Good Food Grows Good Business in Lebanon

Entrepreneurship by women is good for business and essential for economic growth. That’s why IFC works with the private sector to expand access to capital and provide training for women entrepreneurs in areas such as business management and leadership. To read about IFC’s initiatives, visit www.ifc.org/gender.

 

Logo-Creating MarketsZeina Khoury Daoud grew up picking olives and pressing them into olive oil in her hometown in Northern Lebanon. She didn’t know it at the time, but with each new bottle she gave away to family and friends, she was building her career. In 1996, when she was 22, she began selling her olive oil—now packaged in an artisanal bottle and branded Le Potager—to gourmet shops within driving distance.

Le Potager soon added home-grown spices and teas to its offerings, and by 2010 Daoud’s next enterprise, Le Potager Bio, was delivering 100 percent organic, local, seasonal produce boxes to clients. The new venture was so successful that in 2016 Daoud was awarded BLC Bank’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. BLC Bank, an IFC client, is known for backing Lebanon’s small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—especially those owned by women, who face disadvantages ranging from lack of collateral to restrictive legislation.

Le Potager grew by 35 percent after Daoud won her award. She was then mentored through BLC Bank’s network, whose guidance helped her access new markets for the Le Potager Bio boxes in the Middle East.

BLC Bank also supported Daoud’s next move, which she calls a “life-changing experience”: acquiring a French franchise of organic grocery stores to operate in and around Beirut.

Now, in addition to Le Potager Bio, Daoud runs three outlets of the La Vie Claire grocery store—and plans are underway for a fourth. Daoud’s operations employ 16 people, including nine women—but she’s still at work every morning at 5:30, personally preparing the Le Potager Bio boxes for that day’s delivery to subscribers across Lebanon and the Gulf Region.

Daoud acknowledges that many obstacles along the way often prompted her to give up on being an entrepreneur. She remembers that the difficulties of building her businesses at the same time that she was raising three young children seemed insurmountable. But now, she encourages other women to pursue their ambitions. “Nothing is more rewarding than working for what you believe in,” Daoud says.

A woman entrepreneur’s taste for healthy food nourishes a new venture. Photos by Dominic Chavez.


Read more about IFC’s work toward gender equality at www.ifc.org/gender.

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Published in March 2018

 

This story is part of a series on IFC’s work to help create markets that give new opportunities to people in developing countries. These innovative approaches have helped solve some of the largest problems in countries or, sometimes, entire regions.