Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Maged El Said, Founder of Habiba Community, located in Nuweiba, South Sinai, Egypt.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Habiba Community is a bottom-up initiative on the shores of Sinai. It runs unique projects through which it aims at promoting environmental solutions to regenerate the land, enhance biodiversity, guarantee food and water security, improve the resilience of the indigenous community, and, ultimately, make the Sinai desert green again. Habiba helped enable positive changes in the ever-growing Nuweiba community. In all these years, through Habiba, I have been able to transfer knowledge on how to farm organically to the Bedouins. Habiba's development model has changed the mindset by building inclusion and providing equal opportunities for all to guarantee food security and well-being. Our customers are, on one side, young families with children that are highly aware of environmental issues and concerned about nutrition for their kids. While on the other side, we also have generally young people, aged between 25 and 40 years, highly aware of environmental issues, generally involved in healthy lifestyles, like yoga, hikers or other activities connected to nature, interested in knowing where their food comes from and in eating healthy.
Tell us about yourself
The story began when I became inspired by the natural beauty and vibrancy of the South Sinai landscape. So in 1994, I relocated my family to start a small family-run enterprise by the sea called Habiba Beach Lodge. But, due to social, economic, and political shocks in the region, and the reliance on tourism, Habiba endured much loss. Eventually, our vision was adjusted, with the greater goal of food security and a more responsible approach to the environment and tourism. What started as a growth strategy to expand operations and ensure food security has today become Habiba Community's key asset: an organic farm in the desert that adapts cutting-edge methods in sustainable agri-tech, restoration & experimentation. Habiba farm was founded to help green the Sinai desert and produce organic food to improve the living conditions of the Habiba family and the local community. Through Habiba Community, I have been committed for the past 28 years to guarantee food security and enhance the resilience of the indigenous communities of Sinai to face the impacts of climate change better. My inspiration is simple: to give back to the community that has given my family and me so much. The love and ambition I often speak about reflect what I have received from the people here in Nuweiba throughout the years. The word "Habiba," which means "Love," is an acknowledgment and a reminder of how I chose to live my life.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Habiba's main strength is the network through which it aims at opening new horizons in self-sufficiency for Sinai communities. Habiba, already 15 years ago, developed a unique model defining itself as "an inclusive business with a tremendous social impact." By respecting and taking care of the limited natural resource, spreading organic farming practices, and encouraging responsible tourists to come to the region, Habiba has empowered the Nuweiba community in which farms, camps, and enterprises complete each other. It established this national and international network of conscious individuals and organizations that is impossible to find elsewhere in Egypt. We are now 75 farms, 48 of them are bedouin owned, and 12 of them are women-run.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Convincing those who did not believe that farming the desert was not possible. Habiba showed that having a holistic approach toward the surroundings can guarantee the farmers' new means of survival. During these years, the social and environmentally responsible model of Habiba Community has spread in the area, and local people have started following this example of sustainable development in order to achieve self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. To pass these initial misconceptions among the local bedouin community, Habiba moved forward with implementing best practices by following two parallel paths: first, by raising awareness regarding environmental issues and farming solutions among the older generations, and second, by establishing educational courses on these topics for the younger generations.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Think holistically; you can only talk about business development if you consider all the factors, indicators, ecosystems, and stakeholders that surround you. After you have looked at these, think about making your business inclusive of having a comprehensive community development that leaves nobody behind. We are all in this life with the purpose of helping each other; when it rains, everybody gets wet, so it is like this about fortune and misfortune when it comes to bigger challenges such as climate change.
- Believe in human capital; this is the key. You do not need money; you just need like-minded, conscious people that can help you realize your dreams. I believe in being a catalyst.
- Do something that you really like, and avoid getting involved in something that will not fulfill your soul; life is made of moments along the journey, and the goal is not reaching the destination but enjoying the journey.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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