Every morning for the past seven years Aisha Chottani has started her day with a 10-minute meditation. As the creator of the meditation drink aptly called Moment, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
Launched last June with her husband Faheem Kajee, the buzzing beverage brand has quickly steeped her in the wellness drinks industry. But the idea was born in a very different space—the offices of McKinsey, where Chottani describes long hours and non-stop days. “When I’d need to calm down and take a moment in the afternoon, I’d have something sugary or caffeinated, but it wouldn’t help me get through the day,” Chottani tells Forbes. Instead, she tried swapping her mid-afternoon pick-me-up for adaptogens and meditation and noticed a marked shift in her mental health, “my ability to concentrate, be creative—I was a completely different person,” she says. “I realized it’s not caffeine that gets you focused, you need a calm mind to be able to think clearly—that’s when you can be at your best.”
“This was a feeling I wanted to make accessible to everyone,” Chottani tells Forbes. But sharing her newfound discovery wasn’t enough to get colleagues and friends to commit to meditating. “People get it, they understand that meditation is effective,” says Chottani, “But to start the practice is difficult and uncomfortable, and sometimes intimidating.” It’s for this reason that the entrepreneur decided to devote her life to making meditation more accessible. For Chottani, that meant creating a drink that could help others experience this feeling of clarity she found in herself.
Through customer focus groups and rigorous testing, the company developed a formulation that is scientifically-proven to promote the alpha brainwaves associated with deep thinking and creativity. What does it feel like when those brainwaves are activated? Chottani describes it as that sensation when you’re in the shower and your mind wanders into deep thought. “It’s very hard to get into that state,” Chottani tells Forbes, “but meditation helps; our formulation helps.”
While many of the ingredients in Moment—like the nootropic L-theanine, known to improve focus, and stress-relieving adaptogen Ashwagandha—have become trendy staples in wellness drinks, Chottani’s inspiration comes from home. Growing up in Pakistan, she watched her mom use Ayurvedic recipes with Ashwagandha and Tulsi. “It’s so interesting to see people returning to their roots,” says Chottani. “As the world gets more globalized, we’re starting to see the benefits of things we forgot about or never paid attention to.”
When asked how Chottani feels about wellness brands adopting the ancient practices she grew up with, the entrepreneur tells Forbes it’s all about the intention, “if you’re learning from other cultures and traditions, and bringing them from other parts of the world to help people in a respectful way, that’s acceptable. I actually think it’s really positive to learn from each other.”
Learning and sharing other cultures is precisely what makes Moment so special to Chottani. While the Tulsi Lemon flavor is a twist on nimbu pani, a popular beverage in Pakistan, inspiration for the Rooibos Blood Orange came from four years spent living in her partner’s native South Africa, a country known for its rooibos tea. The Hibiscus Dragon Fruit is an ode to their honeymoon travels through South East Asia, where they noticed the fruit was common in popular drinks. Chottani tells Forbes they plan to develop new flavors with ingredients from other cultures this year, “even places we haven’t been to,” she says. “Moment is more than just a beverage, it’s a way to bring different parts of the world together.”
If there was any time to launch a beverage drink designed to unite people and encourage mindfulness, 2020 surely seems like the right moment. Even before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on people’s mental health, Chottani noticed everyday life was becoming increasingly stressful for everyone. “There is so much distraction and noise in life,” says Chottani, “Sometimes your neurological system is getting stressed without you even realizing it.” Designing a remedy for persistent stress, then, meant Moment had exactly what people needed when the pandemic hit. They could help their customers even more by “offering a solution to some of the pressure people were feeling during COVID-19,” says Chottani.
After two years of planning, and presenting the concept on Shark Tank in November 2019, Moment was set to debut in April, 2020. Then, as Chottani says, “the world turned upside down right before we were about to launch,” forcing Moment to adopt a direct-to-consumer business approach. It didn’t seem to compromise the Moment’s immediate success, the start-up was named one of the Top 45 Food Startups last year and won Best Startup Beverage at the BevNET New Beverage Showdown 2020.
While the last-minute pivot in response to the pandemic challenged the small company, the online model eliminated geographical constraints for customers wanting to try the product. Chottani says it’s made launching Moment during COVID-19 incredibly rewarding, “Customers will write me three page emails telling me how Moment has impacted their life—it’s the most wonderful.”
The pandemic enabled Chottani to do exactly what she intended from day one—to make meditation more accessible. It’s why they’ve partnered with Calm Classroom, an organization that trains kids in mindfulness techniques around the country. The entrepreneur is hopeful greater awareness about the benefits of meditation will open up the conversation on mental health, it’s another one of the silver linings of the pandemic she’s witnessed over the past year.
In the before times, the CEO noticed that “being on 100% of the time was considered good and successful.” Now that COVID-19 has forced people to pause and take a step back, Chottani says it’s become more okay to not be okay; to admit you’re feeling stressed and seek help. “I don’t mean serious help,” says Chottani, “even small things like, ‘hey, let’s have a drink to make ourselves feel better.’”
But Chottani wants to make clear, Moment is not a replacement for meditation, “it helps you access the same feeling, it’s a gateway into it.” The CEO says she’ll have a Moment in the afternoon, when her concentration begins to wane, and that many people use it as a marker of transition; to either help drop into meditation or extend the feeling afterward. Chottani has found Moment useful in adding structure to the days in lockdown where she says, “everything is blended.” “In the evenings and on weekends, I have Moment as a point of transition,” says Chottani. “At 7pm, I’m going to have a Moment and take a pause, I’m not going to work.”
When not busy running Moment, Chottani says she’s been taking extra time to experiment with different botanical ingredients and adaptogens in the kitchen. The entrepreneur insists her spontaneous sampling is “just out of curiosity,” but with two new flavours on the horizon this year, we have a feeling Chottani’s quarantine creations have our future moments in mind.