5 QUESTIONS TO HASSAN ALZAKOUT
We sat down with Hassan to hear about his participation in the Digital Entrepreneurship Program and his business idea!
Congratulations on graduating from the Digital Entrepreneurship Program (DEP)! From your own experiences in applying, what advice and wishes do you have for new entrepreneurs applying for the DEP?
“I found out about the Digital Entrepreneurship Program (DEP) through a friend, and this was my first dive into the world of business. It turned out to be refreshingly simple and easy to understand, providing me with the fundamental building blocks I needed. It’s super accessible and straightforward. I look forward to gaining even more comprehensive knowledge, which I’ll find in the Forward Incubator (FI) program.
Let’s be real: starting a business is no piece of cake, and you need a solid knowledge base to navigate it successfully. DEP gave me a solid foundation to build on and helped me see the potential challenges ahead. Everyone’s got great business ideas, but the key is to put them on paper and turn them into reality. My top tip for all the budding entrepreneurs is to dive into the program’s articles – they’re a goldmine of information. From testing feasibility to validating assumptions, there are many valuable insights there. This knowledge is a game-changer when you’re moving from just having an idea to making it a reality.”
Introduce yourself to our readers: what is your background and passion?
“My name is Hassan, and I come from Syria. I initially pursued a career as a mechanical engineer specializing in project management. However, a few years ago, I had a transformative experience that led me to switch gears and delve into the wine business. It all started during my visit to Italy in 2007 when a friend in Verona introduced me to a Valpolicella wine—that moment sparked a passion within me, marking the beginning of my remarkable journey into the world of wine. But the turning point came when I was in Qatar, conversing with a friend in a hotel. An individual sitting nearby asked me why I wasn’t pursuing wine studies more seriously and getting a certificate. He directed me to a school where I could do so, which was luckily really close to my house. In a way, that innocent question set me on a new path. I started my wine education in Qatar, continued it in Malaysia, and found myself in France, where I have had the privilege of studying wine more officially.
Over the past five years, I contacted numerous wineries in Germany and Georgia. Most of my connections in the wine industry have been forged through exhibitions in these two countries. However, Georgia holds a special place in the world of wine as the cradle of viticulture. The earliest fermentation of grape juice occurred in the region spanning Georgia and Armenia, making it a historical epicenter of wine production. In 2017, I had the privilege of visiting Georgia and immersing myself in its rich wine culture. I explored the picturesque mountains, attended wine fairs, and even took courses to deepen my knowledge. This journey led to invitations to some of the finest wineries in the country.
Here, I had the opportunity to meet with many accomplished winemakers, including one of the world’s best wine masters. He expressed genuine surprise about the potential of Syrian wine, and from that moment on, it became my mission to put our wine back on the global wine map.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve made significant progress, standing at WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 4 and expanding my horizons. I’m awaiting residency in my new location and plan to kickstart my own wine business. The market here is saturated with Spanish and French wines, but it’s also adventurous, with a genuine interest in stories. Storytelling can make people curious and open to new experiences. Furthermore, the purchasing power in this market is quite substantial.
So, my journey from mechanical engineering to the world of wine has been remarkable, and I’m excited about the future and the potential to reintroduce Syrian wine to the world stage.”
What is your business idea?
“My business idea revolves around creating a platform for fine dining and restaurants that provides high-quality wines at affordable prices. I’m passionate about offering a unique opportunity for people to access excellent wines without breaking the bank. Drawing on my background, I also aim to provide technical support and training, and I aspire to establish my educational institute in the future.
What sets my concept apart is the combination of wine and technical support. I’m not just offering generic solutions; I intend to tailor my services to each business’s unique needs. This means personally visiting restaurants to help them pair the right wines with their dishes. Wine is the unsung hero in the culinary experience, and my goal is to create the best possible food and wine pairing experiences for customers.
My current base is here, and I plan to expand my operations according to the development and demand. Germany and Benelux are areas I’m eyeing for potential expansion. However, if the market doesn’t favor growth in those regions, I’ll consider connecting wineries directly with end-users to offer competitive prices, thereby cutting out the middleman.
But my passion extends beyond just wine; it’s about building connections with people. Building relationships is at the heart of this industry, and I aim to create meaningful connections that benefit everyone involved.”
What pushed you to apply for our Digital Entrepreneurship Program (DEP)?
“I recognized the need for more techniques and knowledge, particularly in marketing and finance. I was seeking more than just technical support but a clear vision and methodology to guide me. I stumbled upon a valuable resource that came at no cost and exceeded my expectations.
I consider myself someone willing to take risks, but these risks are always calculated and am open to looking for guidance and support. This journey has already brought unexpected benefits, and I’m eager to see how it unfolds.“
What are your goals moving forward?
“I plan to establish my business within the next 6 months to a year, initially as a solo endeavor. So far, my venture’s most robust selling point has been myself, my skills, and my dedication.
My goals are to expand my business, explore new horizons through travel, prioritize my health, and provide a solid education for my children. While I’ve been an employee for a significant period, it became evident that this path couldn’t offer the financial security and freedom I aspire to have. The limitations of that role posed a considerable challenge.
Recognizing the need for change, I’ve decided to take a calculated risk and step out of my comfort zone. Without this leap, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to improve my circumstances and achieve my goals for myself and my family.“