The emerging Emirati company, Sprout FZCO, recently raised $200,000 from FA Holding, and the company is seeking to use the funds to expand its retail products and services across the region. Sprout is the first company in the UAE to manufacture baby food entirely from whole plants. It uses organic ingredients from local sources, packs its products in recycled materials. and also avoids food waste by producing customized foods.
We speak to Oz Erbas Soydaner, co-founder and CEO of Sprout about the financing round, the idea behind her company, its goals and plans in the future, in addition to her opinion on the entrepreneurial environment in the Middle East.
“We realized that parents just don’t know the details of nutrition and how fundamentally important a healthy diet is for kids. And this is where Sprout comes in, we do all the research on what’s best for optimum health and growth and we offer products in a way that is convenient for parents.”Oz Erbas Soydaner, co-founder, CEO, Sprout
Soydaner is a biochemist by education and a serious hobby chef. She completed her Master’s degree in her hometown Berlin, specializing in immunology. She was always attuned to health and nutrition, but it wasn’t until she had her first daughter in 2015 when she realized that there was something fundamentally wrong about the food that she perceived as healthy.
As a new mom, she felt this overwhelming urge to really understand nutrition better with the objective to feed her daughter appropriately, and in line with what science says to be healthful. But the internet is full of opposite views–one expert recommends something, which another one condemns so deeply. Finding a trusted source isn’t easy. Given her background in biochemistry, she decided to delve into primary research literature, and the more she read, the more she understood the complexity of the subject of nutrition. Furthermore, she started to realise that the food industry and their interests deliberately created some of the complexity.
In Spring of 2019, Oz tried her first menu on six children across different ages and cultural backgrounds. Katerina Papatryfon’s kids were also part of the pilot and soon after she joined as a co-founder.
From a business perspective, the biggest obstacle the Soydaner and her new co-founder Papatryfon faced was finding the right people and building the “dream team.” “Once Katerina and I teamed up we decided that we didn’t just want people looking for “a job” but we wanted to work with people who are deeply passionate about making a difference in this world and working for something that is bigger than a paycheck – above all,” Soydaner says.
“Sprout is about creating a better, healthier world for our children. And looking back, we actually are amazed how our team has stuck it through with us working literally as volunteers for an entire year! This was real hardship on their part and we cannot thank them enough for their hard work and commitment,” she continues.
The funds from FA Holding are intended to spur Sprout’s growth. Over the next few months, they will launch a series of “groundbreaking” new products, and sales channels that will grow Sprout in the UAE and also prepare them to enter new geographies.
Entrepreneurs travel bumpy roads, but it’s safe to say that female entrepreneurs fight an uphill battle on top of that.
“In many meetings Katerina and I are the only females, trying to convince a room full of male executives to make decisions of food products that are purchased by their wives and eaten by their kids,” Soydaner says. “The startup community in the UAE is vibrant and full of unexpected turns and we can say with confidence that it really pays to be two founders – having perspectives turn problems into opportunities.”
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