Written by: Stephanie Blum
Rihab Hasanain, 35 years old and mother of 2, is an amazing woman. Not just she is an assistant professor in the largest female university in the world, Princess Noura University, and passes her knowledge to empower female students and create future leaders, but she holds a PhD in health services management from Queensland University of Technology and has conducted plenty of scientific research that is now being used to create a healthier life for children in Saudi Arabia. In addition, she was one of the winners of the NextGen in Franchising Global competition for start-ups.
Rihab found out that the prevalence of obese and overweight children has increased dramatically in the Middle East during the last decade and realized that most of the school canteens are providing junk food to children.
After completing her PhD and returning from Australia to Saudi, she was worried about what her daughter was going to eat at school, Rihab spoke to a few mothers and saw a big problem in school feeding. Without a clear and easy option, she decided to fix this problem. Supported emotionally by her husband and youngest sister Wafaa and connected with a number of food activists from around the world, Rihab started her idea by founding Blooming Bs.
Blooming Bs is a social enterprise that is devoted to providing children with healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals, Rihab aims to create an outstanding impact to solve this issue and create generations of healthy and happy children. It was founded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in October 2016 by establishing a commercial kitchen and grew to attract a group of 10 multidisciplinary and passionate women (and mothers) who love to cook.
Blooming Bs mission is to combat childhood obesity in Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by promoting healthy eating habits and reduce the growing burdens on the healthcare system by combating non-communicable diseases and childhood obesity in society. This includes raising awareness of children and parents about the importance of healthy food and lifestyle, providing children with healthy food choices, and creating a community of future healthy eaters.
Rihab says Blooming Bs is like a “third child” to her, full of challenges and different experiences and no regrets at all. It’s her chance to apply her research to a learning experience that might impact so many children and also the school community (teachers, staff, etc). She faced the challenges of being an entrepreneur with courage and, despite the lack of experience as a CEO, she was able to succeed. Being a female entrepreneur was a bigger challenge, but Rihab faced all the difficulties for her idea, and kept going and is now expanding her successful business.
“I wanna dream big” – Rihab says there is no point on dreaming small, especially when you want to create a profound impact on children’s health. Her goal is to expand operations and scale to all schools in Saudi Arabia in 5 years. She wants to dominate and disrupt the school canteen situation, by being the replacement to the food court, and create a healthy generation.
But it’s not easy! Operations start at 6AM every day. To date, Blooming Bs supplying more than 20 day-care centers and schools. In 2018 Blooming Bs provided over 40,000 meals to children of eager parents who wants to shape their children’s future.
Rihab runs her business with a social goal, as there is more satisfaction and motivation to her and her team success to know that they are helping children. Motivated by the feedback from mothers telling her that their children are healthier and happier, the final words from Rihab to this interview were quite encouraging: “Believe in yourself, focus on constructive criticism, choose the best opportunities and work hard!”