Living abroad might seem a blast, but the truth is that it is one of the hardest things one can ever experience. Leaving your family and friends to pursue your education or dream job isn't as easy as it seems, especially when it's your young sister's birthday or your mother's birthday, for instance, and you are just over the video call. It is during these special occasions that it becomes more emotionally difficult for our expatriates.
If you are a Lebanese expatriate living far from your loved ones, you know what I mean: Mother's Day, Christmas, Valentine's, Birthdays, and all these occasions where you ache to be by your loved ones and give them presents, or flowers, or the likes that express your love to them beyond the words.
And you can't, just because nearly 90% of Lebanon's businesses haven't introduced online shopping yet!
That has been a challenge for our expatriates around the world, among them Adnan Ammache in New York City and Farah Ali Hassan in Dubai who decided to bring a solution to that problem, even if it took them to relocate back to Lebanon to make it happen. And this is their story:
Adnan Ammache, a graduate from the International College of Beirut (IC), decided to fulfill his dream of pursuing a B.A. in the United States. He opted for New York University that seemed to be the most exciting destination for him.
As for Farah Ali Hassan, she graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor of Business Administration and took off to work in UAE as Project Manager then as a Technology Consultant Advisory, a role she is still assuming.
Speaking to the961, Ammache told us: "Living abroad was life-changing. I became more autonomous, responsible, and caring. Looking back, I find myself to have grown so much as a person in a very short period. However, it wasn’t always easy. There were moments when I wanted to reconnect with friends and family in Lebanon, but I couldn’t due to the enormous time difference. I felt as if there is more that I could do as an expat to engage with my community."
Ammache shared with us that one day while having coffee with his longtime friend Farah, she expressed her frustration towards the process of buying local gifts from abroad. Farah explained that for her mom’s last birthday, she had to wire transfer money via western union, for lacking any other option.
It was during that friendly exchange that Adnan and Farah came up with an idea to create a particular marketplace so Lebanese Expats can send gifts to their friends and family in Lebanon. From an idea to realization, they created Presentail.
As explained by Farah, the concept was all about offering the facility to everyone, wherever their location in the world, to choose a gift from a wide selection on their website and have the gift delivered to their loved ones "on the same day anywhere in Lebanon."
However, like most startups, Presentail faced its own challenges. Ammache explained to us, "At first, things were very challenging. I was still living in New York and Farah in Dubai. So we had to rely on my mom to prepare and deliver all the orders in Lebanon. She did a great job, and our home became Presentail HQ (headquarter). "
He then added, "At first, we found it difficult to reach the expatriates. Globally, 14 million Lebanese people live in dispersed communities. I traveled to the United States, visiting every local Lebanese Club until I found our first customer in Miami who sent a cake to his family for Christmas. Things eventually picked up. And the press, digital marketing, referrals, and PR helped us reach the diaspora."
As per Farah, their venture has revamped the online gifting experience with only a few clicks. In their quest of creating Presentail, Farah and Adnan "focused on helping the small and medium Lebanese businesses to have access to the online market enabling them to reach a new and wider customer base."
Since then, their Presentail venture has made it possible for Lebanese abroad to celebrate special occasions with their family and friends in Lebanon through an easy-processing website. Lebanese expatriates can send flowers, chocolate, gifts, cake, and so on, from some of Lebanon's famous brands.
When we asked Ammache why the name Presentail was chosen, he said, "Every present has a story, and we wanted to capture that with Presentail. When choosing the name, we were bouncing between a few ideas, and finally picked Presentail because we felt as if it was possible to build a brand around."
Today, Presentail has raised thousands of dollars from Lebanon’s best venture fund and is one of the seven startups accepted into Flat6labs Beirut, a leading accelerator program based in Beirut.
We asked Adnan if he sees Presentail among the leading e-commerce websites in the Middle East in the future, the young entrepreneur said, "Absolutely. We are on track to process five hundred orders this year. We have had lots of interest from members of the Lebanese diaspora interested in bringing Presentail to their current country. After Lebanon, we plan to expand into Jordan to cater for the Jordanian Expat community."
As a final statement for all young entrepreneurs planning on having their businesses in Lebanon, Ammache said, "Building a business is extremely challenging without mentors, funding, and advice. For everyone trying to build a business, I highly recommend applying to Flat6Labs Beirut!"
Cheers to many more successful Lebanese startups that aim to make our lives easier and happier!