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Thursday, 28 November 2019

My Morning Routine: Farah Emara, co-founder and CEO of FreshSource

Farah Emara, co-founder and CEO of FreshSource: 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 just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Farah Emara, co-founder and CEO of FreshSource, which is setting out to upend crops are brought to market in Egypt.

I’m Farah Emara, I’m 28 years old and I’m the co-founder and CEO of FreshSource. FreshSource aims to change Egypt’s agriculture industry by streamlining the value chain through technology, integrating small-time farmers and reducing food loss. We are the region’s first platform for fresh fruits and vegetables, connecting farms to businesses and providing last-mile solutions.

My brother and co-founder, Omar, and I launched FreshSource in January 2019. As the region’s first tech-enabled agri-platform we have our work cut out for us. There are several key areas we are working on simultaneously. We spend a lot of time meeting with smallholder farmers across governorates throughout Egypt, introducing FreshSource. Other days are spent in our cold-storage processing facilities in Obour City, meeting with our grading and packaging team. Our head office is where we spend time setting strategies and working with our sales, finance, and customer service teams. Finally, we are also raising an investment round, so a lot of my time at the moment is spent meeting with investors who want to be part of that.

The fruit and vegetable industry is at its most active in the morning, so I wake up early — at around 7am — every day. I start the day by checking our communication channels and connecting with the team, then I read Enterprise to get the latest news. After that, I get up and walk my two beautiful dogs, Mocha and Yogi. Then I go to the gym at the Gezira Club to get some morning endorphins and grab a coffee. After that I either go into the office, or meet with investors elsewhere, or go to the farms or cold storage facilities.

As an entrepreneur, there is perhaps only one constant in your daily routine — and that is that every day is different. This is one of the most exciting aspects of this journey, and it’s what made my career shift from the corporate world a relatively easy decision to make. I usually leave the office at around 6pm, and head home where I can relax with my husband, Abdallah, or meet up with friends or family.

I love the podcast Startup Theory, and I recommend all entrepreneurs listen to it. Being an entrepreneur can sometimes be a lonely journey; I’m lucky enough to have my brother with me, but many other founders are going it alone. We usually only see the tip of the iceberg on media platforms of startups raising mns, and it makes the process look so easy.

Omar and I grew up in the agriculture industry, and we always had a passion for it. When we decided to start FreshSource, I was working for P&G and Omar was in London. I had a background in FMCG and Omar was with Goldman Sachs London. We had always known that we wanted to start something that would have an impact on our country. We started researching the industry and uncovered immense inefficiencies that exist in the value chain. An average of 45% of crops are lost before hitting store shelves due to poor harvesting, transportation, and storage. Farmers are not getting their fair cut, due to middlemen, and businesses are paying too much for their crops, making prices extremely high for the end-consumer. That’s the opportunity. We met with Dr Khaled Ismail, who ended up becoming one of our earliest investors, and he truly believed in our vision from the start.

Our niche is our ability to use technology to streamline the value chain. We empower farmers, increasing their income by 20% and lowering costs to businesses by 15% on average. Our family business, Multi Fruit, operates one of the largest cold storage facilities in the country, and has managed the distribution of Dole fruit in Egypt since the 1980s. Our ability to leverage their know-how has meant that we have a food loss rate of only 2% against a national average of 45%. Our ability to use data to make educated decisions on our sourcing, enabling us to guarantee the best value for money for any business, is another real strength.

People can underestimate how difficult it is to introduce technology to a very traditional industry. Egypt is one of the world’s oldest agricultural civilizations, and unfortunately has not been developing at the pace of other nations. As young co-founders, you often get challenged by others. Being a woman, I feel this particularly acutely. Omar works hard as our chief of operations. He manages a large workforce and is getting fantastic results every month. I know FreshSource wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for him.

I believe that blockchain will have an immense impact on the value chain of the food industry. People are generally oblivious to what has been sprayed on the food they eat or how it has been handled, so using blockchain to promote the traceability of food will have a transformative impact on the whole sector.

In my free time I like to read and spend time with my husband and dogs. I also enjoy mentoring startups.

I am a strong believer in planning your to-dos the night before so that you wake up with a clear focus on what your wins will be that day. At FreshSource we use Notion and Slack to keep our communication clear and organized. We also have weekly team meetings to make sure everyone is on track to meet their KPIs. For my personal to-do lists, there is nothing better than an old fashioned notebook and pen.

One of the maxims I live my life by is the following: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

An idea, no matter how unique or great it is, is just an idea. Determination, perseverance and transforming your setbacks into comebacks is what will build a truly successful enterprise.

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