In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA – Mina Elias – Founder & CEO of MMA Nutrition – A supplement company & The creator of the reality show – The FBA Challenge. Mina shares how he pivoted from engineering to launching his own Amazon FBA supplement brand, and his unique personal journey into eCommerce.
Mina was born in Egypt and grew up in Abu-Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and was educated at high-level educational institutions. In 2011 Mina moved to study at The University of Connecticut in the USA where he obtained a degree in chemical engineering.
After graduating from university, Mina worked in a mechanical company, and a construction company for a few years until the world of eCommerce came knocking on his door. While visiting his family in Cairo in 2018, Mina’s father pitched him the idea of creating his own private label brand for performance nutrition.
With Mina’s passion for working out and training, along with his unshakeable determination and hard work, he was able to launch his brand on Amazon and quickly reach over one million dollars in annual sales.
In 2020 Mina launched PPC University to help Amazon sellers improve their Amazon PPC advertising skills. In 2021 Mina launched a new Coffee alternative brand called CogNuro and is documenting his product launch on Amazon FBA in a new and innovative YouTube reality show – The FBA Challenge.
Find out more about Mina Elias and PPC University
Find out more about The FBA Challenge
Find out more about GETIDA Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazur 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m really excited to have an amazing guest, Mina Elias. Mina is a really cool and special guy you’re gonna learn a lot in this episode, but among other things, he’s also the founder and CEO of MMA nutrition, which is a supplement company. A private label brand that he brought up, you know, with his 10 fingers and hands. And he’s also the creator of the reality show, the FBA challenge. That is pretty much it. It’s a reality show about the launch of a new Amazon FBA brand. It’s a cool and special production that is proudly sponsored by GETIDA. Welcome to the show.
Mina Elias 0:48
Thank you for having me, only an amazing introduction.
Yoni Mazur 0:51
My pleasure to have you. So today’s episode really is gonna be the Mina Elias episode you’re gonna share with us? Who are you? Where are you from? Where’d you grow up? How did you begin your professional career? How’d you end up in the world of e-commerce? So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Mina Elias 1:08
Alright, let’s get into it. So I was born in Egypt. So my parents are Egyptian. My family is there now. They’re all you know, living there. And then when I was two, I was…
Yoni Mazur 1:20
Which part of Egypt is just for Cairo?
Mina Elias 1:23
Yeah. Cairo. So yeah, they all live in, like in the heart, like the Oji. Cairo does not like the newly developed areas. And they’re all like, within, a couple miles of each other. My mom’s family, my dad’s family, everyone, and I grew up there until I was two and a half years old. And then my dad got a job. He graduated as an electrical engineer, worked, and then got a really good job in Dubai. So technically, Abu Dhabi, which is like the capital, and so we moved there. And this was before Dubai was what it was, there was no like, the I mean, the highest buildings were like, maybe 15 storeys high and stuff.
Yoni Mazur 2:01
Was that just for context reasons?
Mina Elias 2:03
Yoni Mazur 2:05
So in 1994, you moved to the Emirates Abu Dhabi. Your people kind of know, today, that the buyer, because we’re tourists and well known, were saying it was the modest, humble, almost humble beginnings of their economic prize.
Mina Elias 2:18
Yeah it wasn’t fancy, wasn’t big, anything like that. So really, you know, I grew up there. And as I grew up, you could see like, every single week, a new building was going up. And they had a lot of money. Construction was 24/7, like 24/7 shifts.
Yoni Mazur 2:34
Father as an engineer, so obviously, he helped with that effort. For me, that was kind of no
Mina Elias 2:39
No, he actually changed careers. So when he went there, he started working in surgical device sales. So selling like medical devices for orthopedics and not orthopedic sir. endoscopy, stuff like that. So he did that when I grew up there. It was like an incredible life, it’s probably the safest city in the world. You know, and growing up there, though, it’s a little bit different, because you don’t get any of that family-like vibe that we had back in Egypt.
Yoni Mazur 3:08
Yeah, that warm environment that’s surrounding you, it’s kind of gone, because you guys essentially are foreigners, and an up and coming country. But you know, it’s kind of, you know, the life of an immigrant or a foreigner, so to speak.
Mina Elias 3:19
So it’s pretty much an immigrant from day one. And the thing about, you know, Dubai or the UAE is, you are always reminded you’re an immigrant, because you can never become a citizen. So all our life, like we
Yoni Mazur 3:32
So you’re saying, there’s no like, you know, like America, you have the American dream, there’s no like the Dubai and Abu Dhabi dream where you can finally settle or get your citizenship and live the dream over there right.
