Shashi Aggarwal is the cofounder of Spice Kitchen, a small mother and son led business established in 2012. Shashi was born in Kenya, moving to India where she grew up and where she learned the art of blending and cooking with spices, together with her mum, aunts and sisters. Shashi came to the UK in the 1970s, where she set up home with her husband and where she raised her family. After retiring from the family business in 2007, she became bored and longed for something to do. Her son Sanjay suggested on Christmas Day in 2012 that she begin selling her Masala Dabbas (Indian Spice Tins) on eBay. She listed her first tin that day and it sold the following day! Spice Kitchen was born and Shashi has never looked back.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I have spent my life cooking with spices for my family. I’m very much a home cook, not a fancy chef, but I was very fortunate to learn from my ancestors the art of blending spices. I brought this knowledge with me to the UK in the 70s and continued to broaden my foodie horizons. I lived in London so it was perfect for exploring diverse food cultures. It’s all of this knowledge and a love of food that I now channel into Spice Kitchen.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
It was my son Sanjay who suggested that I put together a spice tin and take a photograph, then list it on eBay. It really was that simple. I was looking for a project for my retirement and feeling very down about not having a purpose after working for so many years. The idea for the business really came from that little idea.
How did you achieve awareness?
We were really fortunate to be offered a stand at the BBC Good Food Show. This was a real pivotal moment for our little business as we quickly began to realise that there was a real
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have never had to rely on funding, thankfully. Because the business was always going to be a retirement hobby and was never designed to actually make money, we have been very fortunate to let things evolve organically and not overstretch ourselves.
What are the key successes?
We’ve had so many proud moments but I would say that finding out we had won the Gift of the Year Award for the second time in 2022 was a huge moment for us. I’m always so humbled at how much people love our products and so to have won such a prestigious award was a real moment where we pinched ourselves.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these? I think the biggest challenge has been how rapidly everything has grown and sometimes it doesn’t feel like there is enough time to get everything done. As a business owner you have to do everything alone, until you are in a position to get help. Recruitment brings it’s own challenges, especially in a small business where every single person makes such a huge difference to the culture. We’ve thankfully got it right as we know the kind of people we want to work with us.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We have our first cookbook out in print in May and then we are hoping to do lots of TV appearances to help share our love of cooking with spice blends! We are also close to launching our products internationally, and have links in Dubai, the USA and also across Europe. It’s a really exciting time for us.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Although I would describe myself as pretty risk adverse, having been on this incredible journey I would definitely encourage anyone who has a genuine passion to take a step, whatever that might be. You only need to take one small step, and then the next. The journey will unfold in front of you.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
I always say that you have to led your heart lead you, even in business. If you do what is right and you follow your bliss, then you will never go far wrong.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
- If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. …
- Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. …
- Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. …
- If you do what you love, it is the best way to relax.
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