With the support of communities across Vancouver, the first women-run social enterprise employing Syrian newcomer women has beaten all the odds for success in 2020. Despite the collapse of the catering industry, Tayybeh launched a line of packaged products, forged new partnerships, delivered fresh and frozen meals, and served over 5500 meals to the vulnerable in the Downtown Eastside and beyond.
The year 2020 was poised to be an immensely promising one for the women of Tayybeh, an award-winning social enterprise employing Syrian newcomer chefs. They had secured a major catering contract with SFU and other clients across the city. The number of women it was able to employ was at an all-time high.
Three months into the year,as COVID-19 began to spread across continents, the global impact on small businesses was quick and devastating. Navigating uncharted territory, it became clear that surviving this difficult period required resilience and creativity.
As a social enterprise made up of Syrian newcomer women, all of whom had escaped war and dire conditions in their home country, resilience is not in short supply at Tayybeh. This quality sealed the operation’s fate, as the strong, all-women team continued to not just weather the COVID-19 storm, but to secure future success.
COVID-19 changed the fortunes of the food industry generally, and catering specifically. As restrictions came into effect, catering across the country came to a standstill as weddings, gatherings, events, conferences, and office lunches were canceled. With these conditions continuing to this day, some nine months later, such conditions would have spelled the end of any caterer. Since Tayybeh is a source of sustainable income and financial security for Syrian newcomer women, closure simply wasn’t a viable option. The team at Tayybeh decided to make a considerable pivot, turning their attention to alternative ways to bring their food offerings to the Lower Mainland.
Thanks to creativity and fast action, Tayybeh has now launched its own line of consumer packaged goods, whichcan be found in stores and farmers markets across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. The team also forged partnerships withcompanies like Fresh Prep, OCO Meals, Gomae and UpMeals to deliver their fresh, frozen meals to a wider audience.
Tayybeh founder Nihal Elwan credits Tayybeh’s ongoing success with the ‘can-do’ attitude and forward-thinking approach of the whole team. “When the pandemic hit, I was so worried about what would become of us as the catering aspect of operation started to wither away”, Elwan says. “I found strength in our chefs, who would shrug and say: We are Syrian, we have thick skin, after what we've gone through in Syria, we are not phased by anything and know we will be OK.”
While Tayybeh’s growth has been a happy story to follow amidst a year of bad news, the community spirit that defines the message remains intact. With a team made up of recently-arrived Syrian women - many of whom have overcome immense hardship - helping those in need is the cornerstone of Tayybeh’s values.
With a focus on building and strengthening connections between communities, Tayybeh aims to provide support and empowerment to the most vulnerable members of Vancouver society, and stands strong by its motto: “The measure of a society is in its generosity and kindness towards its most vulnerable”.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the company continues to prepare and donate meals to the needy in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, andhas partnered with Vancity Credit Union to produce over 5,000 meals for communities across Vancouver affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elwan also credits the success of Tayybeh during these difficult times to the generosity and solidarity of communities across the Lower Mainland who rushed to support the operation by ordering meals on a weekly basis and continuing to stand by local businesses. Nihal adds, “since the beginning of Tayybeh, exactly four years ago, it has always been about building a resilient community. The pandemic has really proven to us that during times of need, this community really does deliver!”