RIYADH: A Saudi businesswoman has been selected as one of the top 21 finalists of the 2020 Cartier Women’s Initiative for her obesity-fighting enterprise.
Rihab Hasanain, CEO and founder of Blooming Bs, was named out of 1,200 applicants from 162 countries for her ambitious food business targeting children in Saudi Arabia.
The brainchild of the Saudi entrepreneur is a social enterprise that works as a catering partner with schools to provide children with healthy and delicious food to combat childhood obesity in the Kingdom and beyond.
“We are helping parents in today’s busy life by providing their children healthy meals delivered to their doorsteps whether in schools or at home, as well as creating jobs for women from all walks of life,” Hasanain told Arab News.
She completed a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in health services management in Australia. Upon her return to Saudi Arabia, Hasanain looked at schools for her daughter but found the food options “unacceptable.”
Coupled with her concern about rising childhood obesity rates, Hasanain took it upon herself to make sure that Saudi Arabia’s children received better food in schools.
The company’s name originates from the three Bs: Brain, body and box. The healthy boxes are provided to students and children aged two and above at schools, canteens, childcare centers and indoor playground centers.
Anyone who has passion, determination and knowledge can create impactful solutions worthy of global recognition and support.
Rihab Hasanain, CEO and founder of Blooming Bs
With an obesity rate of 35.4 percent, Saudi Arabia is the Middle East’s second-fattest country after Kuwait, according to The World Factbook.
In 2016, the mother of two shifted focus from her career in academia to establish her commercial kitchen in Riyadh, where she found a location, hired staff and completed necessary paperwork. Beginning with only two employees, Blooming Bs now has over 20 workers.
It served 60,000 meals in its first year, doubling that in the second.
She said that her business currently caters meals for a school of 400 students and another one with more than 1,000. She is also receiving other requests from schools with more than 2,000 students. Blooming Bs prides itself on providing opportunities to Saudi mothers who might struggle to find employment elsewhere.
The company’s all-female staff works during school hours, leaving mothers free to look after their children after class hours are over.
According to Hasanain, her workers do not need an extensive culinary background. “Blooming Bs doesn’t require any particular education level or experience — just awareness of the issue and a passion for cooking.”
Hasanain wants other Saudi women to know that anything is possible if they have the drive to get it done.
“Anyone who has passion, determination and knowledge can create impactful solutions worthy of global recognition and support,” she told Arab News.
Hasanain said that if she is named the region’s laureate, she can rest assured that her dream of eradicating unhealthy foods from Saudi schools is well on its way.
“The idea that was sketched on a piece of paper and became a business is now being acknowledged and receiving enough support to expand our impact to a wider segment,” she said.
She added: “It will be an affirmation that my dream of seeing Blooming Bs as a replacement of all unhealthy school canteens is underway.”
Founded in 2006, the Cartier Women’s Initiative has helped women reach their full potential by shining a light on their achievements and providing them with the necessary financial, social and human capital support to grow their businesses and build their leadership skills.
The program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aim to have a strong and sustainable social and environmental impact as defined by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The initiative has accompanied 240 promising female entrepreneurs hailing from 56 different countries and has awarded over $3 million to support their endeavors.
The seven laureates — one from each region — will be announced in early June. Each region’s laureate will receive $100,000 in prize money, and the second and third runners-up will receive $30,000.
All seven laureates and 14 finalists will benefit from financial advisory services, one-to-one strategy coaching, media visibility and international networking opportunities, as well as a place on an INSEAD executive education program.