In Morocco, there’s no need to introduce couscous. But it’s a different story in the US and UK. Lamiaa Bounahmidi wants to change that, making couscous into the next Western food fad.
In November, Bounahmidi launched Looly's, a hand-made, healthy couscous that comes with innovative and original recipes – think gluten-free couscous or couscous as a dessert. Above all Looly’s wants to be eater-friendly: easy to make, wholesome, and delicious couscous.
Bounahmidi, a staunch advocate of social entrepreneurship, designed Looly’s as a tool for sustainable economic and rural development. Looly’s couscous is produced close to the small town of Sidi Kacem in Morocco and dedicates 40% of its revenue to a social action fund for its employees and their community.
It’s a concept that’s catching on: On November 23rd, Looly’s won the Startup Cup Maroc.
Looly’s’ name comes from the Arabic lou’lou’, which means pearl and is used to describe the best things. After couscous, Looly’s team wants to develop new “pearls” from cuisines from all over the world for the international market.
I did a short Q&A with Bounahmidi, on Looly’s social entrepreneurship, its greatest challenges, and its plans for expansion.
Wamda: Where can we get Looly’s products?
Lamiaa Bounahmidi: At this point we’re still creating our stock; we’ll start exporting in January 2014. For now, we’ve decided to sell our products solely on Kickstarter. As of now, our clients come from the US and the UK, because those countries have a good image of Morocco as a culinary destination, and because the American market is rather open to novelty.
Wamda: Still, the US is a notoriously tough market to enter. How do you plan on getting Looly’s out there?
LB: It’s because it’s tough that it’s worth going there. Contrary to common perception, Americans like to try new products, and they’re not afraid to spend some money if they like a product, a project, or a company. I’m counting on content marketing and innovation at a very local scale as a way to enter the market.
Looly's is also accessible to people outside the US and the UK through Kickstarter.
Wamda: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
LB: There’s an Arabic proverb that goes “difficulty is mother of innovation.” Mainly, we’ve had to overcome the lack of suppliers. For instance, we couldn’t find packagers catering to new companies so we had to design and produce our own packaging; we had to be really resourceful.
Wamda: What did you learn from winning StartupCup Maroc?
LB: This competition brought a lot of constructive feedback on the project. Mentors were helpful in challenging me and helping me improve both the product itself and the way we were selling it. But mostly, as the winner, I will have access to a mentoring program in Silicon Valley offered by PITME, and the entrepreneurship program of the OCP Foundation, and will take part in the global StartupCup finale in 2014.
Taking part in a competition is always a good idea, as it enables the team to “ship the product” as Seth Godin would say, to show it to people and to receive the necessary slap in the face or boost of confidence.
Wamda: Why did you choose crowdfunding for your product?
LB: At the moment, we’re self-funded, but Kickstarter will offer an opportunity to get funding, and get people to support and discover Looly's at the same time.
We want to raise a minimum of $30,000 USD; by December 7, we’ve passed the $5,000 USD cap and have been selected as one of the Staff Picks featured on the homepage.
In early 2014, we’ll go the US to fundraise.
You can contribute to the Kickstarter’s campaign here. Check out Looly's Kickstarter video below: