Naila Arain, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, has always been intrigued by healthy alternatives, especially after working in her sister’s health and wellness shop in Bergen County. Inspired by the health benefits she gained by taking supplements, Naila became a certified holistic health coach, and with an entrepreneurial background (growing up, her dad owned a health food store, too), she knew she could strike out and build something on her own. The opportunity came when Naila and her husband, Rashid Anwar, purchased a vitamin and organic grocery shop in Chester and transformed it into Back to Nature, a health, wellness, and gift shop, which carries supplements alongside self-care products, and wellness-based gifts, with a new second location in Red Bank. We chatted with this busy Morris County mama of a toddler to find out what she learned by helping out in her dad’s business, the most challenging thing about being an NJ Mompreneur, and where this self-professed dessert-lover goes for her sugar fix.
Tell us a little bit about your family and background. My husband, Rashid Anwar, and I have been married for nine years, and we have a daughter who is 1 ½ yrs old. I grew up in Bergen County, but when Rashid and I bought an existing business in Chester about 8 years ago, we moved to Morris County to be closer to the shop.
Tell us a little about your career background and how (if at all) it led you to launch Back to Nature. I have my masters in counseling, and after graduating, I worked in that industry. Wanting to help people is something that’s always come naturally to me. Later, I decided to work at my sister’s health and wellness shop, Healthway Natural Foods, and around that same time, I started to take some supplements for my health issues—I saw what a difference they made. I wanted to learn more, so I took several courses to become a certified holistic health coach and continued to work for my sister for about two years. After my husband graduated from law school, he worked at his family’s 7-11 stores. With both of us from entrepreneurial families, we knew we wanted to have our own business eventually. Initially, the store we bought sold vitamins and basic groceries, but we improved the inventory. We were working on the grocery section when most major grocery stores started carrying organic produce, too, so we shifted away from grocery and brought in gift items. Our Chester location has supplements and wellness gifts, and we recently expanded to a second location in Red Bank. Our Red Bank location is mostly gifts that are also self-care, for example, healing stones, essential oils, teas, and other wellness gift-type items. It’s been great to have this business, and I like that it sometimes involves helping people work through some of their health issues.
With you and your husband as co-owners of your businesses, how do you divide the work and childcare responsibilities? Rashid and I do things 50/50, swapping duties back and forth a lot. Right now, one of us is always with the baby unless the family is helping out, and we have employees at both stores.
What is your best seller? It’s hard to pinpoint a best seller because we’re known for switching things up, so our shops are always fresh and exciting for our customers—it keeps them coming back again and again. I enjoy sourcing everything, which is why I handpick every single item we sell, focusing on products that are special and uncommon. I’m constantly on the hunt for new and interesting!
Was there anything in your career background or life that’s proven helpful in this business? Yes, there are a few things that have proven very helpful. When I was growing up, my dad would take us into his health food store to help out. I’m glad I got to see how he interacted with customers, and I’m so happy I got to see his work ethic firsthand. As soon as I launched my own business, I knew I wanted to emulate him and be like him. When I worked with my sister at her store, I learned management skills that are important when running a business. And the counseling skills I picked up from my educational background have also proven helpful because I often find myself counseling customers about specific supplements that might help them or suggesting a lifestyle plan that would be helpful.
How supportive is your family? Both my husband and I come from families that own businesses, so they understand the challenges that can arise, especially after a baby arrives. We’re very fortunate that whenever we need an extra hand, there’s always someone that can step in and help, and we also love that they’re just as excited about our businesses as we are.
What do you hope your daughter learns from seeing you run your business? I’d love her to know that a strong work ethic is essential, but creativity is just as important and a great skill to find solutions to challenging situations. Also, I want her to feel like she can accomplish whatever she puts her mind to and do things independently as a strong, independent woman.
What are the best and most challenging things about being an NJ Mompreneur? The best thing about being an NJMOMpreneur is that I didn’t have to give up my career at the expense of spending time with my daughter. When needed, I can slow down a bit and have someone help out with the baby or the business. That being said, the most challenging thing has to be making a clear line between my personal and business life. I don’t get much of a break because when my child is napping, I’ll take care of some orders or other business-related tasks, and when I’m working, I’m always thinking about her. It can get a little hectic a times, but I’m working on it.
What’s your favorite way to unwind on a particularly stressful day? My favorite way to relax when I have free time is to paint and draw. But, since the baby has arrived, I usually have time for a cup of tea and a little chocolate. The good news is that it does the trick, too.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I absolutely love dessert and recently discovered The Baker’s Grove in Shrewsbury, which has delicious croissants. I also like Antoinette Boulangerie for its delicious quiches and cookies, and Linda’s Biscotti in Chester, known for its excellent homemade biscotti, also has the best chocolate chip cookies.
Please share some places in NJ that you and your family enjoy visiting. We like going to Montclair, the perfect place to walk around and enjoy a little outing. Two of our go-to restaurants are Zeugma Grill, a Mediterranean restaurant, and Mesob, a wonderful Ethiopian place. We also like to hike near our Chester shop—Hacklebarney State Park is so close and special.
What’s your best piece of advice for an NJ Mompreneur just starting? Take care of yourself–when you’re busy in your personal life and engaged with your business, it’s extra important to eat well and get enough sleep to stay focused, organized, and on top of things.
For more information on Naila Arain and Back to Nature, please see their website and Facebook page.