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Getting the courage and support to go into business

Muriel Christel Koucoï

When Muriel Koucoï first moved from Benin to Canada to study medical biology, little did she know that some 20 years later, she would be running her own company: SIMKHA Biocosmétiques. The business support programs of HEC Montréal’s La base entrepreneuriale, not only gave her the boost she needed to ensure her business could remain viable, but they also helped her take steps to make her business more environmentally and socially responsible.

Finding ways to make her dreams come true

  • As a young mom, Muriel was determined to find an answer to her son Lorenzo’s skin problems. She drew on recipes passed down by her mother to make her first natural body butters. When she saw her homemade creations were a hit with her friends and family, she decided to launch a line of skincare products.
  • In the early years, Muriel ran her business on the side, on top of her day job in health care. The company was doing well but, by her own admission, lacked structure. The COVID-19 pandemic forced her hand, as she realized she would need to invest more of herself if she wanted to keep the business going.

  • A friend suggested Muriel look into a start-up assistance program. She immediately thought of HEC Montréal, where she had previously taken training in health services management. To her surprise, her business project was selected for the EntrePrism incubator. She was able to flesh out her business model and form a strong network of contacts, but she wanted more tools to increase her sales, get financing and build her brand credibility so she could keep her business viable in the long term. She applied for the National Bank Accelerator and once again made the cut. 
Muriel Koucoï

“ Before I joined the accelerator, I was wondering how I was going to make my biocosmetics business stand out among all these tech companies. But instead of having to defend why I was chosen to be there, I was welcomed in with open arms. This encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. ”

“The best experience of my career” 

During her time in HEC Montréal’s entrepreneurship programs, Muriel made the most of the supportive resources available to her. For example, she was able to refine her project based on advice she received from MBA students and draw on the expertise of the teams at IDEOS, HEC Montréal’s social impact management research and transfer hub.  
Since Muriel completed the National Bank Accelerator program:  

  • She can more clearly articulate how her business provides value to her customers. SIMKHA offers products that are organic, vegan and cruelty-free.
  • Out of consideration for the environment, the business has developed a zero-waste division that gives the containers from their products a second life.
  • SIMKHA is also committed to combatting the use of toxic ingredients in cosmetics and supports fair trade women’s cooperatives.

  • SIMKHA’s products, which were already available online, are now available at retail locations throughout Quebec and the rest of Canada. 

  • Muriel has plans to make SIMKHA her full-time focus by 2024. 

“I would do both of these programs again in a heartbeat, because they completely changed the direction I was heading with SIMKHA. For instance, I realized that I was not interested in a business model that did not prioritize the environment. I also decided that the business should be more socially responsible and locally focused.”

Muriel’s story

2000-2003 Bachelor’s degree in medical biology, UQTR.
2005-2009 Master’s degree in clinical epidemiology, Université de Montréal.
2010-PRESENT Previously worked in a multitude of roles in Quebec’s health care system, including research and project management, and continues to work part time as a consultant.
2018 Founded SIMKHA Biocosmétiques.
2019-2021 Participated in the EntrePrism incubator (2019–2020) and the National Bank Accelerator (2020–2021).
2022 Named one of Canada’s 100 Black Women to Watch by Canada International Black Women Excellence; SIMKHA awarded Skincare Brand of the Year at the Black Fashion & Beauty Gala.

HEC Montréal: Where opportunities are created

HEC Montréal provides an entrepreneurial environment that has helped hundreds of companies of all kinds get their start, with an extensive business network and a variety of supportive resources. This includes the Parcours Rémi-Marcoux program, the EntrePrism incubator and the National Bank Accelerator, as well as Next AI and CDL-Montréal, accelerators that specialize in tech start-ups. These programs give entrepreneurs of all backgrounds access to our researchers’ expertise across a range of disciplines, from data science to social innovation.

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entrepreneurs coached through our 3 La base entrepreneuriale programs

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