60 seconds with… Shadia Al Hili, Founder of Cuzena Fava Bean Dips


Greater Manchester-based Cuzena have recently been selected as one of The Startups You Need to Know About 2018 by Just Entrepreneurs.

FDMB North West wanted to know more about Cuzena founder Shadia Al Hili, and 60 seconds with her turned into 5 minutes, but it is well worth a read!

FDMB are paying – where would you like to go for a meal?

My mum’s house, we can eat alfresco, she can only accept cash! From the second you walk in, your nose is being teased with aromas. My mother is so smug that she still surprises us with new dishes that she’s put together. I think it keeps her feeling like she’s still mummy and she’s needed. The food is so good that you could even eat your fingers by the time she’s done with you!

Who would be your dinner party guests? 

Michelle Obama, Trevor Noah, Ntsiki Biyela, Graham Norton, Barack Obama, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. I love conversations that I can take something from and we all should be excited by someone, especially if they have dared to push against mediocrity and made an impact on the world without being vacuous!

I love politics and the stupidity of it makes me both laugh and cry! Some guests here would create amazing conversations and some would have me rolling over in laughter. I think that if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room. I would definitely be in the right room!

What is your desert island disc?

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I love music and if you enjoy R ’n’ B, you would know this album but if you don’t, you won’t hear a better vocalist than Lauren Hill. She’s so beautiful yet chose not to rely on her sexuality to sell her music. I totally respect her integral choices as an artist as she forces you to hear every word of her stories in her amazing song lyrics. This album is still played and talked about 20 years later as every song is a banger and whenever they drop it in a bar, I still have to jump up and do my little two step!

What is your favourite film?

In The Name Of The Father. It’s based on the true story of the wrongful conviction of The Birmingham Four. It’s the only film I have seen twice as it exemplifies the injustices that people have gone through and the heroic efforts of strangers. It keeps me humbled to believe that regardless of how much bad there is in some people, there is an equal amount of good in others. (Tear jerker, but a top film.)

What is the one thing you couldn’t manage without?

Health is wealth. I am one of the richest people I know, along with my children. We are blessed with health and as long as we have it, we remain grateful for it. The rest is just divine chaos!

What is your favourite holiday destination?

Dubai as I love the opulence of the place! The minute I land in the airport I feel so special. (I even start carrying my River Island handbag differently as if it’s a Birkin!) The smell of the oud is reminiscent of my childhood growing up in our family home in Manchester, England. I love the poise and the contemporariness of the hotels and I love that it’s so family orientated, yet if you decide to go out, you could be in a Miami night club (although a very opulent one!).

How do you relax?

I meditate most mornings and as soon as I meditate, I become grateful for my health and that of my kids. I am quickly reminded that I have been gifted with the present. It allows me to tackle the day ahead with a simple smile and then I whizz around like a maniac, jumping in and out of my many roles in life. Although the first mission of the morning is usually looking for a school sports top!

What is the best piece of advice you have been given in life.

If you give you get in life which is the only line my parents were unified on. I am so glad for it too. Sometimes, great things have happened to me when I have needed it the most and I don’t believe its luck. I believe it’s because I’m a person that gives in whatever way I can, and it will always come back, especially if you give from the heart.

And what is the best piece of advice you have been given in business?

If it’s not out there, don’t be afraid create it. Well, I wasn’t exactly given it personally as Sir Henry Royce said it, and then went on to build one of the best brands in the world by believing it. He instructed his engineers to work on his ideology of not being afraid of creating what’s not out there. I am new to the food world and If Royce was my mentor, I expect he would say, “Allow your determination to supersede what you currently know, and grow your dreams until they become your reality.” (Ok, ok that’s his line too!)

What do you think is the best thing about working in the food sector? 

Knowing that regardless of all the odds stacked against you, you can genuinely enrich people’s lives by producing good food.

And what is the worst thing about working in the food sector?

To reach a wider audience with your products the costs are crazzzyyyy… Food tradeshows that seem to be the preferred route to be noticed by suppliers have eye watering costs. They do not cater fairly for small food businesses unless you want half a metre of space at the back of a hall that’s 2 miles long!

And finally, what is your favourite Cuzena flava bean dip? 

Caramelised Onion. I have a sweet tooth and It’s sweetened with delicious dates as opposed to sugar.