E‘You are a girl’. The countless times these words have been used as a means of justification, resonates in my ear as my muscles tense.

Like many, I grew up in a conservative, misogynistic culture, where the norm is discouraging to women and girls. As a child, I had strong desires to be noticed and appreciated for my mischievous and creative mind, free spirit, and ability to connect.

Instead, I was often seen for what I represent: lesser than. As time went by, my efforts went unrecognized, my freedom of expression crushed, and I began succumbing to peer pressure. My rebellious acts were not well received. This dimmed my light to being anything, greater than.

There came a time, where I ceased voicing my thoughts. Eventually came the day, in which those thoughts were no longer self recognized, but repressed. That day, I stopped being me. My urge for self-expression grew, but there was no outlet for release.

Thankfully, my opportunities for advancement occurred, due to my parent’s strong belief in advanced  education, which overruled the repression of daughters. From Morocco to Boston, I was exposed to a different culture enabling me to discover ‘new norms’ beyond the confines of what I had been used to. I now find myself with a choice: do I conform to this new environment, or do I create my own boundaries?

I made a brave decision, with the help of my unconventional male mentor, who has allowed me to unlock many closed doors,  I found the strength within me, to rise from the depths of sociological degradation. I began listening to the thoughts that I would usually filter out. I became conscious of my own authority: I have the power to speak up. I have the power to create. I have the power to build bridges.

Some time ago at age 7, whilst on a family vacation, by the hotel pool, my brother was suddenly nowhere to be found. Naturally, I turned to my mom to ask. He had gone to another side of the hotel with his friends. To his annoyance, I always wanted to follow him around, therefore asked if I could join him. Unfortunately, my request was declined, because ‘I’m a girl and its different’.  Full disclosure, I do not remember this, yet my mom uses this event as a symbolic reminder of my strength, and unreserved boldness. I turned around, marched my way to the pool, where hotel guests lay sunbathing, without a moment of thought began to yell as loud as my vocal chords could permit: “I CAN BE A BOY TOO”

Often, we read articles or listen to podcasts with inspiring figures, giving insight on their journey to success. Rarely, are we exposed to the real time insights on the intimate struggles faced and the personal demons that they overcame as they are happening.

Like millions around the world, I am a young female entrepreneur, in the midst of a battlefield. My motto is to channel my fear into strength, channel my anger into power and use it to flourish. As I build my fortitude, I am learning to challenge standards and the conformity, that obstructs my development.

I have always carried a fire within me to break this stigma. As I reminisce on my 7 year-old self, standing in the middle of the pool, demanding justice. I am now learning how to step out of the behavioral skin moulded onto me, for over 20 years, stepping into the one that I create for myself.

Today, I now finally know who that person is. I want to be a force to transform the industries I penetrate. In my new skin, I have armed myself, to push further, transcending into thought and action of my choosing. I want to encourage women who are intimidated by heredity and custom. For me, that starts with creating a sensory chocolate experience by emphasizing the transference of love and appreciation through taste.