This year, Sara-Kristina Hannig Nour from Sara and Lara’s Baskets has reached yet another milestone. She has won the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards (CWIA). Among 2000 applications received by Cartier for the CWIA each year, only 3 from each region are selected for the finals. The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is an international business-plan competition that aims to support women starting up their business all around the world. In an effort to promote female entrepreneurship, the CWIA winner receives funding, sharing, coaching, fostering and networking throughout the globe.
After moving to Egypt to study organic farming at Cairo University, Sara found that access to fresh produce in Egypt, was nothing like the constant supply of fresh produce she was accustomed to in Switzerland. For her, year-round sunshine that that Egypt is blessed with did not exactly translate into an equally abundant supply of fresh, local organic produce. What she found was fruits and vegetables were loaded with chemicals and pesticides on the insides, and giving them a deceptively nutritious and appealing exterior. So in January 2014, Sara and Lara’s Baskets was created based on organic farming methods such as inter-cropping as a way to manage pests naturally and using waste-free closed-loop system. Sara and Lara’s baskets deliver weekly shipments of organic, seasonal produce, fresh from the field right to the customer.
Between writing a business plan for the competition and running her wildly successful organic farm business, Sara-Kristina Hannig Nour talked to us about her experience, her plans for the future and her reaction when she found out she was one of the 3 finalists from the MENA region for the CWIA. “I was excited and grateful – getting the call from Cartier was amazing and it makes me proud to be part of a group of young women entrepreneurs that are all passionate and working hard to make a difference in this world.” The prize for the winner is yearlong mentoring support, a place on an INSEAD Executive Programme, a US$100,000 grant, international media exposure and networking and coaching opportunities. But she emphasizes that the biggest prize will be the experience, the learning opportunity and positive attention brought to the Egyptian agricultural sector and its huge potential.
The significance of the award itself extends much further than the immediate media exposure. As Sara says, “Being part of the Cartier Womens Initiative Awards (CWIA) is a great chance for us – it gives us support, encouragement and international recognition. I look forward to meeting inspirational women entrepreneurs from all over the world, that are all trying to solve contemporary global challenges; this exchange is invaluable. I get to work together with a coach (from mckinsey or INSEAD) for the months leading up to awards ceremony in April where we will present and pitch our project in front of a Jury in Singapore. Receiving this kind of help and support, and bringing our business to a larger audience will have a positive effect on our company and will help bring us to the next level.”
So what’s next for Sara? Sara has no plans of slowing down. On the contrary, she is translating that momentum into improving and expanding her business. Besides plans in the works to improve the delivery service of the baskets and deliver more baskets to more people, specifically regular delivery to Alexandria and El Gouna, Sara and Lara’s Baskets also just launched a new website that simplifies the ordering process for weekly orders of fresh produce straight from the farm. But in the long term, Sara aims to spread awareness about living the organic way by connecting consumers with their food source but also encouraging other growers to cultivate responsibly, by capitalizing on the growing market for organic and premium, pesticide-free produce, and continuing to supply fresh produce to a wider customer base.
Photocredit : Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards