Cairo West Magazine has collected the inspiring stories of 5 young entrepreneurs from the food & beverage industry and from the fashion industry, who are set to trailblaze their fields… and they’re not even 35 yet! Egyptian Entrepreneurs
By Farah ElAbd
F&B, Fashion & Fitness
Omar Abdallah – Brown Nose Coffee
Co-founder of Brown Nose Coffee, 30-year-old, Omar Abdallah studied marketing at John Molson School of Business in Montreal, Canada. After working in PR for a while, he then turned to the contracting and construction business. So what took him from PR to construction to coffee?
“At that time I was drinking instant and capsule coffee. I had no idea what specialty coffee was. In 2016, when I first tried brewed Ethiopian coffee I remember taking the first sip and being blown away. At the time, specialty coffee was non-existent in Egypt. We rented an old warehouse in Giza and a year later in 2019 Brown Nose Coffee was born.”
What motivated you to start this business?
By 2018 my friend Medhat and I were really passionate about coffee and we realized how hard it was to get your hands on good quality fresh-roasted coffee beans in Egypt.
At its core, Brown Nose Coffee was started to bring amazing quality coffees to Egyptians in a fun approachable way that wouldn’t be too intimidating to a coffee amateur.
What were some of the setbacks you faced at the beginning of your journey?
I would say one of the biggest challenges is building a brand name and a product that could effectively compete in the market in terms of price and quality. There’s a dilemma with local products in Egypt being perceived as inferior to imported products. We wanted to change this. Egyptian Entrepreneurs
What advice would you offer young people in their careers?
It took me seven years jumping from one job to another to find out what I really wanted to do. It’s completely fine not to know the best possible path right away, but what is more important is grasping every opportunity to learn something new.
Sherif Yassin – Aquafit
Aquafit, the first High Intensity Interval Training Workout (HIIT) in water in Egypt was co-founded by 25-year-old Sherif Yassin, who is also Head Coach. Yassin graduated as a construction engineer from the American University in Cairo and has been an athlete for 19 years.
What led to the creation of Aquafit?
By the time I was graduating, I saw a video of fitness training underwater taking place across UK and Europe that helps burn more calories with low impact on your joints. That’s when my brother and I decided to start Aquafit.
Within a couple of weeks of our launch at our flagship location, Hacienda Red, we had hundreds of participants and most of the time we were overbooked. It was then that we recruited a team and started developing our skills and knowledge, we had several partnerships with top developers, hotels and fitness entities.
What’s the biggest reason for your success?
Because we love what we do, it made us work as hard as we can to make it as successful as we can. Always be customer-based, and up to date with the market. We are planning on going big, not only in Egypt, but we are taking it out soon.
Zeinab Fouda – Cookievore
27-year-old Zeinab Fouda is the Founder and Head of Kitchen of Cookievore. She graduated as a communication and electronics engineer and was a teaching assistant at university.
Fouda’s childhood love of exploring and creating things took her to the kitchen, where she would come up with random creations and feed them to people.
Why did you start Cookievore?
I was the go-to person when it came to birthday cakes amongst family and friends. At university, I would make baked goods weekly for friends but one thing was particularly a crowd-pleaser: cookies. Egyptian Entrepreneurs
I never really had a plan on starting my business until the realization that my previous job was extremely limiting to my creativity hit me so I quit. My friends and family gave me the confidence and encouragement I desperately needed to start Cookievore.
What was the process like of launching the business?
Is started with the name, the logo, the packaging design and found a vendor who produced it in bulk. All that was left to do was to create an online store and test the waters!
I put my amateur photography skills to use and took pictures to showcase the cookies. Then I started receiving online orders and ended up delivering them myself. I then started joining bazaars to improve Cookievore’s reach and started growing my audience and followers.
What advice do you have for young people starting out?
To stay true to themselves and to really enjoy what they’re doing. Starting a business is definitely not a walk in the park, and the idea of quitting can haunt you. If your reason for starting the business isn’t clear, then it’s going to be near impossible to carry on through tough times. Egyptian Entrepreneurs
Find what you love and pursue it because remaining in a career that you don’t love can negatively impact your quality of life and mental health.
Merna Rady – Merna Rady and Volsee
Merna Rady moved to Los Angeles at the age of 17 to study Fashion at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. The 22-year-old Merna, founder and CEO of the fashion brands Merna Rady and Volsee always had a love and passion for fashion and was heavily influenced by fashionable celebrities and influencers.
Starting a brand when you’re abroad is challenging, tell us how it began?
I started my business when I was 18 by getting clothes shipped from different vendors in China to LA. Then I had a couple of photoshoots and I started my Instagram account Merna World. It was hard managing everything while being at school at the same time so I stopped selling products, and I was just doing handmade clothes at school.
Then when Covid-19 hit, I had to come back to Egypt. That was when I started manufacturing clothes. I got my business license, got a studio and got the brand started, that was in June 2020, a few months after I launched my second brand Volsee.
Who inspired you to create your own brands?
I was inspired by Jayda Cheavous, Conna Walker, Kylie Jenner; all these young CEOs that established their own brands at a young age. I watched what they were doing and watched their lives progress, everything just seemed fun to me; from having photoshoots to their lifestyle and that’s when I decided I want to start my own business
What are your goals with your brands?
I’m already proud of what has happened so far; having the clothes on the Gouna Film Festival red carpet and expanding my network outside Egypt. But my goals are for my brands to be international. Egyptian Entrepreneurs
Merna Rady is more of a creative side of me, while Volsee is more of the simpler basics, streetwear. The second goal is to have a store in LA, Cairo and Dubai which are the 3 cities that I spend most of my time in.
Sarah El Fata – Smack’d
Founder and CEO of the cafe and bakery Smack’d, 28-year-old Sarah El Fata graduated from City University London with a major in International Politics, and worked in government relations before moving back to Egypt.
Besides the indulgent desserts that Smack’d offers, new and fun products such as croissant cereal and cookie cereal with vanilla milk, are giving it an edge above the rest, along with its fun and quirky brand personality, Smack’d is quickly becoming a crowd favorite.
Why did you start Smack’d?
My sister was the one who always baked and turned her passion into an at-home bakery, and I helped her out. When she got married and moved to the U.S, she had to shut down her home bakery, and this is where I found my interest in opening Smack’d.
I think of Smack’d as Egypt’s first “Instagramable” cafe, where we serve your all-time favorite desserts, pastries, shakes, and coffee.
What were some of the setbacks you faced at the beginning of your journey?
I was a bit inexperienced in the field, but it’s one of those journeys where you learn everything along the way when you work hands-on. Also being a woman in such a male-dominated field was very frustrating at times, but eventually, you let your work and dedication lead the way.
What are your goals for Smack’d?
I’m currently focusing on customized cakes and catering for small events. But also ensuring that all our products are baked, blended, and brewed daily to ensure the offering of the freshest goods and make people want to come back. Egyptian Entrepreneurs
Brown Nose Coffee