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The foodie entrepreneur on a mission to teach the world about spices

The foodie entrepreneur on a mission to teach the world about spices
Nina Saparia
Nina Saparia
Director
The Spice Yard Ltd
 

Posted: Wed 9th Dec 2020

Nina Saparia has always had a love for spices, having grown up with parents who emigrated to the UK from India.

After friends continually complimented Nina on her tasty food, she decided to turn her knowledge into a business. She now sells her spices with secret family recipes via her website.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Stockport-based entrepreneur has also taken the time to learn new skills, and thanks to a Bootcamp for food businesses through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, is about to launch her products on the Amazon online store.

Here's the story of The Spice Yard.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.  
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your learning dashboard to access the e-learning. 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 was brought up with spices. My parents were first generation immigrants to this country and I have true fusion running through my veins. At home, I would eat Indian food and at school I would have normal school dinners.

When I learnt to cook and went away to university I merged the two because I missed my mum's cooking. Almost every Indian child is given a little spice box when they go to university or get their first home. To this day I still use the same spice box to create recipes.

When I started cooking for friends, I'd always add a bit of spice and I thought that was perfectly normal. But my friends would say "wow, this salad dressing tastes amazing. What have you put in it?" I'd say "I just added a little bit of cumin and coriander," and they'd tell me "you need to show people this because we don't know how to use spices." Lots of people just connect spices with a curry but there are so many versatile ways to use spices. I want to teach the world how to use them better.

You started delivering food during the coronavirus pandemic. How did that come about?

During the first lockdown all the markets closed as did a lot of the shops I'm stocked in so like most small businesses I thought about where my income was going to come from. My house was filled with bags of spices and I thought if I didn't use it, it was going to go off. So I decided to cook for people.

I'm food registered and I've got all my hygiene standards from home so I had everything I needed to make it work but as I'd never run a takeaway business before, it was a steep learning curve.

I got some takeaway boxes, I developed the recipes and tested them on my partner (he was very happy!). I started delivering the food to neighbours and friends, they then spread the word and now I deliver on a local basis.

I deliver the food chilled which is different from most takeaways and that's because of the uncertainty around COVID-19. One minute you can find yourself being able to go out to shop and the next minute you can't. It means customers can freeze the food or keep it chilled for three or four days. I'm now delivering 30-40 dishes a week. It's a really good way of getting food to people in the way that they want it.

I always thought there was no way I'd go into the restaurant business as it's too much hard work and I just don't have experience. But having done the takeaway side of it, I love feeding people. I've become my mother!

I'm going to continue. I've got my first pop-up with a friend soon and we're going to serve my food. It's challenging but also exciting.

I hope to get my own premises because there's only so much you can do from a home set up. I'm looking for premises I can cook and deliver from.

In 2019 you took part in Clicks in Mortar, an Enterprise Nation and Amazon project allowing online businesses to sell products in physical shops. How did that help?

I learnt so many things in terms of selling my products in a retail environment, the types of customers and their needs and their wants. But above all, I met some wonderful people, some fellow entrepreneurs. We've kept in touch and get together for coffee to check in on how everyone is doing and feeling. We also share tips and advice and talk about the things that Enterprise Nation is doing.

The Spice Yard

Why did you decide to apply for the Amazon Food and Drink Bootcamp?

At the start of COVID, I recognised that there was an increase in traffic to my website but little conversion. I thought to myself "who does it the best?": Amazon.

What benefits did you get from the Bootcamp and what are you plans for selling on Amazon's online?

Before the bootcamp, I thought you could only go on Amazon if you were a certain size business, you had to send your products to Amazon and they have to be fulfilled by Amazon. All of that was dispelled because there are other options that smaller businesses can try.

It was a great course because I learnt so much. There were several speakers who had already been there and done it themselves. You could relate to their stories and all the pitfalls which was really helpful.

I'm now going through the process of listing on Amazon and taking photos of all my products with a white background which is what you need. Although I've got lots of individual spices, I'm going to start off with selling my Christmas gifts because I think they offer a point of different.

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

I watched the basics for starting a business and I'm going to refresh myself and go back.

The e-learning has helped me with having the right mindset as an entrepreneur. That was invaluable during COVID as like a lot of small businesses, we were thinking "what do I do?". Having the right mindset and knowing there were others out there going through the same thing really helped me to get through it.

What are your tips for business success?

Don't lose heart or give up. Have moments when you take stock of what you have achieved and the direction you are going.

Use the support of Enterprise Nation, Growth hubs, local communities and fellow business owners to gain knowledge, insights, share experiences and find your tribe.

I am definitely the tortoise in this race but at least I will get to the end, having enjoyed the journey and be in a place that's right for my business and me.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.  
 
If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your learning dashboard to access the e-learning. If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
Nina Saparia
Nina Saparia
Director
The Spice Yard Ltd
 

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