Inspirational Women Series:
Sally Obermeder & Maha Koraiem
Imagine embarking on the rollercoaster-like journey of creating your dream brand with your sister along for the ride.
Sally Obermeder and Maha Koraiem did just that in 2012, soon after Sally's valiant triumph over stage 3 breast cancer. They launched SWIISH (which stands for; Stylish Women Inspiring Inner Strength, Health and Happiness) which was originally designed as a lifestyle blog offering information and inspiration around fashion, beauty, health, home, family and travel.
In 2015 it expanded to incorporate an online store which not only stocks a range of stylish and affordable products, but also their very own wellness products and best-selling books.
They may have had diverse careers, but the sisters' passion to build their brand and bring affordable wellness and style to their avid tribe is undeniable.
Best-selling author, television presenter and radio host Sally, has been a much-loved addition to our Channel 7 screens since 2005 where she has appeared and presented on programs including Sydney Weekender, Today Tonight,and Dancing with the Stars. She currently co-hosts The Daily Editionand appears regularly as a commentator on Sunriseand The Morning Show.
Sally's memoir, Never Stop Believing is an inspiring, authentic and entertaining look at her journey through the cut-throat world of commercial television and her courageous battle with cancer.
Maha took the leap to small business from deep within the corporate world, where she had a very successful climb up the ranks within Human Resources. Her previous roles include; Head of Investment Bank Human Resources for J.P. Morgan and Head of HR for ANZ. She has since gained accreditation with the International Institute for Complementary Therapists and can now add certified Health Coach to her impressive resume.
Not ones to take no for an answer, Sally and Maha ignored the naysayers and published the book Super Green Smoothies back in 2015. It is now in its 10th reprint, has been translated into multiple languages and remains Australia's number 1 bestselling smoothie book! A testament to following your gut (literally in this case), the book was the 3rd highest-selling non-fiction book in 2015.
Written out of a desire to share the deep knowledge they gained around the benefits of drinking green smoothies on a daily basis, Super Green Smoothies has been a segue into a variety of online challenges, Super Green Smoothies Frozen Packs which are now available in supermarkets and two more books, The Good Life and Super Green Simple & Lean.
And if all that goodness isn't enough, the sisters and their SWIISH team also run the charitable initiative WISH by SWIISH which donates beauty, fashion pampering and travel experiences to those who need it most.
One thing is clear (especially if you follow the sisters' adventures on social media like so many of us do), Sally and Maha both epitomise the values, style and overall healthy "glow" that their brand represents and there is no better marketing than that!
Biz Gals: What is your greatest achievement?
Sally: Personally, being a mother and wife is what gives me the greatest achievement in my life. As I watch Annabelle and Elyssa grow, develop and blossom, my heart bursts with love and pride. I also love and cherish my relationship with Marcus, my husband. It’s important that we stay strong and close as we are the foundation of our family. Professionally, growth of any kind is what I want – whether that is in my business or my TV career, or as an author. I like to challenge myself, push my boundaries and see what happens. And when it comes together there’s no greater feeling.
Maha: My biggest achievement to date is this business – without a doubt. When I get personal responses from people telling me how much the ‘Super Green Smoothie’lifestyle has changed their life, it really puts a smile on my face. Ever since Sally and I launched our SLEEP and GLOW Powders as apart of our SWIISH WELLNESS range earlier this year, we are constantly inundated with comments, emails and Instagram messages from people raving about their glowing skin, improvement in sleep patterns, how their energy has increased or their digestion has improved. It really makes us so happy that everyone is experiencing the same benefits we did!
Biz Gals: What is the greatest lesson you have learnt?
Sally: My number one lesson would be to be kind to your body and be kind to yourself. Usually we’re the hardest on ourselves and we treat others better than we treat ourselves. Kindness to everyone, ourselves included, is so important. And of course, always eat, or drink, your greens!
Maha: Self-belief and hard work will always earn you success, and that hard work really does pay off. Be prepared to work hard, to be a nice person to work with and just be willing to do anything. A flexible attitude goes a very long way, a willingness to do whatever; no job is too big or too small – that serves you well. And have fun! Life’s short, don’t forget to have a good time.
Biz Gals: What is the best bit of advice you have been given?
Sally: One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard and I think of it pretty much every single day is “your best quality is also your worst quality.” And when you think of it, it is actually so simple yet so profound. I’m disappointed I didn’t think of it myself! My boss at Channel Seven and one of my best friends, Sarah Stinson, said it to me years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Whenever I apply it to myself or anyone else, it is so good and so clever. If I think of myself, my best quality is that I work hard. But what that can mean is that by being focused (good quality) I can become blinkered, and I can ignore the people around me (bad quality). It lets you know what your faults are and how you can change.
Maha: A positive mind finds opportunity in everything - I basically just adopted the mantra early on that there is something to be learned from everyone. So I made sure I was really present and paid attention – like a sponge soaking up as much knowledge as possible. I also found that because I was up for even the most simple of tasks, such as going to get coffees for the team; that went a long way. People remember team players that have a good attitude.
Biz Gals: What or who inspires you?
Sally: My sister, Maha, she has played the most important role in my life. She is a joy to be around. She’s been my best friend for my whole life. Well, maybe not my whole life – it was a little shaky for the first 10 years, but definitely from then on – ha! She’s different to me, she challenges me, she puts me in my place, and she makes me laugh. Having the business together has been the absolute worst of times but also the absolute best of times and I think it solidified our friendship and our sisterhood more than anything. I would be lost without her. I’m also inspired by anyone who decides to walk his or her own path. It’s no mean feat to have the courage to take a risk and to stand up for what you believe in, to chase your dreams, to speak your mind. These are inspiring qualities we can all learn from.
Maha: My friends and family, especially Sally and my husband Matthew. These special people have always supported me through thick and thin. In addition to that, I live in Bondi and I draw a lot of inspiration to live a healthy lifestyle from being near the ocean. Seeing strong female entrepreneurs enjoy great success in their careers – in particular, I find Arianna Huffington, Rachel Zoe and Sophia Amoruso super inspiring.
Biz Gals: What is your biggest hope for women in the future?
Sally: When I was diagnosed with breast cancer [in 2011] I was pregnant with Annabelle, and my first thought was, better me than my child. Cancer is unbearable as an adult, let alone a child. Now as a survivor, I know how cruel cancer is. It’s brutal for the person going through it and for those around them. Tough really is an understatement. My dream is that future generations will look at each other shocked and say, ‘Can you believe women used to die of cancer?’ I want that for my daughters. And part of that means we need to find an early detection test for ovarian cancer.
Maha: My biggest hope for women in the future is that they understand the importance of a good work ethic, because hard work will help them find what they love. Everyone says 'do what you love' and it's true, but how do you know what that is? You have to work harder than everyone else and want to work harder than everyone else. If you find yourself doing both of these things, it's because you love what you're doing and that in it, is true success.I also hope that the next generation of women use their voice, and learn how and when to step forward when it's most important – this is what will build a greater society. I hope that they keep in mind that it is not the leader in front of you, but the leader within you, that presents the greatest amount of power and change within our society.
Biz Gals: What advice would you give your younger self?
Sally: Resilience is something that you need in life, and it’s like a muscle. By that I mean, if you exercise your legs every day then they will get stronger – and resilience is just like that. You have to start small, and you’ve got to keep going. Of course, you also have to let yourself have a cry and allow time to be down but then you have to get back on the horse, pick yourself up and keep going.
Maha: Ask more questions! I think it’s about going out and absorbing as much knowledge as you can, talking to other people; it’s amazing how much other people are willing to share.
Words: Natalie Kessell