For Empowerment, Cantina, a Startup on the Rise

Originally from Tanta Governorate, Tokka Washmy and Mohamed Abdel Aziz are senior year industrial engineering students, on scholarships at Nile University, Cairo.

Tokka and Mohamed became members of the social enterprise, EYouth in 2014 and 2012 respectively, and worked with entrepreneurs and startups in various fields and in different stages of their businesses. Through EYouth they discovered their passion for, and their sense of entrepreneurship and began brainstorming ideas for businesses.

As students, they found it challenging to find healthy food options on campus at an affordable price, and therefore conducted a survey asking university students whether they too found it difficult to find affordable healthy food options during their time at the campus. Results indicated that most students within the 6th of October El-and Sheikh Zayed districts lack access to affordable meals. With these findings, the Cantina startup was born.

Cantina is a virtual marketplace that offers options for good quality healthy food, at prices affordable for students. It does so by connecting students with privately-owned catering service, certified chefs and housewives, who can afford the time to cook, and can use a few extra EGP. Through Cantina, students can now enjoy affordable meals from various kitchens in the area; kitchens can tap into new markets and get exposure; and unemployed women can be empowered, generate income and keep themselves busy.

However, being in their senior year of university, Tokka and Mohamed faced several challenges. These included balancing the time needed  for  their  studies with  that  needed  to realize their dream of establishing Cantina; the lack of support of their families who wanted them to postpone their project until after their graduation; lack of access to finance to start the business; and above all their inexperience with the food industry.

Hence, they started to apply for various programs to build their entrepreneurship knowledge, and were finally accepted by the USAID SEED Project-supported Eitesal Business Nurturing Initiative (EBNI) incubation program. Ebni incubator offered them the required €12.5K funding over 1.5 years through equity free seed funding, which enabled them to develop their own platform, scheduled to be launched late October, 2019.

In addition to seed funding, and as part of their incubation, Ebni also provided them with a space to work, consultation services offered by business development experts, and access to trainings on how to expand their team and Cantina’s legal framework. Tokka and Mohamed were also able to make use of their studies in industrial engineering by integrating concepts such as supply chain management and system design with their business. In September 2018, Cantina also won second place (EGP 75K) in a competition sponsored by WE, a Telecom Egypt Company.

Cantina is now starting to expand its network of kitchens in Sheikh Zayed and the 6th of October district, and have completed their pilot phase by contracting a privately-owned catering company, as well as a chef to prepare meal orders. Within 45 days pilot phase, they were able to make 300 orders and earn a net value of EGP 8,000.

“Cantina aspires to increase its market share and the employability of private catering, certified chefs and housewives”

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