With a background in interior architecture, Sarah Khodeir’s venture into the food industry was quite serendipitous. She started by dabbling in recipe development in 2011. Sarah spent plenty of time in the kitchen working with food, experiencing this new creative and healing outlet. It was at that time that she also discovered a great tool: Instagram. On it, she documented her recipes visually just for record-keeping, but the page garnered a lot of attention. This led to Sarah being approached by companies in Egypt to consult in the area of recipe development and visual content creation. Granville St. Egypt was born as a consultancy service. Then in 2015, Sarah wanted to take her creative food concepts to the market through products that people could enjoy under her own brand. We speak to her all about the food industry, women empowerment, and her mouthwatering cookies!
There is a common misconception that such a thing as a healthy dessert does not exist, that anything plant-based and sugar-free must not taste good. What do you do to counter that?
Unfortunately, this stereotype is the doing of many blogs being shared with healthy recipes that just don’t deliver on taste. So, I don’t blame people for being skeptical of “healthy” products. Marketing food is a whole other story. You have to deliver what you promise especially if you’re setting out to make something that’s familiar like a brownie or a cookie. For me, it just took time to explore until I reached methods that worked.
What was it like starting your own business in Egypt? What were the greatest obstacles you’ve faced, and how did you get past them?
It took a while to understand the bureaucracy of the system. The greatest obstacle I faced and keep facing stems from the fact that I’m a woman running my own company in a predominately patriarchal society. I overcome this by doing a lot of breathing daily! Also, persistence; I realized early on that if I give in, I won’t accomplish anything, and that standing my ground is very important and believing strongly in myself is the only way to survive.
In your opinion, how can female entrepreneurs support each other in Egypt?
I have always welcomed and encouraged collaborations with other female entrepreneurs and definitely refer to many women professionals. Sharing resources and learnings is another thing I believe in wholeheartedly. I believe there’s room for everyone in any market and the more female entrepreneurs the merrier.
Tell us about the locally sourced, all-natural ingredients you use in your cookies.
When I first started, the bounty of good quality local ingredients was a lot more accessible. This changed over the last eight years; many basic ingredients are no longer made in Egypt. We use a lot of nuts, seeds, and spices in our products and source locally wherever possible. We process our own ingredients as well; this is to have more control and awareness of what goes into our products.
How, in your opinion, has the emergence of Social Media changed the entrepreneurship scene?
In many ways, it has made it so much easier. I, for one, launched my entire career through Social Media. The fast pace of Social Media and the sheer volume of content is the real challenge here. How do you stand out and how do you get people to stay engaged?
What are your future plans for Granville St. Egypt?
Granville St. Egypt is now a sub-brand of a mother company I created called S.K Global Food Group. Our plans for the future are to expand our operations and facilities and continue to develop and distribute plant-based products throughout the ME and potentially globally. As well as venture into trading in organic and fair-trade spices from Northern Africa, bringing awareness and exposure to this side of the world.
Most Egyptian women have had to answer the question: “Hanefra7 Biki Emta” before in reference to marriage, despite any accomplishments they may have already made, what would you say in response to that question?
This is a very triggering question and until very recently caused a lot of distress. Everything surrounding the statement “Hanefra7 Beeki Emta” is sad, unfortunate, and wrong. if a woman doesn’t cross marriage and kids off her checklist, then she’s not worthy of people yefra7o beeha. My distress surrounding this notion turned into anger for many years. I remember turning 30 and feeling lost and terrified, I had not reached that goal society set for me, and although I was accomplishing so much, it just wasn’t enough.
It eventually became very clear that the old saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ is so true; everyone I came across felt unfulfilled in one way or another. No one goes through life knowing complete contentment unless they seek it daily. This started to happen once I started living in the present and editing my life. Once we embrace that the race is fictional, the anger dissipates.