Jenny Poupa Marashi leads a diverse life. Born in Iran, she moved to the U.S. at age 3. Marashi later studied philosophy and earned a law degree from Cardozo School of Law in New York. In law school, she helped support her mother and sister, worked with Amnesty International and interned with the United Nations. After graduation, she tested her belief that economic development and fair, free trade can help create peace between nations: She began working as a legal adviser at Iran's Investment Banking Group Middle East, and helped establish the country's first national credit bureau. Prior to her efforts, Iran had no credit system, which prevented anyone but the very rich from taking out loans for higher education, home ownership or business.
In 2007, she launched Muju Fruits, with the idea of not only bringing natural, high-quality dried fruit from around the world to Americans, but also to encourage U.S. trade with countries like Iran. " My hope is that trading together will lead to mutual understanding and acceptance," she says.
What are the biggest challenges facing the naturals industry? I believe much in " think globally, act locally." But what are our local triumphs built on? Which ones are actually sustainable? And which are misguided? So, how to sustainably act, I think, is the biggest challenge.
What would you like to see change in the naturals industry in the next five years? The same thing I would like to change about me—my hypocrisy and short-sighted, misguiding self-righteousness at times.
What was your inspiration? That poverty could be eradicated in my lifetime. That people do really awesomely inspiring things all the time. That I wanted to try.
What's next for you? To [begin] buying 100 percent of our product from small farmers all over the world who are growing genetically diverse and increasingly rare highest-quality fruit, drying it at the source and getting it to the consumer in a completely resourceful and ecological manner.
As a little kid, you wanted to grow up to be … Fabulous. I am still learning that it doesn't mean solitarily descending the spiral marble staircase that I imagined when I was 7. The more accurate picture of fabulousness, I now know, really is a graceful ascension and descension of many kinds of stairways in really comfortable pants and shoes.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 30