For the estimated 11-13 million Lebanese expatriates living abroad, it is often challenging to stay connected to one's heritage.
This is where "Koullouna", a subscription box featuring local products, steps in.
"Because we believe that being far doesn't mean being disconnected, Koullouna wants to link all of you Lebanon-lovers to our country, no matter where you are, and to create a channel to contribute to the country’s development," the Koullouna team explains.
StepFeed spoke to Marielle Khayat, the founder of the Koullouna box, about the story behind the initiative, its purpose, and the team's future plans.
What is the Koullouna box?
In a nutshell, it is a unique subscription box that aims to connect Lebanese expats to their roots. At the same time, it allows them to contribute to the country's development by supporting local initiatives.
The monthly box contains a meticulously-arranged mix of local goods and products - from food and drinks to books and works of art - along with a booklet of curated content related to the theme of the box.
It notably features items of sentimental value as well as fun facts about those items.
Every month, a portion of the revenues would be donated to a different non-political and non-religious local initiative that has a positive impact on the country.
Meet Marielle Khayat, the entrepreneur behind Koullouna
Khayat grew up in Lebanon and studied Business Administration at the American University of Beirut (AUB). She then moved to France to earn a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship and pursue a career in Innovative Consulting.
Driven by nostalgia on one hand and the urge to help her homeland on the other, Khayat decided to "develop a project that would keep the link between expats and the country".
After a brainstorming session with some of her Lebanese friends in Paris, the idea behind Koullouna was born.
Khayat found that the box would educate expats on their culture, keep them in touch with their homeland, and allow them to give back to the community.
Additionally, she notes that the box is not exclusively targeted at expats, but rather anyone who finds interest in the Lebanese culture.
A successful pre-launch
Earlier this year, the Koullouna team held a pre-launch to test the waters, with "coffee" as the theme.
The prototype box had "all the things that remind you of Sundays at grandma's", including black coffee, orange blossom water, traditional coffee cups, and the rakwé.
Samples of the box were shipped to New York, Dubai, Paris, and Marseille.
The revenues were donated to the Nawaya Network, a Lebanese non-profit organization that aims to empower youth from marginalized backgrounds.
Khayat says the team received positive feedback following the launch, with many volunteers, suppliers, and initiatives offering to contribute.
"The box takes you on a journey to discover the essence of coffee and all the ritual that comes with it," Reem Hayek, one of Koullouna's first customers, is quoted as saying. "I felt like I was back at my grandma’s place, after a big family lunch."
Another costumer, Elie Ghossain, said: "I loved the booklet and instructions, I learned things about coffee that I had no idea about."
While generally inspired by the Lebanese anthem, Khayat says the word means a lot more to her.
"To me it represents so much - Unity, 'Koullouna lil watan' (all of us for our country), whether here or there," she explains to StepFeed.
Khayat goes on to say that the box tackles the love-hate relationship many Lebanese expats have with the country.
"There were a lot of things that came into play. We wanted to spread a good image [of Lebanon] and provide people with a way to stop complaining and actually start helping," she added.
Koullouna launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this week, and they need your help
The team recently kick-started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, aiming to reach a flexible target of €15,000 ($17,380) within one month.
Only two days into the launch, the team has already raised over 82 percent of the target at the time of writing.
After raising the funds, the team will prepare the boxes and officially kick-off in February.
Khayat hopes to sell each box at a price that ranges between $25 and $35, with discounts on long-term packages.