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Is entrepreneurship always about the money?
Nils El Accad, founder and CEO of Organic Foods & Café, says starting a business should go beyond profit
March 27, 2014 9:40 by kippreport
My story goes back to when I was 15 years old. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and in her seven-year battle she taught me about raw foods, eating wholegrain, organic food and everything that food should be. I learned that modern industries are all about money, from the food to the pharmaceutical industries; working on treatments,rather than the less profitable one-time cures. The food industry is more interested in processed white flour and preservatives, to make things easier and give foods a longer shelf life than nutrition. These practises are not always in tune with what is in our best interests – in fact, quite often they are the opposite.
Years later, I became very ill and, after three years of going to doctors, I was finally cured by a homeopath, who told me that toxins had built up in my body and were affecting my health. I set out to make a change and bring good organic food to Dubai. However, all I ever heard about was listing fees, shelf rental, marketing levies etc. It was all just about the money. Even then, nobody wanted to list these products – they believed that it was a niche market and would not be profitable.
I had no option but to control the retail space myself, so I opened the Organic Foods & Café chain of organic supermarkets, which focuses on premium and healthy organic food. The aim of the shop is not to make a huge profit, nor do we worry about hitting quarterly targets. In fact, if money had been the motive I would have closed a long time ago. One of my sayings is: “It’s not about the money” because “it’s about nutrition”. Sure, we have to earn a living to stay open and achieve what we set out to do, but money is not the primary objective. This can get very confusing when we only really have the option to operate as a commercial firm. In the past I’ve been asked by others who wanted to start an NGO, but my advice to them was: “If you want it to work, make your life easy and open a private firm – it’s then up to you how you spend your money and whether you make a profit or not.”
If every business was always and only about the money there would be nothing left on this planet. I decided to take a stand and it’s even included in my mission statement: “If I am to work hard then let it be for something worthwhile and with those who share our values.” At the end, my business will be worth a lot of money and will be very profitable, but starting it up and getting to where we wanted to be was definitely not an easy journey. My aim has been to reinvest the money back into the organic industry – things that are really worth it. For me, the hardest aspect in business has been how to get the message out there – what I’m doing, why it’s different and why it is such a worthy cause.