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How sharing a kidney made one man go vegan – and launch Plant Power Dubai

Few businesses have the kind of compelling origin story behind them that Plant Power Dubai does. In 2016, Thomas Ellis was told his partner’s kidneys were failing, the result of a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis she was given at just 18 months old. They had been together five years. For him, the decision was simple.

“I offered to donate one of my kidneys to save her life,” he explains.

After rounds of testing, doctors confirmed he was a match for his partner, Zhineh Cobra Askarpour Ellis. “The day before the operation, we got engaged. I figured she would say yes considering the circumstances”

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The Ellis’s in the hospital. Photo: Thomas Ellis

The surgery was successful, leaving Ellis with one less kidney while allowing his wife to live. But the decision changed Ellis, and his relationship with food, eventually leading him to found the vegan meal delivery service, Plant Power Dubai.

“Now that I only have one kidney, it can be dangerous to consume too much protein,” explains this UAE entrepreneur. “I decided I want to consume only the best possible protein sources at the right amounts.”

This led him down a path of extensive research, and eventually into adopting a vegan diet.

“I have been involved with sport and nutrition from an early age, and I’m fortunate enough to have had a professional sports career for over 10 years,” explains Ellis, who toured the world with high-level athletes. “This taught me a great deal about the importance of real food and nutrition, and not all these fad diets out here these days.”

As for the shift to veganism, Ellis says it’s something he will always maintain.

“I’ve never felt better,” he notes.

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Plant Power Dubai’s juice range. Photo: Plant Power Dubai

It’s one thing to eat vegan, but to launch an entire meal delivery service based on the diet is another matter entirely. For Ellis, the growth of Plant Power Dubai has happened in part due to support from companies like Foodie Brands.

“We have kept our business model simple and have tried to not run before we can walk,” he says. This means taking things slowly, concentrating on customer service and high-quality meals rather than mass production.

The meals, which are available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, provide creative twists to animal-free food. Dishes include vegan stacked omelettes or rolled overnight oats with cashew and apricot for breakfast, chickpea and spinach coconut curry or sweet potato blackened burger for lunch, vegan kale salad for dinner, and hummus or coconut chia pudding for snacks. Options change daily with calorie breakdown included. Food is delivered every morning.

“Founding the company has been a great experience. Tough at times, yes, but as I would have told my 16-year-old self: everything happens for a reason.”

In the future, Plant Power Dubai will offer one-off deliveries of vegan meals.

“Then personally, I will be supporting my wife as she waits for a pancreas transplant,” says Ellis. “As I mentioned earlier, she has been diabetic since she was 18 months old, meaning her pancreas never really worked.”

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The couple on their wedding day. Photo: Thomas Ellis

It’s been nearly three years that his wife has had Ellis’s kidney – a new pancreas would be a turning point, he says.

“She’s ready to undergo surgery again and finally get rid of the diabetes.”

Featured photo: Plant Power Dubai