Picture it: an idea sprouts, inspiring you to build a business. Part of its path to success requires you to find funding in order for it to take off, but that goal isn’t achieved, and it all crashes and burns. Where did you go wrong?
Taking on an entrepreneurial venture requires guidance, perseverance and support. We need validation in order to know that our ideas are special, and truly offer something different to the market: something that makes our product capable of adding value and innovation to local consumers.
It’s no secret that Kuwait thrives on its food market, and who knows that better than founder Rashid Sultan, whose 15-plus years in the F&B industry has proven his skill in understanding the way the business works. This level of experience prompted him to launch Savour Ventures: a program inspired by the traditional US accelerator model, designed to help startups get their dreams on track under the umbrella of a mighty team.
Established in early 2017, the aptly named Savour Ventures accelerator solely caters to the food industry, from food tech, to agriculture, traditional eateries and all in between. “The program is designed to advance business owners by making them work at over 100% rather than the basic 60% most would be at.” Rashid explains. “What many other entrepreneurs gain in at least one year’s time, we’re helping them achieve it in just two months.”
Each term, startup founders are carefully selected in an application process to form Savour’s cohort of the season. The chosen startups are then given a seed investment through Savour. Over the course of eight weeks, the cohort members use the tools provided by Savour to build skills and expertise in their businesses, and are given an opportunity at the program’s conclusion to put their education to use.
Deep Dive week acts as a culmination, consisting of a weeklong schedule dedicated to showcasing each business’ growth. From flawlessly displaying their businesses to the public on”Demo Day”, to ultimately pitching their potential to investors in private on the final day of the week’s schedule, the goal is to have the businesses re-enter the industry with newfound confidence. As Program Manager Amira AlZayed puts it, “We want to push them to the next level beyond anything they can reach by themselves.”
As any traditional accelerator model should be, the Savour Ventures program is an intensive one, implying that the cohort should be fully committed to the program for two months in order to potentially achieve success for their businesses. Admitted startups attend the accelerator during the working week, engaging in intensive courses such as “Customer Delight”, “Branding, Storytelling and Sales” and “Raising Capital and Sources of Capital”. Throughout class days, the Savour team takes the startups through the program curriculum with guidance and support, while inviting select mentors twice a week, designated to offer advice based on the class topic of that day.
Mentors are generally entrepreneurs who have made their mark in the food industry, and include Faith Capital’s Abdulaziz Al Loughani, Rakan Al Fadalah of Chocolateness, Kuweat’s Essa Behbehani (who also founded Choowy Goowy – always a win in our books!), and Tap’s Ali Abulhasan – only to name a few. “We really wanted to make this experience educational on both an interactive and personal level, and we felt that giving them access to real-life examples would benefit them positively. It’s the best way to learn about the do’s and don’ts and everyday perils, challenges and successes of the food business.”
Though intimidating, the program offers comfort and assurance that all benefits will be reaped through a quality education. The backbone of Savour is a strong one, between its founder’s credentials, and the accelerator’s partnership with Creative Startups in Albequerque New Mexico. At the beginning of the program, classes were instructed by Creative Startups’ very own Lena Ramfelt – a globally recognized entrepreneurship educator who has 12 years of teaching entrepreneurship at Stanford’s School of Engineering under her belt.
The results are in! Here are the top 5 food trends to watch in 2018, according to global buyers for Whole Foods Market: 1️⃣ Floral Flavors (such as lavender and hibiscus) 🌸 2️⃣ Powders (ie. maca root, matcha, cacao, protein) 🌿 3️⃣ Mushrooms (variety) 🍄 4️⃣ Middle Eastern Cuisine (YES!) 🥗 5️⃣ Product Labeling (calorie information, nutritional value, ingredients) 🔍 Thoughts, anyone? #SavourNews
But Lena couldn’t stay forever, and with her absence, classes have been taken over by Rashid and managing partner Mona AlMukhaizeem, who also holds the title of Sirdab Lab co-founder. “I enjoy teaching,” Mona says warmly, as I catch her in a moment between classes. “It takes a lot of energy for sure, but I feel like the startup founders get to ask questions about whatever’s on their mind. It’s a good bonding experience, which is important for their overall experience as well.”
Rashid, on the other hand, delivers a hardball approach to teaching, so much so that his face crumpled up in knowing bemusement once I had announced to him that he’d make me cry if he was my teacher during our interview. “But in all seriousness,” he assures me, “I need to make sure they succeed! It’s like, these are your kids, they have 8 weeks and then you have to let them out in the wild. If they can’t hunt or make fire, how are they going to survive?”
This response goes to show that while success is a vital outcome factor for Savour to gain equity, it’s only secondary to the bonding experience they want to maintain with their current cohort and all others to come. “We want to create valuable dialogue and meaningful relationships. We’re hoping to set the standard for what an accelerator should be in Kuwait and in the region. After they graduate we remain in contact, they’re our alumni – we’re here to help still.”
As for the cohort, it consists of a great bunch that many of us already know and love. This proud first lineup of startups include the likes of PantryBee, Solo Tacos, and three food-tech startups that are planning to change our everyday lifestyles in the very near future, EILA, Tabb and Bulkwhiz. Out of 108 applications, these five were chosen because Rashid, Mona and Amira saw potential each startup founder’s greatness. “Since the cohort was much smaller than we originally expected, it’s been a bit of a cozier experience than what was envisioned.” Rashid says almost fondly. “We’re looking forward to the cohorts of the future. What we loved about this cohort is that we were able to connect with them and guide them thoroughly, which was a great way to begin our program. After all, the program is about supporting the entrepreneur, and not the idea.” We could definitely savor that idea, so to speak.
Savour Ventures is opening up their application process this month! If you have a food vertical startup you’d like to take to the next level, visit their website to find your application to fill our and submit: www.savour.ventures, and follow them on Instagram @savour.ventures for more information.