit it off instantly as friends causing trouble and time spent in detention, funny enough, it was mostly due to the love of food.
Ramah: I’m the youngest of four girls with my brother born after me. My parents were supportive with my father being the motivator of the family. He was keen on making sure we had our goals set and made something for ourselves from a young age and grew to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
My mother is a nurturing soul and an avid cook. I can thank her for my fine taste pallet as nothing was ever placed on our table that didn’t have her touch. Both my grandmother and my mother had that extra touch that made it their own and I learned the love of fine taste from them.
Yasmine: My father was a strong influential character, he travelled often and worked hard to give us a privileged life, one that I have learned so much from. As the fourth of five children, my parents provided us with numerous opportunities for growth and supported us in our endeavors. Their personalities complimented one another and are reflected in our characters.
Dad was business driven and mom had a spiritual calm about her, she knew how to deal with the difficulties and stresses of life. She’s diplomatic and dad was a strategic thinker. I have a little bit of both.
We weren’t a predictable pair. I didn’t have a background in food, we were just friends with the same problem, we needed something that we could just grab and go.
Ramah: I always had a healthy approach to life, I was very active, playing basketball and football and as a teen, I always locked an hour in my day to dedicate to sports. Many weren’t aware of its importance back then. Our society didn’t have a close in-depth approach to health and was evolving slowly.
Yasmine: By middle school, I went to an all-girls’ boarding school in Switzerland but we still stayed close and we’d see each other over the summer holidays. As a child, I was overweight, and seeing a healthier environment, I developed a healthier lifestyle. After graduation, I majored in hospitality in a Swiss college and was exposed to different industries such as HR, finance, and catering and kitchen. I became very much interested in Food and Beverage (F&B) and decided a year later to take an intense one-year course at Le Cordon Bleu London Culinary school.
Ramah: After graduating high school, I attended Boston University and got my BA in psychology, and right after that I moved to London where I also received my masters in the same field from Westminster University. While in college, naturally, I had to learn how to cook for myself and became interested in learning how to cook using healthy ingredients and explored various means of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By the time I moved to London, I was more knowledgeable about health and wellness.
While we were both in London at the same time, we began exploring what it is to be in the food industry, though we might not have known it at the time. Our friendship grew stronger after that and we both returned to Jeddah soon after completing our degrees in 2013.
Our first real discussion about healthy food was a few months after our return where there were very limited options. It was either unhealthy junk food or centers where they provided “healthy diet” food, which was popular then.
Yasmine: I wanted to open a business but was recommended by many to bring a brand and franchise it in Saudi. This didn’t sit well with me as I wouldn’t have any control over the menu, the system in which it operated, and more. I wanted to invest in something that would be a little more sustainable, that fit my niche and to create a brand that was a reflection of it; a clean and healthy lifestyle.
That’s when we came together and decided on starting something basic that wasn’t too complicated but with clean ingredients.
Ramah: We weren’t a predictable pair because I didn’t have a background in food or business, we were just friends with the same problem, we needed something that we could just grab and go. We were bouncing ideas around when our mutual friend Tamara Abukhadra, the founder of the Homegrown market, approached me with an offer. She was opening a café and would like us to run it. We worked day and night for two or three weeks and launched it.
It was also a great opportunity for us to see if our ideas would survive in the market.
Yasmine: There was trial and error from the beginning, as we started the business we started listening to the concerns of people, and just like that our recipes developed. I was thankful for the support we received from our friends and family but when we started reaching doctors and nurses, and when people started recognizing ‘Sinless’ that was when I was the happiest.
Ramah: It was a challenge for us to stand by our concept and not incorporate unhealthy items into the menu. Our business does not target the masses and doing something that was for the minority, from a business perspective, was new to Saudi.
Yasmine: We worked on our dining experience as well as re-engineering the menu.
You could say that ‘Sinless’ is a passion and a struggle, we wouldn’t have made this decision unless we personally wanted this for ourselves. Opening a food business requires a lot of experimenting. We make every little thing at the restaurant. It would be difficult to start a business like this without a professional kitchen.
Ramah: When people said that they can’t eat healthy food because it tastes bland, it would offend me because healthy food can be delicious too. So, we both took this as a personal challenge. Changing this association between healthy food being bland was especially important because when people see that they can make healthier comfort food, they can try and cook healthier at home.