Mina Elias 3:41
No, Because at any point in time, they can kick you out, they can say, like, you’re done, or, you know, there’s no job opportunities here for you. And to stay there. You always have to have a job or be in school or something. So you’re either there for a reason, or you’re out. And so growing up there, kind of like had that feeling that you know, it was always temporary, it was never permanent. And so as you can see, obviously, the reason I’m here in America is because I’m seeking that, you know, permanent stability, which I think I will talk about this more, but I don’t think it exists. But anyways.
Yoni Mazur 4:17
Yeah, yeah. That’s interesting.
Mina Elias 4:18
We’ll talk about that in a second. So anyway, I grew up there. I was in a really good school. It was probably the most strict school in Abu Dhabi. My parents really wanted me to have a good education. But from a young age, my mom was like, always drilling me like memorize this, memorize songs, I memorized prayers, I memorized everything.
Yoni Mazur 4:39
And the school itself was the coasting school for the locals for the Muslim community or were more for the ex-pats like the…
Mina Elias 4:44
No, no. International. So that was one of the beautiful things is I grew up with like 30 different nationalities around me. English, Arabic all the different like Lebanese, Syrian, you know had like Australian what Indian everything…
Yoni Mazur 5:01
A cosmopolitan and like, you know, like New York City and this school.
Mina Elias 5:04
Yeah, exactly. So it was cool because you got that aspect. And then, but early on, you know, obviously you’re exposed to a very high level of racism. But it’s not like the American racism where like, you know, everyone’s like complaining about it over there. It’s like, it’s kind of like understood, like, Hey, you know, these people will stick with these people that people will dislike and that people…
Yoni Mazur 5:26
More on the social structure level mobile marna social thing, like, you know, there’s a society of the natives, which is wealthy is abundance, and everybody else that comes to help them build the country, the foreigners alpers that’s a different social class, even if they’re wealthy, you know, it’s a kind of differently, or maybe it’s more on a social level is a more rounded ratio, because you’re, you’re…
Mina Elias 5:45
It’s exactly like that. It’s like social status, like, they will consider like, maybe Indians and stuff like that, like lower, they would consider like, maybe Egyptians in the middle, they definitely would consider like, Europeans or Americans like higher. So it was kind of like, very clear, but…
Yoni Mazur 6:02
Yeah, socio economical is this is you know, from my angles, it looks like socio economical layers that they have over there. And that’s how the kind of social structure works there.
Mina Elias 6:11
Yeah. But the school was a very, very tough system. So I used to have 16 exams a week. So if you think about it, there’s only five days in the week. So it was literally like, we had weeklies, which were like hour and a half long exams. We had, you know, Ms. I don’t know what Ms stood for. But it was like a 45 minute test. And it was every single week you were tested, tested, tested, tested, tested.
Yoni Mazur 6:40
It’s for Amazon selling back then they prepared. You’re ready, but maybe…
Mina Elias 6:45
Mina Elias 6:46
But no, no, not that. Not that. But It made me so resilient to that pressure of like, nonstop, you know, being stressed with exams. You know, you get to a point you’re like, man, I don’t even care. Like I don’t know, there’s 600 of these.
Yoni Mazur 7:04
Just give it to me, just give it to me. I’m ready.
Mina Elias 7:06
Yeah. And so it was like that. The school was super strict, though. Like, there was barbed wires around the fence and everything. It was a good school. So because it was such a good school it gave me the opportunity to do my APs, which is the American. The SAT’s which is the old levels, which is the British, you know, and a bunch of other things. I even did a math test, the Euclid math test. So I did all of these tests, got good grades, and kind of it was like, Okay, this was, you know, around 2009-2010. I graduated.
Yoni Mazur 7:39
So let’s get back. So you started when you were an Abu Dhabi 1995, you’re two years old. Yes. And then you write an identity for and so essentially, your elementary school, junior in high school, we’re all in Abu Dhabi all the way to 2009. And the same school, one school has like 12-13 grades.
Mina Elias 7:57
From grade one to grade 12.
Yoni Mazur 8:00
Yoni Mazur 8:02
Wow. So you have one facility, one dynamic, one way of doing things, all the way was…
Mina Elias 8:09
There was actually a portion of time. So from grade one to grade six, I was in that school, and then grade six, my dad’s like, you know what? Maybe you guys are missing Egypt. You want that family vibe, he sends us to the summer. So the summer of grade five, going through grade six, he sends us to Egypt. He says, try it out. Okay. So we go there, and we spend, you know, summer, summer was fun. It was the same summer, every single summer I was going to Egypt. And it was like you go into the north coast and you go into the Red Sea and your family is here. And now you’re going to the clubs. Not the party clubs, the sporting clubs where you can play on the swings and stuff like that.
Yoni Mazur 8:48
Like they can do clubs. Yeah.
