April 5, 2016
Entrepreneur Khadija El Bouhali, a participant in the HEC Montréal entrePrism business incubator, successfully presented her CousMos firm and its couscous dishes on the first episode of the fifth season of Dans l’œil du dragon. The French-language counterpart of The Dragons’ Den was broadcast on Radio-Canada on April 4, 2016.
She received the support of four out of the five “dragons” (Serge Beauchemin, Mitch Garber, Danièle Henkel and Gilbert Rozon), for $35,000 and a 25% stake in her company.
“Mitch Garber told me that I was the perfect definition of entrepreneurship, and Serge Beauchemin was on my side right from the start,” said Khadija after the show. Needless to say, she’s very eager to start her collaboration with them!
From Morocco to Quebec, things are cooking!
As far back as she can remember, Khadija has always had an entrepreneurial flair. It was her parents, though, who encouraged her to make her dreams come true. “I was very close to my father, and he was fighting cancer at the end of his life,” she told us. “He was the one who told me to go ahead and start my couscous business.”
The Morocco native has been living in Quebec for many years now. She first studied management science in Montreal and worked with community organizations.
It took about ten years for her plans to take shape, and she has been devoting herself to her dream full-time for three years. “I’m no chef, but I have a feeling for taste and texture and the right ingredients. As I gain experience I’m getting more self-confidence. I’m working hard.” And her hard work has been rewarded several times: in 2016, for example, she won the “Determination award” in the Québec Entrepreneurship Contest held by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de la Rive-Sud.
Developing entrepreneurial spirit
After putting together an initial business plan and plenty of trial and error, Khadija felt that she needed to do more to structure her entrepreneurship knowledge and experience.
So she turned to the programs and resources available at HEC Montréal. She started with L’esprit entrepreneurial, a free online course offered via the EDUlib platform. “The course showed me what I was capable of,” she emphasizes, “and that I could do it, and above all that I really had that entrepreneurial fibre!”
She prepared some of her products and brought them to the networking session at the end of the program, since she wanted to thank the School for its help and the knowledge she gained from the course. “I made an impression, and I told myself that only a real entrepreneur could do that!”
The course also gave her the tools to develop a new business plan. That plan gave her access to the entrePrism incubator program of the Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Acquisition and Business Families Hub at HEC Montréal, which offers a support program designed to help cultural communities and entrepreneurs integrate the Quebec business community through entrepreneurship.
Since the program started, in January 2016, she has gained a great deal from the incubator group courses. “Every time I take part in a group meeting I learn something. I come out of it inspired and motivated.”
CousMos products at the Coop HEC Montréal
Thanks to entrePrism and its role as a facilitator as part of the incubator, and thanks to the Coop HEC Montréal, Khadija’s products are now available at the cafeteria in the Côte-Ste-Catherine building. The whole university community can enjoy her couscous dishes on campus.
She says she has really put her heart into developing these dishes. “In addition to the traditional flavours I remember from my childhood, it was very important for me that my dishes be certified by Aliments du Québec, steam cooked, and prepared with additive-free ingredients and quality grain-fed meat.”
No shortage of ideas
Khadija is optimistic about the future and dreaming of new innovations. “I’m thinking about edible trays, and maybe selling my dishes in corner stores and health food markets. Anything is possible!”
HEC Montréal wishes Khadija El Bouhali and her CousMos company lots of success!
Photo: Yanick MacDonald