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From Cairo to the Kitchen: A Culinary Odyssey

Embarking on a journey that spans continents and cultures, Marwa Shehata, a 2000 Mass Communication graduate from the American University in Cairo, has woven her way through the dynamic realms of marketing and public relations in Egypt and Qatar. Yet, it was her unyielding passion for cooking, deeply rooted in childhood memories of her mother’s kitchen, that ignited the flame of entrepreneurship within her. In 2022, Marwa took a bold leap, founding YallaCook Ltd in the UK—a venture that seamlessly merges her career expertise with her lifelong culinary fervor.

What inspired you to transition from a career in marketing and public relations to entrepreneurship in the culinary industry?

My transition from marketing to entrepreneurship was fueled by a desire for greater stability and autonomy in my professional life. In the corporate world, where job security often felt uncertain and the threat of redundancy loomed, I faced constant pressure. With the responsibility of providing for my children, I sought to create a more secure and empowering future. This desire led to the establishment of YallaCook, a venture that not only aligned with my passion for cooking but also aimed to build a legacy for my family, a safe haven where the fear of sudden job loss wouldn’t overshadow our lives.

How did your experience studying Mass Communication influence your entrepreneurial journey?

My mass communication background armed me with skills like strategic communication and audience understanding. These have been crucial in shaping YallaCook’s brand and connecting with our customers effectively. It’s about telling a story, not just selling a dish.

Can you share a pivotal moment or challenge you faced when founding YallaCook Ltd, and how did you overcome it?

 A major challenge during the early days of YallaCook in the UK was navigating cultural differences in communication. It was a learning curve, understanding the new context and adapting my approach to avoid misunderstandings. Additionally, one of the toughest parts was setting up in the UK. New country, new rules. It was daunting but enlightening. I leaned heavily on networking, learning from seasoned entrepreneurs, and staying adaptable. Every challenge was a lesson in disguise.

What role did your mother play in nurturing your passion for cooking, and how does her influence shape YallaCook’s culinary offerings?

 My mom’s influence in the kitchen is immeasurable. Her expertise with traditional Egyptian cooking and her magical touch with flavors are the soul of YallaCook’s cuisine. We’re not just offering food; we’re bringing those cozy, warm family dinners to our customers.

How do you balance the demands of entrepreneurship with being a parent, especially during the relocation to the UK?

It’s been a juggling act, balancing my business with my role as a parent. Time management and setting boundaries were key. Also, having a support system and understanding that it’s okay to not do it all perfectly helped maintain that balance.

In what ways has the multicultural culinary landscape of Egypt and Qatar influenced the development of YallaCook’s offerings in the UK?

The vibrancy and depth of Egyptian cuisine are at the heart of YallaCook. We bring the rich tapestry of flavors from Egypt to create dishes that are both authentic and unique. This approach appeals to those who already cherish Egyptian food, as well as to newcomers eager to explore its unique culinary delights.

What strategies did you employ to establish YallaCook as a hub for food enthusiasts in the UK market?

  We focused on authenticity and quality. It was about building a community, not just a customer base. Digital marketing, interactive events, and genuinely listening to our customers helped us tailor an experience that resonates.

Could you elaborate on the expansion plans for YallaCook, including the addition of halal supermarkets and freelance chef booking features?

Our next step includes introducing halal and Middle Eastern supermarkets, along with rare ingredients that are hard to find in the UK. We aim to make these accessible to everyone in the country and, in the future, expand our reach to make YallaCook’s unique culinary experiences available all over the world.

Winning the Global Entrepreneur award at the Global Woman Club event in the Houses of Parliament is a significant achievement. How did this recognition impact your entrepreneurial journey and future aspirations?

 Winning this award was immensely validating and motivating. It not only bolstered YallaCook’s visibility but also reinforced my commitment to continue innovating and growing the business. I want to take this moment to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mirela and the Global Woman Club for their invaluable support to entrepreneurs. Their guidance and resources have been crucial for people like me in our entrepreneurial journeys. I am deeply grateful to the judges for recognizing my efforts, to my family—my parents,husband, and children—for their unwavering support, and to all my supporters and those who believed in me and voted for me. This recognition is not just mine but a testament to the collective belief and efforts of everyone who has been a part of my journey.

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to follow their passions and make a tangible impact in their respective industries?

To aspiring entrepreneurs, remember your dreams are valid. Keep striving and believing. Embrace the journey, even when it takes you out of your comfort zone. It’s in these challenges that you’ll find growth and opportunity. Keep learning, stay flexible, and remember that every hurdle is a step closer to your goal. Stay committed

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