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Mariam Saad, CEO at ApsenBio

Mariam Saad, CEO at ApsenBio

Published by Programme B

The ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator program is an annual program run by YES Employment + Entrepreneurship. It is funded by the Government of Canada, with the support of the Ville de Montreal and our corporate partners, Desjardins and SAP. 

In what city are you situated:


About your experience with ELLEvate:

Congratulations on winning 2nd prize in the ELLEvate Women Entrepreneurs Pre-Accelerator Pitch Competition. What does this program, and this award mean to you?

Thank you very much! The program and winning the award is a huge confidence boost and motivator. With the valuable feedback I got during weekly discussions and the financial boost that came with the award, I feel more motivated to push through with this business, because it’s clear there is merit in it from both a social and business perspective.

What do you think sets the ELLEvate pre-accelerator apart from other programs available to entrepreneurs in Quebec? 

ELLEvate’s pre-accelerator program is an intense 3-month program. I think what’s unique about it is that it’s specifically geared towards women entrepreneurs and open to start-ups of all sectors at various stages. This all-encompassing approach of the program allows all members to gain unique, creative insights into their business model by observing how someone at another stage or in another sector tackled a similar problem. The fact that we’re not in silos allows for this creative exchange. Additionally, because you’re all going through it together in a way, there’s a lot of support among the cohort members. I really appreciated it and benefitted from that. 

What was the highlight, for you, of the Pre-Accelerator Program? 

Being a recipient of a prize!! That was pretty awesome. And meeting the cohort in person definitely! But the parts within the program I enjoyed were stuff I never knew before. Analytical tools to identify different business-relevant metrics, how to do financial projections, and build a customer persona. These lessons were a bit intimidating but also fun and useful because it gives you a better picture of your business model. 

What was it like to be in a program that was focused on and consisted solely of women entrepreneurs? 

For me, it was something I needed, even if I was previously unaware that I did. Women face so many unique challenges in most employment sectors and entrepreneurship is no different. To have a group of women who understood the unique challenges that come with being a female-led business, really gave me the confidence and security to keep going forward. My cohort completely understood and picked up on the context when I was occupied with family responsibilities or when I was nervous about negotiating an investment deal/business arrangement and they helped me navigate it. This kind of empathy and support goes a long way.

What makes your business concept unique? 

Our business concept is unique in that there’s currently no solution out there. Plain and simple, there is no affordable, convenient way for people to test for allergens in their food.

How big is your company?

We’re just 3 people for now. Hoping to add on a fourth soon!

Have there been any business support tools and resources you’ve leaned on to navigate through the covid-19 pandemic? 

We are currently not actively selling units, so we have not needed to rely on business support tools to keep the business going.

What inspires and motivates you to work on your concept every day?  

My mother. I keep thinking of all the stress she went through dealing with her own kids’ allergies (as if there wasn’t enough to worry about already). So, when I think of other mothers with young kids with the same problem, I think of my own mother and that motivates me. 

What tools are essential for your professional life (apps, software)? 

CALENDAR, Excel, Outlook, Notes, Word, PDF readers/editors and Zoom. Alarms and timers too. My whole life revolves around these tools now.

What does your workspace look like? 

Two laptops (one is on its last legs), a screen, lots of pens and wires and a really, really crummy Ikea desk.

How do you organize your days to optimize your workflow? 

I take 15 minutes at the end of every workday to make sure I have tasks ready and set for tomorrow. I try to make small tasks the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do during the day. This helps me feel accomplished and gets me warmed up. I do some small tasks at the end of the day because that’s when I’m least productive or have the least “brain juice”.

What’s your best tip for saving/managing your time? 

If something takes less than 2 minutes, get it out of the way. For me, this has freed up a lot of time and spared me a lot of stress

What does your brand represent/reflect? Who is your customer? 

Empowerment, control, and peace of mind. I want people to have more agency when it comes to making choices about food and not be afraid of food. My customers are parents of kids with food allergies and people suffering from food allergies and intolerances.

What is the best advice given to you? 

Know yourself. Because at the end of it all, you need to show up for yourself every single day. It’s important to know your boundaries, limits, fears, strengths, etc., and work with them to get you to where you need to be. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered as an entrepreneur? 

I think the challenges I face or have faced are not unique to me as an entrepreneur. Having been through the cohort and interacted with other entrepreneurs, I think it’s all the same kinds of challenges. Whether that’s raising capital, managing time and delegating tasks, or making quick decisions and struggling with self-doubt.

What kind of support would you need to take the next steps to bring your vision to life?  

Practically, I need regulatory, legal, and product development support to make sure the work I’m trying to do is compliant with any potential industry standards while still being of high value to customers.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?  

I’m early on in my journey so I don’t have any words of wisdom. I guess all I can say is the only way you’ll know if you can do it, is if you do it.