Member stories
 

The community social enterprise inspiring women to be financially independent

The community social enterprise inspiring women to be financially independent
Sangeeta Sengupta
Sangeeta Sengupta
Director
TiffinWalli CIC
 

Posted: Thu 4th Aug 2022

Sangeeta Sengupta is the founder of TiffinWalli, a catering business that provides employment to women facing hardship. She is also about to launch a new yoghurt business.

Sangeeta sought advice on how to grow her social enterprise and found the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. She joined a Bootcamp for female founders.

The entrepreneur shares her story and explains how the Bootcamp inspired her.


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 ca join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.


How did you come up with your business idea?

"I first had the idea while working with people with learning disabilities and deaf people. I was keen to make them financially independent as they often found it difficult to find a job. I created a business serving food to community organisations. I recruited some of the participants and taught them how to run the enterprise.

"I enjoy going out and trying food from various countries. I met many women who were very good cooks and believed that if they ran a business, they would be successful. However, those women didn’t have the knowledge on how to convert home cooking into a business. I did so I decided to create an enterprise and support the women to become financially independent. I launched my catering social enterprise, TiffinWalli CIC."

What start-up challenges did you face?

"Finance was the biggest challenge but because I have extensive experience of applying for grants, I used my skills and applied for funding to train the women. It was difficult because we were a very new enterprise, but I managed to do it.

"Funding helped me to hire a community kitchen and buy basic catering equipment. My boss was supportive of my initiative and gave us our first order to celebrate his birthday.

"I also became a member of a volunteer forum, which promoted our initiative a lot and led to several orders from various community organisations."

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your business?

"Before the pandemic, I started promoting the service to colleagues, friends, and community organisations. After getting a few orders and building confidence that we could take on bigger orders from corporate firms, I planned to run a food taster session with corporate business in Aldgate in London. However, COVID -19 changed that.

"The pandemic hugely affected our catering business, but it did open another door for us. I started delivering free food to vulnerable people and those working from home. We have continued that service and are now starting to get catering orders again.

"During the pandemic, we also came up with a new idea business idea for a yoghurt product."

TiffinWalli yoghurt

Why did you decide to join the Amazon Bootcamp?

"While running the food delivery service, I noticed one of the volunteers made excellent yoghurt. I thought I could bring it to market. I approached her and she was happy to be part of it. We ran taster sessions to test the product, did some market research and developed a business plan.

"I attended many training sessions to learn how to commercialise the product. While researching events, I came across Enterprise Nation and became a member. Through Enterprise Nation, I discovered the Amazon Bootcamp for female founders and decided to join the programme."

What were the key benefits of the Amazon Bootcamp for your business?

"The main benefit was meeting like-minded people with successful enterprises. Running a business can be lonely, and you need to be continuously motivated and learn new things from those who have been through the journey.

"I learnt from Jess Salamanca, who launched a food business. I related to her experience and was hugely motivated by her story and ideas.

"I was also inspired by Ceylan Boyce who discussed the smart actions required for a successful business vision, and by Julia Elliott Brown’s expertise in raising funds."

What actions did you take after taking part in the Bootcamp?

"After the Bootcamp I contacted a social enterprise adviser to clarify the vision of the business. I also appointed board members. We are working on creating clear roles and responsibilities as well as a vision and clear path to achieve our business goals."

What are your top tips for business success?

"You are unlikely to be given a ready-made format to start the exact business you want to so you need to seek advice to get a complete picture of what you need to do. Every day is a day for learning.

"My other tip is if you are running a business with a partner, make sure you clearly agree your joint values and vision in writing.”

What are your plans for the future of your business?

"We have secured the trademark for our enterprise and the yoghurt product. We are creating the packaging and looking for an appropriate space to start production in August."


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 ca join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
Sangeeta Sengupta
Sangeeta Sengupta
Director
TiffinWalli CIC
 
Sangeeta has 21 years of experience in managing multifaceted Training and Employment projects ranging from addressing worklessness, Health inequality, and disabilities. She also leads a charity organisation for Deaf people- Deafroots, and is the co-founder and the Director of TiffinWalli Social Enterprise She has published her book  ‘Mother and baby’ in Bengali to raise awareness among Bengali mothers and also wrote short story ‘Sound of Silence’ for- Human stories and East India Company project.
 

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