Meet the Person Behind the Brand: Ibraheem Basir, Founder and CEO of A Dozen Cousins

A Series Connecting You to the Entrepreneurs in “Put Me On”

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Earlier in 2021, Gopuff announced “Put Me On,” a small business accelerator program designed to help underrepresented entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The first group of participants include entrepreneurs in the beauty, home essentials, and food and beverage categories, including Ibraheem Basir, Founder and CEO of A Dozen Cousins. 

A Dozen Cousins is based in Los Angeles, Calif., and is on a mission to inspire families of all backgrounds to eat better food and live longer, more vibrant lives. The company combines taste, health, and culture through its ready-to-eat rice and beans, which are inspired by traditional Creole, Caribbean, and Latin American recipes.

Read on to learn more about Ibraheem and A Dozen Cousins. 

What was the tipping point for you to become an entrepreneur?

I’ve actually wanted to be an entrepreneur my entire life. My father was an entrepreneur and owned a number of small businesses throughout my childhood, from a grocery store to a small taxi fleet and at one point even an extermination business. As one small business started to wind down, he’d get excited about another idea he had, and watching his excitement and passion always piqued my interest. I also appreciated and valued how he was able to control his own destiny through entrepreneurship, and fully control his schedule and put his family first. 

In terms of starting a company like A Dozen Cousins, I knew I wanted to create a brand that spoke to me, my family, and the community I grew up in, in terms of the foods and the flavors we ate. I grew up in a unique Black and Latino melting pot in Brooklyn, where we ate jerk chicken, empanadas, and tons of rice and beans. 

Tell us about the story of your brand, how did the company come to be?

I grew up in a large family – I have nine siblings! Food was glue for us. It was what brought us together at the end of every day; it was how we marked personal milestones, celebrated holidays, and supported each other. It’s also what connected us to our neighbors. To me, food is more than sustenance, it’s a link to culture, community, and family. 

I carried my connection to food with me into my career. I started my career as a brand manager in the food industry, and really fell in love with the space. As I learned more about the industry I was disappointed there wasn’t a brand out there that I could personally love and attach myself to in the same way other consumers were connected to the brands I was working on. So, I set out to do something about it and started A Dozen Cousins. 

My goal in building A Dozen Cousins was to combine taste, health, and culture and help people eat better food, which can build more vibrant lives, and I’m proud of what A Dozen has grown to be today.  

When my first daughter was born, I had 11 nieces and nephews, so that is where the name A Dozen Cousins originally came from. Now that a few years have passed, the number of cousins has continued to grow. 

Tell us about your company’s presence in your community. Do you have strong ties to the place in which you’re headquartered? If so, what does that look like?

When starting A Dozen Cousins, I absolutely knew we would give back to the communities we were serving. Black and Latino communities in the U.S. are more likely to suffer from food related illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. To help combat this trend, each year we give a grant to a nonprofit organization that is working to eliminate socioeconomic health disparities. 

The first year we donated to Happy Kitchen, which is a nonprofit that teaches culturally relevant food and nutrition courses. This past year, we gave our grant to LA Community Fridges, which has a public network of refrigerators, where you can drop off fresh food for members of the community. 

Why is “Put Me On” important to you and your business, and what are you hoping to get out of the program? 

I’m excited to be part of the Put Me On program to connect with and learn from my fellow entrepreneurs. Likewise, I look forward to learning more about the instant delivery space specifically. The market is still novel, but really on trend with what consumers are seeking today in the midst of COVID-19. I want to understand how to grow and win within the instant delivery space, and I think that would be a great competitive advantage. 

What is one piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs and why?

Don’t forget to pay attention to stress management and mood control, and do it from day one. The psychological elements of running a business are tough and paying attention to that from the outset can help.

I have grown A Dozen Cousins alongside raising two young children, so it’s important for me to focus on work/life balance and to ensure that I am bringing the right energy to all parts of my life. 

This is something I am trying to pass on to my employees as well. We have bi-monthly coaching sessions with employees, with the goal of talking about what’s working, what’s not, where they’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, where they need more resources, etc. We try to have systems in place to ensure work doesn’t add pressure to their individual lives. 

Separately, I would also say do not undervalue communication. Communication, transparency, and making sure people are on the journey with you will be key in running your business. 

What’s your favorite snack, or last item ordered on Gopuff? 

My favorite sweet snack is sour candy. That was the first order I made on Gopuff! And, of course, I love snacking on rice and beans from A Dozen Cousins as an afternoon mini meal. 

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