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Q&A: W Booth School grad ‘looks for opportunities everywhere’November 2, 2017

Syed Jafri is a recent graduate of the Master of Engineering Entrepreneurship & Innovation (M.E.E.I.) program at the W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology.

This past summer, Jafri and his team launched Halal Plates, a halal meal delivery startup that is growing fast with over 15,000 members and counting. In a Q&A with McMaster Engineering, Jafri shares more about his startup, how the M.E.E.I. program set him up for success and why he chose McMaster Engineering. 

What is Halal Plates?

Halal Plates is a solution for busy individuals who lead a hectic life, and do not have time for grocery shopping and meal planning. Every week we feature seven new, delicious, diverse recipes, thoughtfully crafted by our chefs. We then pack the highest quality vegetables, no-GMO Halal-certified grass-fed beef and chicken - perfectly portioned to cook your meal, and deliver free to your doorstep.

We are a small team of seasoned professionals with multiple startup experience and backgrounds in engineering, marketing, sales and logistics. We are just rolling out the door, and have delivered our first orders in Toronto with plans to expand quickly to rest of Canada and the US soon.

How did the M.E.E.I. program set you up for success?

M.E.E.I. has been crucial in more ways than I can count. I remember when I attended my first few classes I struggled to come up with a "great idea." M.E.E.I. provided a framework to evaluate opportunities, and quickly validate ideas. 

The program introduces you to so many different areas of a startup that I didn't have any prior knowledge. For example, I come from engineering background, but now I have enough knowledge about accounting, business plans, investment vehicles, patent laws, sales and marketing and pitching to investor. I wouldn’t have gained this knowledge any other way.

Most importantly, it continues to provide essential support long after you have completed the program and I feel very blessed to have access to my professors for their guidance.

What skills and knowledge did you gain from the program? How did you apply those skills and knowledge to your startup?

There are numerous skills that you pick up when you go through the program but the most important one is that you are aware of multiple areas of the business and can hold an educated discussion about the topics. 

You learn how to find opportunities, how to quickly get out the door, how to fail. Before I took the program, if I was standing at a bus station when it started to rain, I would probably just open my umbrella. After the program, I would automatically think, how can I sell this umbrella? It rewires your brain so you are looking for opportunities everywhere.

Why did you choose McMaster Engineering?

McMaster Engineering is world-renowned and the university has top talent from the world. I completed my Bachelor of Computer Engineering there, and when I realized Dr. Lotfi and Dr. Potter were running the program, it was a no-brainer to join to learn from their immense experience.

What’s next for Halal Plates?

Halal Plates has had an amazing response right out of the gate, and we are just getting started. We are looking forward to expanding to major cities in Canada and US in next few months. We hope to continue to delight our customers with the very best we can provide.