My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions because we simply can’t help ourselves.
Who are you?
I’m Nadine El Alaily, founder and CEO of BodyBlocks. We deliver healthy, tailored meals to about 3,000 clients in the capital city, including breakfast items, salads, sandwiches and ready-to-head soups and dinners as well as smoothies and treats. We offer paleo, sports, pre- and post-natal and vegan options, among others. All our products are sold online and delivered to our client’s doorstep. We use local ingredients and all our products are free of preservatives and added sugar.
What’s your morning routine?
I wake up at 4:00 am daily. My black Americano is a must before anything. The whole house is asleep, and I start by reading my email — it’s the quiet before the storm. Then I start making to-do lists: A list for pending work, the office, the factory, the kids, the groceries, the house — plenty of to do lists. I find that they help me brainstorm, reflect and keep me focused so I don’t miss anything or anyone.
Then I get ready and go to the factory for 5:00 am because our first orders leave the kitchen at 5:30 am daily. Then, and again later in the day, I conduct audits by randomly selecting orders on the list to check. I also keep a close eye on cleanliness in the factory — that everyone is wearing their gloves and hair nets and that everything has been sterilized after cleaning and use. I also have on-site cameras and an app on my phone, so I’m usually checking all of this on my way to the factory, too. I make sure all the drivers are wearing their BB t-shirts and have their delivery sheets and that everyone is on time.
I’m usually back home by 6:00 am. I wake my kids up and get their clothes ready for school, organize their lunch boxes, make sure their bags are packed, and then we have a healthy breakfast together. I drop them off to the bus at 7:00 am and once they’re off to school, I go back home for another coffee. That’s when I read Enterprise, check out Instagram and Facebook. After a 30-minute workout, I take my vitamins and have a green juice before I get ready and start the next phase of my day at the office by 8:00 am.
At the office, I start with a meeting every morning with the team to discuss plans, issues and to-do lists before we all start. Then I’m working on my own lists ‘til the kids get home from school.
What time do you sleep at night?
I go to bed when my kids sleep, around 8-9:00 pm.
How big is your team right now?
We have 15-20 people at the factory at any given time and then another five in the office.
What do people not understand about your business?
How much we’ve had to build this from the ground up. We handle our logistics in-house and we run our own fleet of delivery vans, allowing us to deliver next-day in two slots — 6am to 9am for working clients and 11am to 2pm for those who want lunch packages.
The level of customization and tailoring of all our options can be tricky, so to make sure we get it right, we created our own software to keep things on track. The idea is to make the whole process as automated as possible, and this starts from the moment you hit our website. Clients can buy off-the-shelf, but our nutritionists generally tailor programs specifically for each person — they need to be able to take into consideration work schedules, eating requirements, illnesses, etc.
What’s your origin story?
We started off as a nutrition consulting company three years ago, when we specialized in chronic illnesses. But the real market opportunity became clear when I noticed that most of our clients didn’t have time to shop or cook and wanted easy, healthy options to incorporate in their diet. I started outsourcing to different food suppliers — getting them to deliver meals to my clients — and I then decided I wanted to create my own recipes so I found a kitchen that would work as a contract manufacturer. Our clients were happier and getting better results because we could measure portions ourselves and use healthier ingredients. That’s when I decided to open my own factory and bring it all in-house.
How does your turnover split in between online sales to individuals vs. wholesale to supermarket?
About 90% of our turnover is from online sales to individuals, with the rest coming from supermarkets and gyms.
What’s your best-selling SKU?
Our best-selling line is our set of weight-loss programs, followed by our salads.
So far you’ve grown by…
…word of mouth. But we’re hiring a company now to handle our digital marketing to grow our reach.
Do you consider yourself a small business or a medium-sized business?
We are a medium-sized business.
What’s the best part of running a mid-sized company?
The best part of running a medium-sized business is seeing your hard work turn into reality and watching your company grow. I’m lucky my passion is my work and I’m fortunate that my work can have a positive effect on people.
What’s the biggest obstacle to growth?
Competing with unhealthy products in the market — and creating meals that are both healthy and delicious at the same time. Selling chocolate cake to people is much easier than convincing them to have beetroot and cabbage, that’s for sure.
What’s your big business goal for 2019?
My big business goal for 2019 is to be literally closer to our clients — we want our clients to be able to make an order and have it delivered in 20-30 minutes. We’re rolling out hot meals next month and are partnering with Uber Eats to start offering same-day delivery to our clients. We’ll start out in Zamalek and then expand to Kattameya and Six October at the start of 2019. We’re also looking to get more of our products into supermarkets, gyms and cafes.
We also have a new range of granola products, including bars and granola bombs, coming soon. We call it “Yola” — named for and by my children Youssef and Layla. My goal is to export this range eventually. We’re price-competitive with Dubai and the UK because of our currency.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad always tells me the best opportunity to learn and improve is by making mistakes and failing.