Online grocery platform Couryah proves to be a fruitful venture for Halifax brothers
For Mohamed Soliman and his brother Omar, going into business was never about striking it rich, it was about making their father proud.
The Halifax brothers have lived in Canada for 13 years and pursued their career with a deep sense of gratitude for the sacrifices their father made for the family. Back in Egypt, Hany Soliman had a senior, influential position in finance but decided to move his family in the pursuit of a better quality of life. When arriving to their new city, Hany had to work several jobs to support his family while his sons pursued an education.
Brothers Mohamed and Omar Soliman founded Couryah, an essentials delivery service.
His sacrifices proved worthwhile. In 2019, his sons founded Couryah, an on-demand platform delivering groceries, take-out, medicine and other essentials in the Halifax region. Now, the future has never looked brighter.
“Our father instilled in us the importance of working hard, of never giving up and of never being too good for any job,” explained Mohamed, 29.
“Our father was always extremely humble, and he made sure that rubbed off on us. We know we are not any better than anyone else,” Omar, 28, added.
The men took those lessons to heart.
While Omar studied finance, he worked jobs in the corporate and financial sector, honing his business and leadership skills. At the same time, Mohamed studied and worked in engineering, supplementing his income by driving a taxi in the evenings. He made the most of his time in the car, listening to podcasts and audio books on business, marketing and tech. The young men saved every penny they made so that they could invest in their future.
The Soliman brothers continue to operate their successful business from home.
Driving a taxi also taught Mohamed about the city, the people and delivery logistics and it became clear to him that Haligonians would benefit from a service that would deliver essentials. Soon, the idea for Couryah was born and to get the ball rolling, the brothers used their parents’ basement as their makeshift office.
After spending a year doing extensive research on the market, Couryah went live in May 2019.
“We started small and were building in a lean manner, improving as we went along,” Mohamed said. “We listened to our customers for feedback constantly — seven days a week — to see what we could do better, where people wanted us to deliver, what products they wanted to buy.”
Seven months later, the pandemic hit, and the brothers’ five-year blueprint was accelerated into an immediate action plan. They went from taking orders and shopping for groceries and delivering the goods themselves to hiring 15 new shoppers in a month.
“Our business was delivering essentials and necessities, anything you could find in a grocery store,” said Mohamed. “On-demand delivery became the service that most improved people’s lives during the pandemic. People kept asking if we could deliver the same day but we were able to deliver within a couple of hours.”
Customers Asked for PayPal
Today, as we approach nearly a year since the pandemic began, Couryah lists more than 10,000 products on its inventory list and 15 restaurant partners. Before the pandemic hit, in February 2020, it only had 2000 products and a handful of partners in sight.
“We continue to add valuable partnerships and about 1,000 grocery products a month,” said Mohamed. “We work hard to give people what they want.”
PayPal has helped customers feel at ease ordering through Couryah.
Still new in the industry, the men never stopped soliciting advice from their customers, asking what they could do better.
“Over and over again, people kept asking if we took PayPal,” Mohamed said. “We wanted to build a company based on customer service and trust and we saw quickly that implementing PayPal helped us tremendously with that because at the time, no one was familiar with Couryah, but everyone knew and trusted the PayPal brand.”
Today, 20 per cent of their revenue comes through PayPal.
“It’s an incredibly important part of our business,” said Omar. “Not just for payments but for managing the business with their invoicing solution, payment reminders and the ability to customize our message. At the start of the pandemic, PayPal was a lifesaver as the company waived their Instant Transfer[i] fees and provided real-time money transfers to help business owners survive a very difficult time.”
Despite their incredible success this past year, the brothers are still operating out of their father’s basement and have no intention of moving out for now.
Instead, they are focusing on growing their business, with a new five-year plan that takes them nationwide.
'Know Your Customers'
They continue to take part in all aspects of the job, helping with taking orders, going shopping for groceries and making deliveries until late at night.
“It’s amazing because we are able to gain customer insight in real time. We really get to know our customers well which is critical to our success,” Omar said. “Our customers are the true heroes of our story. They kept the lights on.”
Next on their list for this year is developing an app to help them streamline the ordering process and improving their e-commerce presence.
“Investing in e-commerce is a definite must,” said Mohamed. “If you’re not online, you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity."
Even their mom, whom they describe as the most hesitant digital adopter, appears to be jumping on to the online grocery trend.
“Before, she just used to shout down the stairs when she wanted us to go get her milk or whatever she needed to make dinner that night. Now, we’ll be downstairs but in the middle of the day we’ll get an order online from our mother upstairs with her grocery wish list,” Mohamed said laughing.
As for their father, he is full of pride for the accomplishments of his sons and their entrepreneurial spirit.
“We are super grateful to him for bringing us to Canada for a better future,” said Omar. “We will always work hard to prove that the sacrifices he made have led to a better future for our family.”
For more information on how other business owners have found success during the pandemic and how PayPal has helped them grow their business, visit our Newsroom's Business of Change feature. Also, for tips and expert advice, including how to get started with PayPal Checkout, Invoicing, Seller Protection and more, check out our Small Business Resource Guide.
[i] Transfers typically take just minutes and vary by bank; debit card transfers may take up to 30 minutes. Eligible debit cards or bank accounts only. Limits and holds may apply.