I had the idea to take a company that already existed, a juice and fruit product company named Fruit Republic, then I acquired a technical guy and created a new, bigger company, changing the strategy into a much better one. We put together different components of technical know-how and took advantage of the high quality fruit and veg that can be found in Egypt for very low prices. Our fresh produce is known worldwide and is mostly exported in raw form, but we decided to export our product in juice form, something which had never been done before, in order to give more added value to the economy.

When my friend and co-founder of Rise Up, Abdelhameed Sharara shared a link to the startup mentoring programme, encouraging friends to apply, I became curious and asked him for more details. He thoroughly recommended it, so I decided to go ahead and apply. I believe using your alumni as ambassadors is the best way to spread the message and entice more entrepreneurs to join the programme. For me, the programme was an amazing experience in different aspects – going to countries I‘d never visited before, having a brilliant, relevant mentor, who was very involved in my own sector, and meeting other entrepreneurs with whom I could exchange ideas. I am still in contact with my mentor now, as well as the other fellows, who have become good friends; travelling to three different countries together certainly creates a strong bond. I think an annual reunion would be great, preferably in Berlin, as I had such a great time there and totally fell in love with the city. It’s vibrant, young, cosmopolitan, multicultural, lively… there are just so many positive things to say about that place!

Being the first to put a branded bottle of juice on the supermarket shelves in Egypt is my biggest achievement, but also my greatest challenge, to date.

It took a lot of time and was very difficult to execute, as we had to deal with Egyptian bureaucracy and the different retail channels here, which aren’t very supportive of smaller companies. We had to pull some strings and there was a lot of resistance, as many of them refused to adapt to the size of our company, and the management don‘t like to take risks. That said, it was still an amazing experience and when people compliment the product now, or when I see it being sold somewhere, I feel very proud – it’s hugely rewarding. As my mentor in the programme was a veteran of coca cola, he really was spot on for me and being able to talk to and learn from him in a controlled space with no distractions was hugely beneficial, as it enabled me to really focus for those few days during the camps.

All in all, I had a great time and would certainly be willing to recommend startup mentoring and help spread the word around.

by Gamal Guemeih