Hakan Baybas On The Benefits Of Running A Purpose-Driven Business

An Interview With Chad Silverstein

In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Azrah Manji-Savin.

Azrah Manji-Savin is the CEO and Co-Founder of Syzl, a B2B marketplace platform that allows chefs to rent a professional kitchen near them. The platform democratizes access to essential infrastructure that is powering the new food economy. After earning her master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Azrah returned to Toronto to launch her business as part of a robust ecosystem of more than 2,000 startups. Syzl was recently selected to participate in The DMZ’s new Incubator cohort.

I grew up in a community where food was central to our culture and daily life. My early years were shaped by the bustling energy of local restaurants that specialized in the food local to where my parents and grandparents grew up and the warmth of home kitchens where recipes were passed down through generations. This instilled in me a deep appreciation for culinary arts and a recognition of the challenges faced by food entrepreneurs. My journey to founding Syzl was a natural extension of my lifelong passion for food and innovation, combining my background in technology, real estate and my desire to create meaningful change in the food industry.

We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

Our pivotal learning moment at Syzl came when we underestimated the significance of food safety for our customers’ consumers. Initially, we assumed that with the growing trend of direct-to-consumer home cooking apps, stringent food safety standards might be less of a priority. This assumption proved incorrect. Feedback and in-depth research from food consumers highlighted their expectation of extremely high safety standards, much beyond our initial provisions.

This realization prompted a major strategic shift. We quickly enhanced our safety protocols to not just meet, but exceed regulatory requirements, ensuring that our platform’s kitchens and makers adhere to the strictest cleanliness and safety standards. This adjustment has been crucial in affirming that food safety is a cornerstone of our operations and that the general public feels comfort knowing their food was cooked in a professional, inspected space.

As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?

My leadership at Syzl is deeply rooted in several core principles, with equity and diversity being at the forefront. At Syzl, equity is more than a buzzword; it’s a guiding force in every decision we make. This principle is vital to me personally and professionally as it ensures that every individual who interacts with our platform — be it a kitchen owner, a home cook, or a culinary entrepreneur — has equal access to opportunities. In practice, this means actively removing barriers and creating a level playing field for all, regardless of their background or resources. This commitment to equity is not just about fairness; it’s about fostering a rich, diverse environment where unique culinary traditions and innovations can thrive.