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How I got here: Mustafa Y. Koita, founder and CEO, Koita Foods

How I got here: Mustafa Y. Koita, founder and CEO, Koita Foods

Koita says failures musty be treated as learning experiences

Education

The boring answer is that I was born in the United States and went to Naperville North High School, followed by Northern Illinois University where I majored in business. The exciting answer is that the majority of my education was received in the school of ‘hard knocks’. By this I mean my personal struggles and business failures have taught me the greatest lessons in life and made me a stronger person in dealing with what the future holds. My biggest piece of advice to anyone is that failure equals learning.

My start

We started Koita in April of 2014 with only one employee and in one country – the UAE. We’re very proud to say that we’re now in 15 countries and counting. Notably, one of the secrets to our success is that the company and business model has evolved in phases. We were initially a food trading business, then a food distribution business (GoCoCo Coconut Water) and we finally morphed into the Koita Branded Organic Milk company in 2015. This phased approach allowed us to learn the food business one step at a time.

Highs and lows

We’ve weathered many highs and lows during our journey. The highs get higher and the lows can get pretty low at times when you are first starting a company. The key to our success is how we look at things. The ‘lows’ at Koita are not a negative, but each is treated as a learning experience, that has made us stronger. Lows are almost always tied to cash-flow issues, which are less and less as we grow.

My approach

Our approach has always been based on three things. Firstly, we are 100 per cent customer driven – listening to both the good and bad. Secondly, we have honest service. And thirdly, there is the quality. If it’s not good enough for my kids, it’s not good enough for anyone else. We also strive to have fun as a growing company and challenge the status quo. For example, we’re one of the first to have a ‘no straws policy’ on kid’s sizes, as many mothers complained plastic straws were poking kids in the eyes, not re-sealable and bad for the environment.

Do’s and dont’s

From my experience there are a few things that have worked for me. Firstly persistence – when you hear a ‘no’, remember it’s just part of the process of getting to yes. Second is honesty – keeping it real because lying just isn’t cool for long-term relationships. And third is having fun – be light hearted and just smile at everyone, it makes life much more interesting. In my experience, things I don’t do include missing a workout (even on holidays), as I’m a strong believer that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. I also think it’s important to not be ashamed of our shortcomings – we all have them and pretending to be something else in business or personal is much worse.

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