Mina Elias 8:51
So you know, it was nice, but then we went into the school year. And very quickly, I realized that this was not for me, like, I missed Abu Dhabi so much more. Because when you’re in Egypt, man, it’s a third, like, it’s a third world country like hard and it starts hitting you. When you’re on vacation. It’s not hitting you. But when you’re living there, it’s hitting you. And you’re constantly saying the same broken everything versus I was living in this place that was pristine because it was just built recently. So like when I came, everything around me was being built like so by the time I was six, seven years old. It’s like six, seven years old, like the stuff Yeah, so…
Yoni Mazur 9:32
It’s modern, it’s fresh. It’s the highest quality. It’s International. You know, it’s a first-world experience where you know, dabble a little bit with Egyptian educational infrastructure system, where it’s, you know, it’s a tough system because it’s a massive country, over 80 million people. Not all the resources are economical…
Mina Elias 9:51
Its 120 million I think right now.
Yoni Mazur 9:53
Yeah. And I’m saying back then when you’re in the 90s 80s. But they grow fast, big families. But yeah, I think There’s almost a population of Germany that’s like really big people kind of like how big Egypt is, and population and size. But you know, it’s limited. And so it’s limited by their infrastructure’s economic ability to create the top of the world educational system and it tastes a little bit and right away you felt, oh, that’d be I got to go back. And you didn’t pivot. You didn’t stay on the Egypt track?
Mina Elias 10:23
No, no. I mean, I said it. My mom was unhappy. My dad wasn’t living with us, because he had to go back and forth between work. He was in sales. So he’s able to maybe like every two months come and visit. But I was like, Dude, this is the worst thing ever. Like I was missing my dad. You know, just, it wasn’t good. Yes, I had my grandparents there and my family there. But you know, you think that it’s gonna be like the summer but it’s not you see them once a week? If so, everyone’s got their own thing. And I’m going to on this….
Yoni Mazur 10:53
So how long were you in Egypt in the actual school, a few days or a few weeks, how long until…
Mina Elias 10:57
No no, a full semester so three months,
Yoni Mazur 10:59
So three months,
Mina Elias 11:03
I said, Let’s, uh, let’s go back to Dhabi. We went back. And then that second semester of sixth grade, as soon as I walked in that school, even though I hated the amount of exams and all this stuff, I was like, man, I feel like I’m back home, you know, and maybe that’s because your kid you grew up six years, somewhere, you’re like, I don’t want to leave this place. But I mean, I looked at the pros and cons. And there really were so many more pros.
Yoni Mazur 11:24
Yeah, it’s amazing how when you’re young children can really feel at the end, at the end of the day, they can feel what’s a good quality thing, or attractive for them to be because of constant pressure creates diamonds. Okay, generally, when you finish school, when you enter the world, you feel you have all these tools and experience in your pocket to deal with it. As opposed to maybe other infrastructures of schools where it’s very lacst, you feel I don’t even know how to deal with this. I never got it. I never had to deal with it so you kind of fade away. So I think even when you’re young, you’re able to, I guess, connect to that and realize, especially when you had the opportunity to compare, you realize what, what was a better track for you. And I think that’s very, very wise.
Mina Elias 12:13
And it was crazy, because that’s exactly how I felt I was there in that school in the sixth grade. And I was like, Man, this is so easy. This is so stupid. No one’s taking anything seriously.
The professor was bringing the dog to class. And, you know, you can walk and run around and…
Yoni Mazur 12:21
Like mini Carnival compared to Abu Dhabi, almost like a carnival.
Mina Elias 12:24
And even though you know you we always hated the strictness of the school and we said, Oh, this school sucks. It’s so strict. But then once you experience you’re like, No, no, no, this looks like they don’t even care. You know. And so, when you feel like that, that care is no longer there. You’re like, Okay, I’m okay with a little bit strict, because at least you know, they care about us.
Yoni Mazur 12:45
Yeah, that’s a very good point. All right, so 2009 you graduated congratulations. What’s your next move?
Mina Elias 12:49
Mina Elias 12:52
2010 I graduated incredibly. I had incredible grades. I had five APS, all five, five, AP exams, all five. I had all my A Levels, all A’s, like a level for whatever, you know, just a lot. SAT’s over 2000. So I applied to every single school and top top top like…
Yoni Mazur 13:13
In Abu Dhabi?
Mina Elias 13:15
No, no, no, here.
Yoni Mazur 13:16
You’re targeting the Ivy League schools in United States and probably what other places in the world?
Mina Elias 13:21
Canada, Australia, I got accepted into McGill University of Toronto, everywhere, like all over the world. And so literally, I did not get rejected from a single school. And it was just like, one acceptance after the other after the other with like different levels of scholarships and stuff, I’ll see…
Yoni Mazur 13:39
So you see how pure gold that school was for you, the ability to have opportunities around the world and the top top, you know, academic organization. That’s incredible.
