Sabounti Strives to Solve Economic and Social Challenges

Alumnus’ business idea wins him third spot in the MIT Lebanon Challenge.

By Raissa Batakji

Farchoukh hopes this endeavor will connect “the hands that produce the soap with those that use it.”

LAU electrical engineering alumnus Hani Farchoukh (BE ‘07) has snatched the third spot in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lebanon Challenge 2020 for his startup idea, Sabounti – “my soap.”

Through this bold business endeavor, Farchoukh hopes to revive the ancient Lebanese trade of soapmaking, champion employment for marginalized women, and create a global trade network that connects local manufacturers with Lebanese abroad.

“We came up with this idea in response to the dire economic situation in Lebanon,” explained Farchoukh, adding that more than half the population has fallen under the poverty line, while many others struggle to secure a job. In the past year alone, the country has suffered an economic collapse, political deadlock, the COVID-19 pandemic and the August 4 Beirut explosion. 

“Sabounti emerged to help vulnerable women – who are primary pillars of the family – to obtain training and secure employment in a trade that has deep historical roots in Lebanon,” declared Farchoukh. He hopes this endeavor will prove empowering for Lebanese women and that it will connect “the hands that produce the soap with those that use it.”

Following the win at the MIT Lebanon Challenge and the valuable advice Farchoukh received from the judges, he was able to expand his team of experts, update the pitch and advance Sabounti’s business model. “Currently, we are seeking funding partners for our upcoming first round of investment, as we kick off the production and sale of soap, which is planned for mid-December,” he said.

Since graduating from LAU, Farchoukh has earned a Project Management Diploma from the American University of Beirut, as well as a Strategic Decision and Risk Management Professional Development Degree from Stanford University. He has worked as a senior project coordinator at Dar Al-Handasah in Riyadh since 2014.

Looking back at his time at LAU, he feels that the university has provided him with solid professional credentials and “the Lebanese pride and network needed to put that pride into beneficial action.”