When the financial and economic crisis hitLebanon in October 2019, Maha Mrad, turned the crisis into a healthy opportunity for herself and her community by founding a nut butter business: “Spreadly.” A first-time business owner, Maha learned to grow and manage“Spreadly” thanks to several entrepreneurship programs, including Jusoor’s Agriculture Accelerator project.
Creativity during crisis
Before “Spreadly,” Maha worked as an engineer. She exercised regularly, loved healthy food —especially nut butter — and enjoyed buying nut butter from her local grocery store. However, when the economic crisis hit, grocery stores started running out of goods, and prices went through the roof. Maha started looking for other ways to enjoy her nut butter.
She started by making peanut butter. “The peanut butter was a success with my colleagues at work.The next challenge was preparing a chocolate hazel nut butter that resembled the flavor ofNutella but used only natural ingredients,” Maha says. These ingredients were being supplied from local farms, shops, and villages. After a few tries, Maha got the taste and texture of peanut and chocolate hazelnut butter just right, and her coworkers began asking for special orders.
“Eventually, when the demand for my nut butter increased, I decided to start selling it, but I kept the whole thing as a side business. Later, I created an Instagram page and started working on the label and design."
“As someone who comes from an engineering background, I didn’t know how to run a successful business, especially in the context ofa crisis. I didn’t even have the entrepreneurial mindset,” Maha says.
Along her entrepreneurial journey, Maha learned about Jusoor’s Agriculture Accelerator Project, powered by Sanad Academic and part of the Jusoor Entrepreneurship Program. She joined the program in 2022 and learned helpful skills for managing her business.
“With Jusoor, I received group mentoring sessions where I learned about storytelling as a marketing strategy. Over this phase, I crystallized my understanding of Spreadly as a ‘healthy movement.’ Next, I learned about the essentials of running a business, such as the break-evenpoint, the basics of production, and how to price a product. After that, Jusoor helped me connect with various branding agencies and allowed meto benefit from one-on-one coaching sessions with successful entrepreneurs in the field.”
After three months of training, Maha won second place in a competition organized by Jusoor Agriculture Accelerator to support 33 participating start-ups in addressing solutions to challenges faced in the agriculture sector inJordan and Lebanon.
Maha soon put her newfound knowledge from Jusoor’s Agriculture Accelerator and other programs to use. “Six months ago, I left my full-time job and decided to focus on my business.Today, I have an 80-square-meter factory inBeirut that includes a small showroom and various machinery. I also have a full-time team working with me, and our most recent success is establishing our e-commerce store on a reliable website.”
Today, Maha’s “Spreadly” is available at many grocery stores in Lebanon, offering customers a healthy snack made of natural ingredients.“Leading a successful business is a daily challenge that requires real belief in one’s vision.”Maha’s vision is to spread her brand to offshore markets, exporting her offering to more people with rising need to her products.