Customer Stories, Food & Beverage

Tayybeh: Kind, Delicious, and Creating Sustainable Employment for Syrian Women

If you want to understand the Vancouver-based catering and food processing company Tayybeh, it’s all in the name. “Tayybeh” is Syrian for “kind” and “delicious”—and this unique social enterprise is full of both these qualities. Since launching in 2016, it’s become a BC success story, a source of inspiration for many social entrepreneurship projects, Vancouver’s home to exquisite Syrian food, and the top employer of newcomer women chefs from Syria.

Tayybeh founder Nihal Elwan didn’t have a background in food or entrepreneurship before starting Tayybeh. But as a long-time employee of various organizations within the United Nations, she definitely understood gender issues. She was working in Vancouver as a consultant in 2016 focusing on women’s employment, at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, when Canada started welcoming tens of thousands of new arrivals to the country.

tayybeh-catering-staff-photo

“I volunteered to help resettle families. It was so sad to see the situation. These families had lost everything and were trying to find a place in a very new culture. I thought, ‘How do you build a life with so many challenges?’ Now, I’m not Syrian, but I am Middle Eastern, and I know that Syrian food is absolutely delicious. What if I could provide sustainable employment to women from Syria through food?”

Tayybeh began as a series of pop-up dinner events. They would secure a venue, create a massive buffet, arrange entertainment and music…and the event would always sell out. It was the first time in their lives that Tayybeh’s chefs had cooked for people other than their families and personal guests, and they loved it. They wanted to know how they could work full-time. That launched Tayybeh as a full-service catering business. It grew quickly and organically on the strength of the cooking.

tayybeh-catering-woman-packing-food
Tayybeh Catering

“Our biggest challenges earlier on were working with people who had never been employed before. Explaining that taxes are something the government takes, not the company. Explaining that when you work, your schedule isn’t flexible. Learning to balance responsibilities between the workplace and home. Adjusting quantities and types of food to different groups, sizes, needs, and settings. Modifying recipes to many different dietary preferences and many other things needed to be sorted.”

Of course, a much bigger challenge was about to hit Tayybeh: the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the team was looking forward to its most exciting season of weddings, summer events, and growing partnerships. But once social gatherings were cancelled, that calendar was suddenly wiped clean.

“That was a challenging moment for us. We really didn’t want to shut down. So, we rolled up our sleeves and got creative. We dabbled in projects and got into things quickly before even crunching the numbers. Looking back, that whole time period was a blessing in disguise, because we created our retail products. It was stressful, but it helped us discover a new source of income.”

That new source is Tayybeh’s line of dips, pita chips, frozen meals, and baked goods. In fact, this is the project that sparked their partnership with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC).

“When we first launched our dips, we had very basic branding on our containers. But as we refined our products, we wanted beautiful, eye-catching sleeves. GLBC helped us develop and print these sleeves. Our rep at GLBC is so positive and easygoing! She always took the time to explain the technical aspects of our packaging. She’d drop off samples in person. When I found a sleeve type I wanted to switch to at the last minute, she said, ‘No problem,’ and made all the necessary tweaks.”

tayybeh-catering-folding-carton-sleevesThese days, Nihal and the Tayybeh team are excited to see their dips and chips on as many retail shelves as possible. They’re also working hard to support survivors of the devastating Feb 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria—a catastrophic event that claimed some of the team’s family members.

“We’re donating 50% of our profits to earthquake relief for the rest of February and fundraising throughout March. I’m so proud of my team; they’re showing up for work every day, despite the fact that they’re in mourning. This resilience is now a hallmark of Tayybeh”

Our work with Tayybeh makes us feel so proud and grateful. It’s wonderful when kindness is this delicious, isn’t it?

 

 

Blog Categories