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The foodie entrepreneur inspired by her Moroccan heritage

The foodie entrepreneur inspired by her Moroccan heritage
Nadia Hamila
Nadia Hamila
Founder
Amboora
 

Posted: Tue 15th Mar 2022

Nadia Hamila was inspired by her Moroccan background to launch Amboora, a range of spices and sauces.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the entrepreneur to focus on internet sales which led to her selling her products on Amazon’s online store.

She picked up tips for refining her Amazon strategy by attending a Bootcamp and watching e-learning videos through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.

Nadia shares her story.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in over 200 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log in to your learning dashboard. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

“I had an epiphany a few years ago when cooking my daughter Moroccan food. People were also asking me for recipes and how to recreate the food they’d eaten in Morocco. I provided them with spice blends and recipes. The feedback was that they couldn’t find anything similar in shops.

“One Saturday we were at a food market and I saw a woman selling sauces. I turned to my husband and all the pieces came together. I followed up by doing extensive market research at the British Library Business and IP Centre, Google was my best friend and doing customers surveys was vital. When I got validation, I knew I had to go for it.”

What start-up challenges did you face?

“Working on Amboora has been a learning curve. Even though I came from a start-up background I didn’t have any knowledge of the food industry and had to learn how to navigate it.

“Finding a manufacturer was the most difficult part of the process. Having a business background was a big help and I only realised when others asked questions that I already had some sort of advantage. However, I had to search high and low for a manufacturer. By talking to people in my network and searching on Google, I finally found one.

”As I came from a start-up business background, I didn’t really encounter any other challenges except the lack of time trying to balance a demanding job and family life.

“Thanks to the government’s Kickstart Scheme I have been able to employ people to help support marketing activities.”

What is your strategy for engaging with customers and making sales?

“Our main marketing strategy is using Instagram to engage and educate customers.

“I also publish recipes on my website to support the spices and give people ideas for how to use them.

“I want my website to be educational as well as transactional. My analytics show that the recipes drive traffic to the website which helps to convert them into customers. It’s important to build your own tribe so you have a direct relationship with your customers.

“I’m moving my website to Shopify which works well with Klaviyo and my email marketing. Prior to the pandemic, most people purchased their food via bricks and mortar outlets with direct to customer being a small percentage of sales. However, the pandemic has proven that it’s imperative to have a strong social media presence.”

How has COVID-19 affected your business?

“The pandemic came at the worst time for my business as I was just about to finalise my main product. I had visited the factory and was moving things forward when the first lockdown started. I was told they couldn’t take on any new clients. We thought it would be weeks but that became months and then they said they couldn’t do it at all.

“I was completely stuck but I took it as a sign to step back and reassess everything even though I was frustrated at the time I lost. I saw other businesses struggling because a high percentage of their sales from the food service trade were lost. I took this opportunity to reassess my strategy and find a new manufacturer who could quickly help me launch the spice range.

“It was a silver lining because I started to experiment with selling on Amazon’s online store and build up my online presence. I would have done that much later if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. When COVID-19 restrictions eased, I could do face to face meetings knowing that I had a strong online presence.”

Amboora

What tips did you pick up from the Amazon Bootcamp that you attended?

“I picked up several tips for how to make a success of selling on Amazon’s online store. They included:

“Sign up for Brand Registry which helps protect your brand and build a better customer experience.

“Sign up to Amazon Vine which allows you to provide free products for people to review. This helped me to obtain reviews for my products and to gather useful feedback.

“Amazon provides sales data as Business Reports. Having access to this data is great but understanding how to use it to benefit your business is key. The data is useful for helping me to understand the market and my consumers. I know how much I’ve grown month by month, where my customers are, repeat purchases etc.

“Another great benefit of attending the Bootcamp is that I can watch recordings of the event on-demand.”

Why did you decide to start selling on Amazon?

“Amazon wasn’t initially a big part of my strategy, but the pandemic and change in purchasing habits made me realise that Amazon should play a fundamental role in my business. Within my network, a lot of people pivoted their businesses to sell on Amazon and have enjoyed huge success.

“Amazon is also a key part of my strategy for selling abroad. My first target market is Germany.”

What is your strategy for making sales on Amazon’s online store and what tips would you give to others wanting to make a success of selling on Amazon?

“Having good product images and investing in advertising is key. You need to do a lot of testing. Amazon provides free credit which I used to do some A/B testing. Launching advertising has helped to accelerate my business on Amazon.

“Make sure you pay attention to how your advertising is performing and fine tune the keywords so people can find you. For example, in my case, ‘Ras El Hanout’ is the name of a spice which people might misspell. They might instead search for ‘Moroccan spice mix’ or Moroccan spice blend’ so you need to think outside the box.”

What tips have you picked from the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning videos?

“I picked up tips from the module that introduces selling on Amazon. The videos list key elements which are important to understand so you maintain a good seller account.

“I also enjoyed the stories of successful Amazon sellers such as Lavolio Boutique Confectionary and Coconut Merchant.

“Al Shariat from Coconut Merchant used Amazon to get in front of a large audience and use it as a tool to prove their following. By having an Amazon store, you can demonstrate social proof to people interested in buying your products.

“Lavinia Davolio from Lavolio used Amazon to launch her chocolate business online. It allowed her to test her products and get them in front of millions of people on a small budget. The growth on Amazon has led to her growing the business and her team.”

What are your plans for the future of your business?

“I want Amboora to be the go-to brand for Moroccan food. I’m planning to launch two more ranges this year and I’m hoping to collaborate with other companies to be able to offer a full Moroccan offering.

“All my products will be launched via Amazon and my website in the first instance.

“I will also soon be selling my products internationally with Fulfilment by Amazon in the EU. Amazon is perfect if you want to test international markets and navigate trading post-Brexit.”

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?

“Spanx founder Sara Blakely. Her story is so inspiring and there are many lessons that you can learn from her journey. She knew exactly what she wanted to achieve and set out doing just that. Using unconventional methods to get her products in front of people worked for her. For example, she would send people she knew to purchase her products from shops, and she travelled around the US as her own salesperson in department stores.

“I think a lot of female entrepreneurs are inspired by Sara because she is relatable and built a business with a high degree of emotional intelligence. She has shown that a successful business doesn’t have to have traditional masculine characteristics.”

What are your top tips for business success?

“Networking! Talk to and learn from people. Inspire and let yourself be inspired. However, don't be that annoying person who keeps asking the questions and doesn’t give back.

“Another tip is to just go for it! There will probably never be a perfect time to launch and usually it’s not worth waiting around for it. If starting seems overwhelming with a lot of things to do, then break down the tasks into smaller activities. For example, spend some time researching similar products on Amazon, reading reviews and understanding what makes your target customers tick.

“Mistakes will be a part of your journey so don’t be afraid of them! Use them as learning opportunities.”

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in over 200 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log in to your learning dashboard. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
Nadia Hamila
Nadia Hamila
Founder
Amboora
 

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