Born in the United Arab Emirates, House of Pops has since blossomed into a regional sensation, operating across UAE, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Its reach continues to expand, with upcoming launches slated for Bahrain and Kuwait. Behind this success stands the formidable duo of Mazzen Kanaan and his wife Marcela Kanaan, who is also a co-founder. Kanaan's background, including a stint at Unilever, and Marcela's culinary expertise formed the perfect blend of skills that laid the foundation for House of Pops.
Kanaan recalls those humble beginnings, saying, "We started by going down to fairs with our cart, promoting our vegan ice creams." At that juncture, the messaging primarily revolved around the vegan aspect, which aligned with their initial mission.
However, the pivotal turning point arrived when a woman shared her perspective at one of these events. "One day, a woman approached us and said, 'Why would I eat vegan if it still hurts the environment?'" Kanaan reflects on that encounter, which served as a catalyst for change. This simple yet profound question resonated deeply with the couple.
This interaction sparked a transformative shift in House of Pops' messaging. Kanaan recalls, "It was a wake-up call. It made us realise that our mission needed to evolve beyond just being vegan. We understood the need for a holistic approach that encompassed both personal well-being and environmental health." From that moment, the brand's narrative transitioned from solely vegan offerings to a comprehensive lifestyle that addressed broader concerns.
This transformative pivot reinforced House of Pops' identity as a conduit for conscious choices. Kanaan elaborates, "We wanted to provide our customers with more than a delicious dessert; we wanted to offer a mindful lifestyle." This shift led to the brand's holistic approach—promoting choices that are not only good for individuals but also contribute positively to the environment.
The Pros of Autonomy
Kanaan's audacious decision to reject conventional investor paths in favour of autonomy stemmed from a blend of personal conviction and strategic insight. The advantages of this approach are substantial and far-reaching. At the forefront is the retention of complete ownership and control over the company's trajectory. "Maintaining autonomy allowed us to remain true to our core vision and values," Kanaan asserts. The autonomy-driven environment has nurtured rapid decision-making and an ambiance conducive to innovation. He jokes “If we wanted to, we could offer popcorn tomorrow instead of ice cream”.
This unbridled ownership, Kanaan recognises, positions House of Pops for exponential growth. The company's impressive growth rate of 137% serves as a testament to the value of every percentage of ownership retained. This is a strategic investment in the brand's future.
The unique identity of House of Pops is another fruit of its independence. The brand's resolute alignment with health and sustainability resonates authentically with consumers, setting it apart from conventional competitors. The liberty to pivot swiftly and maintain this resonance is a distinctive advantage.
The Cons of Autonomy
Yet, Kanaan candidly acknowledges that the pursuit of independence is not without its challenges. The foremost challenge was the heightened financial risk. "Our personal savings were invested, and bank loans secured to fuel growth," Kanaan reveals. This bootstrap strategy demanded meticulous financial management, astute resource allocation, and unwavering discipline.
The pace of growth, he concedes, might have been more measured than what external investors could potentially enable. Rivals with substantial financial backing might have sprinted ahead. However, Kanaan's belief in the organic pace is underscored by his commitment to preserving authenticity.
Fears and Aspirations
Amid the triumphs and strides, Mazzen Kanaan is not immune to the apprehensions that an independent entrepreneur might face. Chief among these concerns is the looming shadow of competition from industry giants. Kanaan candidly acknowledges, "There's a fear that keeps me up at night—the fear of a big corporation entering the market and outshining us with their immense marketing budgets." It's a scenario he visualises while driving along the illustrious Sheikh Zayed Road, where towering billboards of conglomerates he used to work for stare back at him.
Kanaan's anxiety revolves around a potential future where these corporations introduce their own plant-based ice creams, directly competing with House of Pops' offerings. "Imagine the day I drive down this road and see a colossal billboard proudly declaring the launch of a plant-based ice cream line by a corporate giant," he muses. This hypothetical situation strikes at the heart of his passion—fearing that a marketing blitz by a well-heeled competitor could overshadow the very values and uniqueness that have become House of Pops' foundation.
However, Kanaan doesn't let these worries paralyse his ambitions. Rather, they fuel his determination to ensure House of Pops remains distinct. He understands that he's not merely selling a product; he's selling a lifestyle, a conscious choice. "Our advantage doesn't just lie in selling a plant-based ice cream that's good for the environment," Kanaan asserts. "It's about promoting a conscious way of living, a philosophy that resonates with people beyond their taste buds."
This is where House of Pops stands apart—offering not just frozen treats but a gateway to an ethical lifestyle.
The Power of Franchising
As House of Pops' narrative progressed, a strategic solution surfaced—franchising. This innovative approach not only unlocked rapid expansion but also circumvented dilution of ownership. "Franchising is perfectly aligned with our ethos. Our proven business model empowers franchisees while fueling expansion with minimal financial risk," Kanaan enthuses.
This strategic move magnified both geographic reach and innovative offerings. The franchise model empowered local entrepreneurs to embrace House of Pops' vision while leveraging a well-established framework. This mutually beneficial dynamic is meant to propel growth and simultaneously generate revenue through franchising.
Mazzen Kanaan's journey as House of Pops' co-founder and CEO paints a compelling portrait of autonomy in action. The decision to chart an independent course, away from traditional investor paths, has yielded a brand that embodies its founders' values. The brand's reach, spanning UAE, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, but pland to expand beyond that to Bahrain and Kuwait. But this only the beginning, it seems Kanaan has set his sights on more.