On The RISE: Fawziyya Sugai
My name, Fawziyya, is Arabic and it means victorious. My mother is from New York and my dad is Trinidadian. I was born there and we moved to the US, Georgia specifically, when I was very young. Being raised as a Muslim, Trinidadian-American, in the South blessed me with a rich heritage, that inspires everything, including my brand Gwell.
I’ve always been a bit of a bookworm and enjoyed making things. This is likely why I pursued a career in fashion. Before Gwell I worked in the fashion industry for 15 years in planning, merchandising, sales and finance. During that time I also studied apparel and accessories design, launched a clean beauty brand, @coupdecoiff with my sister, and began diving more into the natural healing benefits of food. This exploration for me was prompted by my first trip back to Trinidad after 23 years. I rediscovered healing practices and how my people have used plants both externally and internally for centuries as natural healing methods.
Gwell started with me struggling to find balance in a professionally demanding life, coping with personal challenges and neglecting my body. In 2012 I was diagnosed with fibroids and it wasn’t until five to six years later that I realized the impact they were having on my body. At that point I made significant shifts in my diet as a holistic approach to compliment my medical care. These changes included transitioning to healthier food options. Thus Gwell was born as one of the first on-the-go snacks I made to address my own personal challenges of needing more focus, energy and improved sleep quality.
In 2018 I left corporate fashion and made the decision to create Gwell, knowing that I was not alone and many other people are also seeking easier ways to find balance in their lives. I launched Gwell with the focus of incorporating functional foods into everyday snacks. Gwell bites are designed to have specific benefits that help you to get through life. Some help with focus, while others provide energy or even some much needed stress relief and relaxation.
One thing I realized as I made this transition, was that somehow I had become disconnected from my origins. As I opened my eyes again to the world around me, it was even more evident that many of us are. In my neighborhood, instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, you could only purchase chips and cookies at the deli. Many of the grocery stores carried subpar and over-priced produce. I lived in a food desert.
I knew that my neighborhood deserved better and the children in particular deserved the opportunity to build healthier habits. This is why I made a commitment in 2020 to contributing to organizations that help to improve food equity. Our commitment this year is to donate 2500 meals.
This year we have also supported healthcare workers in partnership with Founders Give and donated snacks to fuel the people on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement. For us, our community comes first, and it continues to be the one that is the most impacted by everything happening in the world today.
I am excited to collaborate with RISE because our values align on offering high-quality, sustainably sourced foods. I’ve recently started incorporating RISE into some of my daily rituals, from my morning matcha, to my afternoon golden milk latte, and my weekend pastry binges. My most recent creation is a pineapple tart using our activate tropical pineapple Gwell bites as a gluten free base and making a vacation-worthy pineapple custard using the RISE Organic Oat Milk. It is basically a vacation in every bite!
While these treats certainly get me through the day-to day, I am excited for the future. Our world is rising to new standards and I am excited to rise along with it.