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Lorena Prakash stuffs dates before they're coated with chocolate. // Photo by Jim Wells.

Lorena Prakash stuffs dates before they're coated with chocolate. // Photo by Jim Wells.

Love at first bite: Asper MBA grad brings Eastern snack to Canadians

September 11, 2018 — 

For Lorena Prakash [MBA/02], owner of Duzu Dates, her relationship with the natural and nutritious fruit was an instant obsession.

On a trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Prakash picked up stuffed dates as a gift for her friends and family. They were a hit. When Prakash went to her local grocery store to pick up more, she was surprised when she could only find the typical, plain variety in plastic containers, with no fillings.

A couple of years later, Prakash was laid off from her job in the media industry. With increased free time and an idea, she began to do her research on where to find dates, and even experimented with importing small batches.

Fast-forward four years, and Prakash is the owner of Duzu Dates, a growing company that sells a variety of luxurious dates stuffed with fillings like nuts and ginger, and often enrobed in chocolate.

Breaking into the food industry as an entrepreneur, Prakash took the skills she learned from her Asper MBA classes and applied them. “It was the first time I truly used my MBA,” Prakash said, as she was being exposed to all aspects of the business, from production to accounting, unlike any previous positions she had held.

Being the boss, doesn’t mean others won’t have an opinion. “Many can be quick to become an armchair CEO when coming up with business solutions,” laughs Prakash, they don’t see limitations and forget “when you come from a company, you have resources to draw from and the expenses are not out of your pocket. When you’re starting your own business, there are more expenses than there is revenue.”

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Prakash advises that a “strong framework is needed before you hit the go button”. She says yes, you should make a business plan, but that should come after finalizing logistics, such as packaging and accounting. This way you have more material from which to construct your plan, with fewer small tasks to figure out later. “It’s easy to go – oh, I’ll fix this later, I’ll fix that later,” says Prakash, but all those little tasks add up.

Executing a business plan can be much easier when you have support. Along with many helping hands to pit and package dates, Prakash has enlisted experienced chocolatier, Bernard Callebaut, of Master Chocolat (Bernard & Sons), to help with the production of the chocolate-dipped treats. “It’s quality ingredients like these that have made Duzu Dates successful,” says Prakash.

These quality ingredients paired with clever names like “Play Date” or “Decadent Date” – Prakash’s personal favourite, a dark chocolate-covered medjool date with almonds and pink Himalayan sea salt – are sure to be a hit at your next gathering.

Duzu Dates can be purchased online and in store at De Luca’s Specialty Foods.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the MBA program at the U of M. Prakash’s journey is just one of the many inspiring entrepreneurial stories we’ve heard throughout the years. Do you have a story you would like to share as an Asper Alumni? Contact Courtney Thompson and we could feature it in our next newsletter.

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