American Univesity of Beirut

OSB courses help one family company find their sweet spot in the marketplace

​​​​When it came time to help expand her career, Ghida El Baba decided on the MBA program at Suliman S. Olayan School of Business (OSB). She knew the American University of Beirut already had a lot to offer after earning her undergraduate degree in Food Science and Management, but graduate courses helped her grow in several key business areas.

Her grandfather established her family’s business, Al Baba Sweets, in 1950 to offer homemade quality sweets to the neighboring locals. Since then it has become an established name in the region with seven branches in Lebanon and four in the UAE. All the branches are family owned and managed to preserve their heritage and high-quality standards. Al Baba Sweets’ main line of products is Arabic sweets, including baklawa, maamoul, and ashta products. The company later introduced additional products such as French cakes and Italian ice cream, as well as services such as gifting, event catering, wholesale, and online shopping.

El Baba herself started in the family business at her father’s encouragement when she was 12 years old. She rotated among departments during summer vacations, initially decorating chocolate and special arrangements, then moving to the factory and eventually becoming a food safety controller. She also helped with seasonal and holiday sales in the showroom and later as a branch manager.

Recently, Aouni El Baba, CEO, saw his daughter’s promising work and promoted her to Outlets Manager for Lebanon. In that role, she is responsible for orienting newly recruited branch managers, performing random outlet visits, coordinating with HR on staff rotation and extra staff in high seasons, organizing regular meetings for discussing issues, updates, new ideas, and overseeing daily outlet operations. El Baba has a goal of expanding the company abroad, especially within the Gulf region where they have an established customer base. She feels optimistic about expansion because El Baba Sweets is working with USAID’s Lebanese Enterprise Project to create a franchise manual and implementation plan for their company.

El Baba has been able to put her OSB experience right to work at the company. “Because of my work at OSB,” she stated, “I am more familiar with financial statements and analyzing them in relation to each of our branches. I also acquired several methods of leadership that allowed me to create an environment that was more supportive than bureaucratic.” She now helps her company use situational analysis to adjust product sales projections based on data rather than intuition. In the case of a new product launch, a practicum course affected her validation techniques, and other courses provided key insights on product launch strategies.

As far as her experience with OSB, she noted “the HR Recruitment course was one of the best courses I have taken. It was a fast-paced applied course that positively affected my recruitment and selection skills at the company.”

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