Interview with Mohammed Kateb, CCO of Origin Co

As part of the interview series, Akram Turak interviewed Interview Mohammed Kateb, CCO of Origin Co.

1. Give a brief background about yourself and your business? Your Story.

I was born in Bath, England, my parents are Egyptian immigrants that settled in the UK in the early 70’s. They were very academic, my father was a Professor in Electrical Engineering at Bath Uni and my mother held a senior position at GSK, but I did not follow their paths, demonstrating entrepreneurism from the age of 11 through my paper round escapades!

I was born in Bath, England, my parents are Egyptian immigrants that settled in the UK in the early 70’s. They were very academic, my father was a Professor in Electrical Engineering at Bath Uni and my mother held a senior position at GSK, but I did not follow their paths, demonstrating entrepreneurism from the age of 11 through my paper round escapades! Mohammed Kateb, CCO of Origin Co.

During University I had several ventures for making money and I chose to pursue a career in corporate sales rather than accountancy in line with my Maths & Stats degree.  After graduation and a few twists in commission-only sales jobs, the turning point was enrolling in an 8-month residential sales training boot camp which I owe so much of my success to. This propelled me to a rewarding career within the Telecoms and IT boom, eventually leading to founding and running several resellers that are still growing to this day.

From a young age, my parents made sure I always studied Islam and developed myself, culminating in supporting my friends to launch a Muslim football academy in London for underprivileged kids, which is where I met Colin, the man behind the Single Origin Food Co, more about him later. In the early 2000s, I explored the food industry and learned a lot about the benefits of a healthy, Organic diet compared to one full of sugar, processed, and manufactured foods, which has been a big personal driver to building The Sofa.

From a young age, my parents made sure I always studied Islam and developed myself, culminating in supporting my friends to launch a Muslim football academy in London for underprivileged kids, which is where I met Colin, the man behind the Single Origin Food Co, more about him later. In the early 2000s, I explored the food industry and learned a lot about the benefits of a healthy, Organic diet compared to one full of sugar, processed, and manufactured foods, which has been a big personal driver to building The Sofa.

It was also very evident that not everyone could afford to purchase organic food and even from a young age that didn’t sit well with me, it led me to question why only the wealthy portion of the population could afford this “better for you” food and others had to eat what may be deemed bad for your health. This is a thought that I keep until today and drives a lot of our decision-making in our attempt to make high-quality food more accessible to the masses.

 2. What was the objective and vision to start the single Origin Co? Can you brief us about your business?

The “ah-ha” moment was not mine personally but that of Colin Carter my co-founder……but as soon as I heard it I had my own “ah-ha moment. A few years ago Colin was diagnosed with adult epilepsy at the age of 40 and this required him to consume a fair amount of medication. Sadly, one of the effects of this medication was for Colin’s energy levels to drop significantly, so rather than take more medication to rejuvenate him, he found that coffee had the desired effect.

In his continuous efforts to find a better quality cup of coffee that made him feel better for longer, he discovered “Single Origin” coffee. This coffee was sourced from small independent farms from across the world and it was clear that the quality in terms of taste and caliber was far greater than normal coffee sold in the majority of supermarkets or large chain coffee shops.

This led Colin to further investigate the concept of single-origin and why it exists. He found that most of the Food Trade are hidden behind closed doors. Large corporations are either not interested in where the food they supply comes from, or in some cases purposefully concealing this information. This results in breaching the natural codes of trade and farming development in the name of affordable food, which is ultimately about larger profits.

This directly impacts how people live in today’s farming communities, the corporations decide on pricing and infrastructure, which cripples everyone who is sustained by the farms and leads to a generational poverty trap that drives people from their healthy safe living environments and into the large built-up cities of the world. Single-origin is about a single trade route that benefits and empowers everyone. Colin then attempted to do a single-original origin” principle for all his family’s shopping, but it became evident the options were limited to coffee, tea, and in some cases cocoa and chocolate, and thus the desire to create a Single Origin Food company was born!

 3. What were the challenges faced by you as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?

There are many challenges I faced as an entrepreneur, the majority of which fall into the following categories:
1. Finding the right people to partner with and be part of our team.
2. Finding investors that shared our vision.
3. Doing things the right way and not the easy way.

 4. What is your roadmap for your business? Any funding requirements?
We have just launched our Vegan Un-Honey as the first of our “Un” range of products that are solution-based products aimed at addressing ecological and sustainability issues. Next year will see us launch our Un-Honey +, the first of our “+” based products whereby we will infuse our Vegan Un-Honey with the OG superfood “Raw Organic Flower Pollen”, this will be a range of fortified products that help us increase the nutritional value of everyday food items…All made possible by our single-origin methodology and going right to the source.

We have just launched our Vegan Un-Honey as the first of our “Un” range of products that are solution-based products aimed at addressing ecological and sustainability issues. Next year will see us launch our Un-Honey +, the first of our “+” based products whereby we will infuse our Vegan Un-Honey with the OG superfood “Raw Organic Flower Pollen”, this will be a range of fortified products that help us increase the nutritional value of everyday food items…All made possible by our single-origin methodology and going right to the source.

We intend to continue to expand and grow both our Un and + range of products and will go to the market to support these with a new round in Early 2022.

 5. How do you see the Panama startup scene and the role & contribution of entrepreneurs in the next 5 years?

As with most countries now there is an ever-growing frustration amongst the youth about the future, in particular economically, so this has forced many people to think outside of the traditional “go to uni and then become an employee” route, so I have seen many new start-ups pop up in a diversity of industries which I find really encouraging. However, we know that most businesses fail and I think that mentoring from established entrepreneurs is really critical for the new school to evolve and thrive, I hope to see more incubators and accelerators in the future.

 6. What advice would you like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

1. Pick something that you are passionate about, something that you have to do not something that you would like to do. Because get it right will involve a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, stress. Passion and desire to see it through is what will get you to the other side.

2. Surround yourself with good people and a good team. Remember no one knows everything and no one is great at everything. Make sure you build a team that can add value to you and your business, value comes in many forms, skills, desire, and trustworthiness, and make sure you like these people as you will be spending a lot of time with them. Find a mentor, someone that is willing to help and advise you preferably out of the kindness of their hearts or because they believe in the journey you are about to embark on.

3. Prepare for success. Too many founders/entrepreneurs prepare for failure, but many food businesses fail when they meet the success that they are not prepared for and cannot scale…..start small but think big!
4. Do not be afraid to pivot or change direction.

5. Perseverance and resilience are key in the food world, very few people have overnight success, you have to believe in what you do, have the patience to follow it through, and never give up.

Akram Turak is a contributor based out of Nagpur, India. He is also the creative director of TMA Worldwide, the parent company of GCCStartup.News, Startup Berita & Halal Biz News