21 May 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Samina Courtin is the Founder and Director of Mon Dessert, a dessert kit business. Samina lives in London with her husband Johann and two young children, Yasmine & Noah. We caught up with her recently to discover more about her entrepreneurial journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Being a British Pakistani, born in North London, I was surrounded by a lot of school friends who didn’t have quite the same upbringing as me – a strong difference being the meals cooked at our respective homes! I believe these influences have made me more open to new cultures and cuisines.
Fast forward a few years, I became entwined with another culture and cuisine. I started travelling twice a year to France with my boyfriend (now husband!) and fell in love with French patisserie. I wanted to replicate those sweet delicacies back in our little flat in Brixton, London.
At that time, I was still pursuing my career in Digital Marketing, which I loved, but something was bubbling under the surface. I daydreamed about one day creating my own business which would encapsulate my love for dessert.
I suppose after having my second child I decided to make my daydream a reality and embarked on my voyage into the world of entrepreneurism. I just didn’t know what it would look like yet…
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The final idea for Mon Dessert came about because as much as I loved baking and creating masterpiece desserts, I was frustrated. I’d tried my hand at making cakes for people’s birthday parties, and though I made good cakes, I felt I didn’t make great ones! I was always looking for tricks to achieve chef quality desserts, but the information just wasn’t readily available.
I began training at Raymond Blanc’s Michelin star pastry kitchen, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. in Oxfordshire to get an insider view on how top desserts were created. This experience was an amazing eye opener. I learned that, in fact, pastry chefs did use microwaves to accelerate processes. They also used freezers to speed cool times and minimise food waste. There were so many little tricks I took away with me it got me thinking – why not create a kit that helps people like me create chef quality desserts with ease? I wanted the kits to make it easy and convenient for anyone to just have a go without having to feel intimidated or scared.
Now, Mon Dessert releases a unique new dessert kit every month. The kits can be purchased as a one off – or you can join a monthly subscription which is less expensive.
How did you achieve awareness?
Really, in the beginning, I had nothing. I started off by taking prototypes (of a very crude macaron-making kit) to food networking events to see what people in the industry thought. Maybe it was luck or perhaps it was me taking the leap to get myself out there (or a little bit of both), but this self-labelled biscuit tin got picked up by one of the buyers from Fortnum & Mason – and not too long after, the world-famous department store, Harrods. Now, 5 years on, Mon Dessert is available online. Not on the High Street, Plateaway and Amazon. A lot of awareness comes from word of mouth, social media, and the amazing coverage we have gotten in the press.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Mon Dessert got going with a start-up loan and investment from friends. Since then, the business has bootstrapped itself towards its current success. Mon Dessert is actively now raising to scale and grow further.
What are the key successes?
Key successes have been building a robust customer base. We have a consistent return customer rate of 35%*
This has been the main driving force and bread and butter of our direct-to-consumer business. To be able to maximise growth we have had to reorganise the business – from interns putting together kits on a kitchen table to a fulfilment and packing team. It has been so brilliant to see this growth and how the kits have really helped customers develop their pastry chef skills. There is no better success story for a business than happy customers, as this in turn will bring revenue and growth.
* Alex Schultz, VP of Growth at Facebook who says, “If you can get 20-30% of customers coming back every month and making a purchase from your store, you should do pretty well”
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
First, I will speak a little about competition: competition is good, it means that there is a market. There is plenty of room for everyone to put their businesses forward and flourish. The key as a founder of a company is to never lose sight of your unique voice and vision.
Secondly challenges as a solo ‘woman’ entrepreneur – I have had many a raised eyebrow since launching. You have to just cut through naysayers, especially ones who are clearly sexist. Yes, that does still happen nowadays!
Lastly, we are all going to have some very tough choices over the next few decades for our planet and all its inhabitants to have any chance for surviving. A huge part of this comes down to the food we eat and the way we consume. I think as a business owner I have a role to play in helping. Meal kits sometimes get a bad rap for being wasteful. They can be when the packaging is not thought out properly. But intrinsically they are sustainable as it gets!
As well as using a lot of organic and fair-trade ingredients, Mon Dessert also caters to vegans. Mon Dessert’s packaging and contents are either recycled, reusable or recyclable. For example, we do not use disposable piping bags anymore. Our piping bags can be washed and reused many times over. We also have just released refill kits to help our customers reuse their equipment again with creative new recipes.
We also give back 1% of every sale to environmental causes. We are proud to be making an impact. https://www.mondessert.co.uk/pages/one-percent-for-the-planet
What are your plans now/for the future?
I have so many but a huge one is bringing out many more varieties or refill kits which will mean that you may be seeing Mon Dessert pop up in some familiar retailers! We are also actively seeking BCorp status. https://bcorporation.net
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Use whatever fear you have to drive you forward. When people fear something, they can react in several ways; get angry and do something rash, run away or stay frozen. I have reacted in all three ways. If you are going to take the plunge and become an entrepreneur, take that fear and flip it on its head. Write out worst case scenarios and how in a logical way you will tackle each one of them.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Be tenacious. Do not take no for an answer until someone really tells you no. Even then go back to them with a new solution.
Be resourceful. Things will go wrong. You need to creatively problem solve, and fast.
Be kind. I am not the kind to be ruthless. I honestly believe that if more business founders were kind the world would be a better place.
Network-. For many people, myself included, going to a big networking event is really intimidating! But networking does not necessarily need to mean that. It can be about connecting with people we like and having good conversations about the industry and business. This can open so many doors – sometimes directly and sometimes completely indirectly.
Know your numbers! If you don’t, you are literally walking around with a blindfold on. You need to know margins and if your marketing cost is bringing you return on spend.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Stella Parks or Brave Tart. Back when I was conceptualising Mon Dessert, Stella’ s blog Brave Tart inspired me. It really delved deep into the intricacies of making patisserie. What you need to look for – the pitfalls, little tweaks, and magic tricks. And she always writes with such humour – check her out! https://www.instagram.com/bravetart/
Tim Ferris- In an earlier question I spoke about fear. Tim’s Ted Talk on fear setting really helps with creating a solution for putting our fears to rest – indispensable for any business owner. He also has a particularly good podcast where he interviews experts in all fields. https://www.instagram.com/timferriss
Sir David Attenborough- There is no need for an explanation. His life’s work is inspirational on so many levels. Dedication to his craft and how to live a life that is kinder to our planet. https://www.instagram.com/davidattenborough/
The Hemsley sisters- They not only inspire me with their clean eating food philosophy, but they are also super stylish in their own individual ways. In addition to this they are both from Asian ethnic origin and I guess I kind of relate! https://www.instagram.com/hemsleyhemsley
Fearne Cotton- I just want to be her best friend. I feel like she is when I listen to her podcast whilst jogging- https://www.instagram.com/fearnecotton/
What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
“A Party Without Cake is Just a Meeting” By Julia Child. To me this is more than just about cake. It is about how we need to bring the fun into everything we do.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Find Mon Dessert at
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