Having started her first business at the tender age of 16, Lateefa Alwalaan is a force to be reckoned with. The young entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Yatooq, a fresh innovative Arabic coffee startup. Her name is on everyone’s lips since she won the 2015 Saudi Arabia’s ‘EY Entrepreneur of the Year’ award.
Alwalaan’s inspiration for coffee came during her MBA days in Seattle, America’s coffee capital, which led her to mull over her coffee experiences back home in Saudi Arabia. Realizing that the art of coffee brewing was limited to only a portion of her generation and is no easy process, Alwalaan used her time at business school to develop a technological solution and business plan to facilitate this problem.
Upon returning home after graduation, she worked at the family’s pharmaceutical company Alwalaan Pharmacies. Her first job was entering invoices. But since that didn’t suit her well enough, she swiftly rose to the ranks of general manager in less than two years. In the meantime, she was also launching Yatooq, which was founded in July 2012.
Alwaalan’s accomplishments help oil the wheels for other women and youth in the Kingdom, those who are hoping to tread the entrepreneurship pathway, especially since Yatooq was a self-funded venture. Alwaalan admits to using both her own resources and bank loans to get the company underway. "We had long periods of research and development with soft sales in the beginning,” she says. “It has been such a humbling experience.”
With an aim to bring innovation to the Arabic coffee experience, Alwalaan’s brand not only specializes in the variety of coffee blends but made easy the brewing by launching the first automatic Arabic coffee maker.
Speaking about her legacy in a previous interview, she says “I would like to say that I’ve changed how Arabic coffee is being consumed or I have inspired someone to realize their dreams so that they can do what they aspire to do or that you’re able to create something out of nothing by just spreading that story or experience that would inspire someone.”