Mina Elias 13:48
It was definitely worth it. And so then I’m like, Okay, now, like I said, as a 17-year-old, I have to make the decision. And the problem is, I don’t know why, but there is no one there that can help you make a decision. Like, like me, this guy right now. I can help any student make a decision like this, the best decision in their life. But when I was back there, back then, like, really no one helped me, you know, and, and….
Yoni Mazur 14:17
What about your parents? So you were saying you’re helping on the family level on the organizational level of the school?
Mina Elias 14:24
Well, no, because I feel like they didn’t know anything. And I still don’t think they know anything. And I feel like they didn’t even, I can detect you know, you know…
Yoni Mazur 14:32
Who’s they? The school that you’re going to the community who doesn’t know about anything?
Mina Elias 14:40
My parents. The school didn’t didn’t really I mean, what are they gonna tell you they don’t really care.
Yoni Mazur 14:43
So in general your environment back then why their parents or school or society? Nobody really had the right answers for you? Nobody?
Mina Elias 14:50
Yeah, nobody had any answers. That’s the problem. And so the only thing that I knew or that I was being told, oh, go into petroleum engineering. It’s a lot of money going to chemical engineering, it’s a lot of money going to this. It’s money, money, money, okay? So I’m like, Okay, I’m really smart. I’m definitely an engineer. So let me just do chemical engineering. And so I picked chemical engineering. And then I’m like, okay, which University do I pick?
Yoni Mazur 15:18
And even the school you kind of chose your route of where you want to study chemical engineering.
Mina Elias 15:24
Yeah, but based on what? Nothing really no, like, I okay, I know, I can make money somehow.
Yoni Mazur 15:29
There’s probably good money in it. Kind of.
Mina Elias 15:33
That’s it, because people kept saying it’s good money. I knew what I didn’t want to be is like a doctor, for example, because I’m not into that. But you know, and engineering, it kind of very came very naturally to me, but just no one kind of was there for me for that guidance. And then from there, it was like, okay, where do I go? I got accepted into every single school. Where do I go? And there were no answers. You know, it was like, Oh, I heard this is good. This, and my dad would say things like, you know, choose whatever you think is best. I’m like, this is I this is not the kind of answer, though I want, you know.
Yoni Mazur 16:06
It doesn’t make it more simple to choose?
Mina Elias 16:09
Yeah, yeah, let’s, let’s look at the pros and cons. So I said, Okay, the most logical is Canada, because I owe so let me also give a little bit of context. The whole goal was, I was never going to study in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, because the education system sucked.
Yoni Mazur 16:25
But meaning on the university level.
Mina Elias 16:27
Yes. But the salaries there were incredible. Like I’m talking, you graduate, maybe you make 8k a month. salary.
Yoni Mazur 16:36
Mina Elias 16:37
Yeah. So the only way you can do that is you travel, you get your education somewhere like America, Canada, Australia, London, you get your degree there, you become a citizen of that country. And you come back, and now you’ve moved up. Remember that socio economic
Yoni Mazur 16:57
Social rank? Yeah, socio economical.
Mina Elias 17:00
I’m not an Egypican anymore, I’m a Canadian or American. So now just now they pay me more. They don’t pay me as much as a local from there, but they pay me as high as it gets.
Yoni Mazur 17:10
So the locals even though the locals even though they their educational systems are not as good. They still get paid more?
Mina Elias 17:16
They owm the country so So it’s their house.
Mina Elias 17:20
It’s their family, the house wins. So basically, I was like, Okay, I heard Canada was the easiest one to get my, my, you know, citizenship from, I heard that University of Toronto had the third best chemical engineering program in the world. Let’s go there. So I reject all the other offers. I accept that one. I go there, I apply for my student visa. And it’s taking longer than usual to get it. And I’m going every day and I could walk to the embassy. It’s right across the street from me. And I would go every single week, every other day. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. No one was there to kind of step in and be like, yo, we need some like, real actually, what’s going on with this application? No one was there like yo, some fishy shit is happening. Maybe you should have a backup, and let’s accept this US one too. So we accepted two offers.
Yoni Mazur 18:17
Backup plan. Yeah, yeah.
Mina Elias 18:18
No one no. And that’s a lot of who I am today comes back from that, because it’s like I was a bird that was thrown out like and had to like, kind of figure it out. So and ended up after the entire summer was over. They said, No, your student visas were rejected because we think you’re going to illegally immigrate to Canada.
Yoni Mazur 18:45
Let me step back a little bit. So you’re already in Toronto studying or no?
Mina Elias 18:48
No, no, I’m in Abu Dhabi still..
Yoni Mazur 18:51
Oh,You live very close to the Canadian Embassy in A