BareedEE has turned holding packages into increased revenue and traffic for small businesses. The idea is to create a network of collection points that will receive packages for people who work all day. This is convenient for clients, while also promoting local businesses.
Location: Ramallah, Palestine
Product / Service Offering: Courier Service
Founder Interviewed: Shaher Husein
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to Palestinian parents. I grew up helping my father in the grocery store business while going to school. Then I graduated Brooklyn College with a Bachelor’s degree in Business. In 2011, I decided to leave the states to work in logistics and teach English part time in China for three years. An entrepreneur at heart, I pitched business ideas at various startup weekend events throughout China.
I would visit family in Palestine every year during my time in China. I never placed in any of the events in China with my business ideas; therefore, I decided to pitch one of those ideas at a Palestinian business event called Garage48.
In the beginning, my motivation was to build a business and make a lot of money. Having worked on my startup in the region for a few years now and interacting with the people of Palestine, my motivation has changed. Now, I want to build a successful technology business in order to motivate the entrepreneurs in the region.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
The idea for BareedEE originated while working in family businesses. Since customers would be at work all day, we would often be asked if they could send a package to our store to hold until they finished work. We had no problem doing this for them since they were regulars. We never made money off holding the package, but those customers would usually pick up the packages and buy things from our store at the same time. So I thought, “how I could create a business that would give these mom and pop stores a little income from holding packages, and extra foot traffic to their business?” The idea was originally to create a network of collection points to receive packages for people who were not available to do so. This was even more ideal in a place like Palestine, since addresses aren’t well established there yet.
Having pitched the idea in January 2014 at the Garage48 event, I was able to find my then co-founder and win 2nd place. This was the first time placing in the top 3 at any of the ten events I pitched at. We later were accepted in Fastforward, Palestine’s first accelerator program, and registered the company in August 2014.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
- Reliability – It’s hard to find a reliable courier in the region. Customers are fine with setting pick/drop off times for packages, but they want a courier who actually follows through with that schedule.
- Convenience – Businesses in Palestine are used to calling a courier to pick up a package. BareedEE wants to get those businesses to start ordering package pickups by using technology (website/mobile device).
- Cost – These businesses are very price sensitive. Most will not offer free delivery since their starting profit margins are so low.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
BareedEE focuses on technology and freelance couriers. Easy to use applications to schedule a package pickup and freelance couriers helps increase the speed of service and reduce cost to the customers. This business model has been proven outside of the region, but is relatively new within the Middle East, especially Palestine.
- Higher Council for Innovation & Excellence is helpful with acceleration, innovation and funding.
- Welfare Association – Taawon is helpful with subsidizing entry level position salaries for six months at a time.
- Build a network. This is very important. Talk to as many people as possible and connect with them. This will give you a pool of people to reach out and ask for help when you need them most.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Finding the product/market fit. We went through about 3-4 iterations before settling on our current business model. The previous iterations had to do with international package delivery. This was challenging due to customs issues/taxes while items are being held at the border for weeks at a time. Our current model only focuses on domestic deliveries. Even further, we are focusing only on the city of Ramallah at this time.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
Fastforward program gave $20,000 to each startup during the four-month accelerator program from August-December 2014. I was able to keep the business going on that initial investment for 18 months. This was because salaries in Palestine are much lower than they are in the states.
if I could do it over again, I would have started the business with my then co-founder and find the right product/market fit. Quietly get a decent amount of traction, and then seek funding.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Building a company gives a person a lot of experience with the challenges that entrepreneurs face. One thing that is very important is finding people who are as passionate about your idea as you are. Their resume might look great and they are willing to start working as soon as possible, but their commitment might not be as strong. In the early stages, how can the founder get them to come on board and stick with him/her through the good and bad times in order to build a real company?
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
I am currently back in New York City working as an Uber driver to save enough money to go back to the Middle East and work on my startup. Unfortunately, it seems like every month that goes by leads to another obstacle. For the month of April 2017, taxes are due!
Due to visa issues with entering Palestine, I find it hard to manage freelance employees from a distance since they are working on multiple projects and occasionally get discouraged from problems that we face when trying to get BareedEE up and running.
Finally, my co-founder and CTO decided to quit BareedEE in December after being together for almost three years.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
I’m the type of entrepreneur who listens to motivational speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk, Eric Thomas and Tony Robbins on Youtube to help keep me on track. Most entrepreneurs fail because they stop when they encounter an obstacle they think is impossible to overcome. The way I see it, there’s a solution for every problem. Sometimes even the biggest problems are a blessing in disguise. It might sound corny, but it’s all about moving forward. If the entrepreneur really wants to succeed at what they are doing, they will find a way to get past every obstacle that comes their way.
I also found it helpful to succeed by putting myself in uncomfortable positions. For example, at one point BareedEE was made up of twelve full-time and part-time team members. I was supporting them through working as an Uber driver. So the solution I had to support all of them was to sleep in my car for nine months. This forced me to stay working on the road in order to make enough money.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
BareedEE will be in a soon to be released documentary sponsored by HPE called “Seed”. “Seed” follows three startups from around the world as they head to San Francisco to pitch at Angel Hacks’ Global Demo Day.
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