The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: Many people feel pressure to make a career out of what they studied in school. We're always looking for the payoff. I propose taking pride in what you studied for its own sake, and allowing the possibility that the rigor and discipline from the act of studying itself will serve you in unexpected ways (whether or not the subject matter relates to your day job). Abi, for example, earned a degree in Physics before taking a risk on starting a unique business. Her success, of course, is no guarantee of anyone else's, but I find it medicinal to steep in the stories of women who forged their own path. Enjoy. ~ Mary Margaret
What did you study in school? What kind of work did you think you would do after you graduated?
I was naturally more creative when I was a child and wanted to spend all day making things. By the time I was sixteen I ended up always getting higher grades in the more "serious’" subjects like Maths and Physics at school and as a result I ended up not valuing my creativity at all.
I then went on to graduate in 2017 with a BSc in Physics from Bristol University in the UK. I have also always felt a really strong connection to nature growing up and as a result I was and still am very passionate about sustainability. After I graduated I explored the idea of having a career in renewable energy because at the time it made the most logical sense given my degree. It was also where I thought I could make the most positive impact given the skill set that I had built up, rather than it being something that I thought I would really enjoy doing everyday.
I understand you discovered Ayurveda in college after experiencing burnout. Can you give a brief explanation of Ayurveda, and how it helped you?
Having an Indian heritage has meant that Ayurveda has always felt familiar to me but it wasn’t until I was at university that I started to really explore it. Ayurveda directly translates to "life knowledge" (a Sanskrit term: Ayur = life, Veda = knowledge) and is one of the world’s oldest healing systems from India that takes a completely holistic approach to health.
At university, my body was completely out of balance and I wasn’t aware of how stress could have such a negative impact on my physical as well as mental health. As a result I was experiencing exhaustion from my challenging course and general student lifestyle, which I think most people do without even realizing. Ayurveda teaches you that everybody is different and has a unique set of characteristics (known as your dosha) and from this I began to learn the basis of what it is that I needed in the form of foods, herbs and lifestyle activities to live a more balanced and energized life.
I have always loved cooking and as I started learning about the health benefits of foods I started incorporating them more into my diet. Making a simple chai or golden milk became a very healing and restorative ritual for me and I began to feel more empowered knowing that I could make the right choices over what to eat. The beauty of this is that it has also brought me a lot closer to my Indian heritage and I am very grateful for this.
How did you decide to open Moonji?
After university I felt very uninspired from an internship that I did in the financial district of London so I decided to go traveling for six months around Latin America, which ended up being a really transformative trip for me. During the trip I was able to really connect back to my creativity in a way that I have never experienced before, and it made me come to the profound realization that I had to incorporate it into my work in order to feel happy and the most connected to myself. I went from feeling completely cut off from my creativity at university to feeling like I couldn’t live without it - and one of the most enjoyable ways I realized I liked to express this creativity was through food.
During my stays with Latin friends, I cooked Indian food with local vegetables and spices as a way of satisfying my cravings for the tastes that I missed from back home. Many of those that I cooked for had never tried authentic Indian food, and their enthusiasm really gave me a fresh appreciation for the unique spice blends and infusions that were so familiar to me. One day, whilst I was volunteering in the Peruvian mountains, the idea for Moonji popped into my head completely out of the blue--for spice and superfood flavored ice cream. I had the idea for two recipes which I immediately wrote down in the back of my diary. What I didn’t realize at that moment was that I would go home four months later and actually turn that idea into a business that I am now running full-time.
Can you explain more about your product? What is “Ayurvedic ice cream”, exactly?
In Ayurveda, cold foods have always been believed to weaken the digestive system, as it is said they are not good for your "agni", which is your digestive fire. Ice cream is one of the most loved frozen desserts so I wanted to find a creative way of making it more healthy and digestible whilst not compromising on taste. Therefore, I was inspired by Ayurvedic principles to make an ice cream that is made from an infusion of adaptogenic spices and superfoods that not only help aid digestion, but also have a wealth of other health benefits. Moonji ice cream is a very unique balance of indulgence and nourishment.
Were the people in your life supportive of your decision to take this risk? Did you ever feel pressure to follow a more traditional career path?
I have been incredibly lucky with the support from my family and friends, right from when I started telling people about the idea. At first I was really worried about what people would think, but it was amazing to hear how brave everyone thought I was for giving it a go. If anything I had to battle with my own self-judgement at times for doing something that was so risky.
At school, I very much felt the pressure to follow a more traditional career path as that was what was expected of us. I really had no examples of people starting businesses in my life and therefore had no idea what having a business actually meant until I started one.
What have been the most challenging and most rewarding parts of starting your own business?
A big challenge for me at the beginning was being able to be okay with the uncertainty of my future, as it seemed scary at times not knowing whether the business would take off or not aside from having a strong intuition to do it. It is amazing how rewarding taking risks can feel when they pay off and that has been a huge learning for me.
Another rewarding part for me has definitely been the people that I have been able to be connected with through my work. I have felt so lucky to have met lots of incredibly talented and inspiring people so far who have been so supportive. One of those people includes Guru Jagat, and it was such a joy to be able to sponsor and be at her New Year’s Eve event.
It was so nice to meet you with your mother in New York! It sounds like she played a big role in shaping how you think about work. What lessons did she impart to you about your career?
Yes! My mum is my rock and also my best friend so our relationship means a lot to me! She actually is an accountant and the only bit of career advice that she gave was that she said I could do anything I wanted except for becoming an accountant! Which is really the opposite for a lot of people’s parents, who put a lot of pressure on their kids to follow similar career paths.
I think it was always a dream of her's to start a business so when I told her about the ice cream idea she was supportive of me. My mum has also always taught me to think for myself and question things, which definitely influenced me and has meant that I naturally am very inquisitive and love the challenge of learning new things all the time. She also was very supportive of me trusting my intuition and my heart which I cannot thank her enough for.
What’s next for you and Moonji?
The focus for me this year is to continue building the brand and in a creative, community-focused, sustainable and heart-centered way. My wish is that Moonji can be a business for good and our mission is to really empower people to be the best version of themselves. I have lots of exciting ideas to come but I’m really enjoying the process of taking it step by step and taking each day as it comes.
Where can we find Moonji and try it for ourselves?!
We are currently exclusively selling three flavors--Vanilla, Turmeric and Matcha--at a beautiful plant-based restaurant called Farmacy that currently have a pop-up at Chefs Club Counter, 62 Spring Street, Manhattan.
Abilasha founded Moonji in 2018, shortly after returning from a transformative six-month trip across Latin America. Having grown up in London, whilst away, she found herself developing a new connection to her own north Indian heritage, and in particular to the foods and flavors that reminded her of home. In the space of a year, her ice cream has grown from concept, to being sold in acclaimed vegan restaurant Farmacy in both London and New York.
You can find Moonji on Instagram @wearemoonji and at wearemoonji.com
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