Introducing Sara Chemma, the powerhouse behind Citron. Her journey as Citron’s Founder is a remarkable testament to the resilience and dedication of mompreneurs. Sara recognized the unmet needs of mothers and children and decided to take action.
As a mompreneur, she observed the region’s strong desire for sustainable and innovative leakproof lunch boxes. This realization led her to change her career path, leaving her role as a co-head at MBC ventures, and laying the foundation for Citron.
In our interview, she shares insights into Citron’s impressive growth over the years and her personal funding strategy. Sara Chemmaa is more than just a CEO; she is the heart and soul of Citron, a Dubai-based brand dedicated to making family mealtimes easier and more stylish. Established in 2017, Citron emerged from Sara’s determination to provide families with top-quality, leakproof lunch boxes.
Now, let’s dive into the captivating story behind this incredible brand. It’s a journey marked by passion, innovation, and a mother’s unwavering love for her children.
1.Could you share the story of how you founded Citron? What inspired you to start this journey, and what were the initial steps you took to turn your vision into reality?
Inspired by the struggle of a first time mum my son was a fussy eater and needed to find a way for him to eat at nursery. Initial steps included: ideation, lots of research about what is available in the market, drawing what I had in mind in a simple paper, finding factories and designers that could make it a reality, the process took 18months
2.As the CEO and Founder of a successful eco-conscious lifestyle brand, what challenges did you face in the early stages of establishing Citron, and how did you overcome them?
As someone that comes from the background of corporate, I never knew what it takes to create a product and sell it. I had to first learn what It takes to make a product that works, then a products that is esthetically pleasing, bring it to the UAE (logistics and legal requirements), market it and sell it. All these steps were new to me and were a real struggle at first. Once the first products were launched the second struggle was hiring the right people/ team and finally fundraising was a struggle
3.Citron has expanded to over 47 countries, which is an impressive achievement. What strategies did you employ to scale your brand internationally, and what lessons have you learned from this experience?
At the beginning of our journey, we have realized that our growth will come from multiple actions, first it was the product development followed by the reach. Scale was always in our mind as it is key to reach better prices if you reach higher volumes from a production point of view. We took the time to look for very reputable distributors worldwide and trusted them to represent the brands in their territories on our behalf. Lesson learnt: Not all markets have same requirements, time is a currency we don’t have, some markets are more ready than others.
4.Creating high-quality, eco-conscious products requires a unique approach. Can you tell us more about how Citron maintains its commitment to sustainability while delivering stylish and reliable products?
We have been on the look for premium eco-conscious products since our inception, to be honest from early on we tried to find alternatives to plastic where possible, in some areas we were able to eliminate 100% the use of plastic, in some others it is quite challenging still. Our product development team priority is always to find an eco friendly alternative. This year we have made changes in our packaging and we went plastic free. Next year we are decreasing our plastic production by 20% as we are introducing more eco friendly lunchboxes
5.Balancing style and reliability with eco-consciousness can be a complex task. What factors do you consider when designing products to ensure they align with Citron’s values and customer expectations?
One of our core value is to ensure that our products deliver a real value add to customers, we focus our efforts in the functionality, once functionality is there we ensure we find the most eco-friendly material, when choosing material we always ensure the functionality is intact and then we think of design and overall look and feel.
6.As a female entrepreneur, what advice do you have for other women who are aspiring to start their own businesses, especially in industries traditionally dominated by men?
I would highly advise my female fellow entrepreneurs to take the plunge and not fear being unsuccessful, I truly believe that every experience brings a lot of learnings and whether you fail or succeed you should look at it from a learning perspective give it your 100% and pursue it fully
7.Building a brand often involves fostering a strong company culture. How do you ensure that Citron’s values and mission are reflected not only in your products but also in the way your team operates and interacts?
At Citron, we work as a family, my team has been with us from the beginning they have lived the ups and the downs and they have been key in defining the values and missions we see for the company
8.The journey of entrepreneurship comes with both successes and setbacks. Can you share a particularly challenging moment you faced with Citron and how you navigated through it?
One of the most challenging moment at Citron was COVID, at that time schools weren’t open, we ordered stocks and we were stuck with it as there was no demand, we had to reduce operations, keep some people home until the business picked up again
9.With your experience in leading a global brand, what strategies do you recommend for women entrepreneurs to effectively manage their time and resources while pursuing growth?
I would advise any women out there to try as much as possible to find the right balance between work, family and wife/partner duties. I cannot stress this point enough as with a lot of excitement of launching something new we tend to easily forget our priorities and lose interest/balance in what was is important for us to start with. I have been using a lot of tools from planners for kids meals to planning their activities, planning my day in a very effective way to enable me to be home before bedtime.
10.What legacy do you envision for Citron in the years to come, and what key initiatives or directions do you plan to focus on to achieve that vision?
I would like for the brand to be available in 100+ countries and across 10,000 stores globally, we have big dreams and are working hard to achieve them, We will be releasing our 2024 collection this month at the largest baby & Kids Fair in Cologne, Germany, we are very excited and grateful to all our trusted distributors and retailers that are making the trip to come see us. Our vision will only be possible with very strong product development and a performing sales channels.
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