The singing cook who started a business

The singing cook who started a business
Sofia Javed
Sofia JavedThe Singing Spice Company

Posted: Mon 14th Feb 2022

Sofia Javed is the founder of The Singing Spice Company, a business inspired by her love for singing while cooking and memories of enjoying South Asian meals as a child.

Forced to switch from selling at farmers' markets to selling online during the coronavirus pandemic, Sofia looked for advice on digital marketing and found the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.

She joined a Bootcamp for Black-owned businesses and picked up tips through the Accelerator's e-learning programme.

As a result, Sofia will soon be launching her products on Amazon's online store. Read 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?

"Before setting up my business I worked as a solicitor. After a stressful day at the office, cooking was my way of relaxing and I loved to sing while doing it! After having my children, I was mindful of making sure that they had home-cooked, nutritious South Asian meals that I had grown up eating as a child. I learnt from the best chef around; my mum! My mum had a wealth of culinary experience that she brought with her when she emigrated from the Punjab to the UK over 30 years ago.

"In 2018, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and whilst researching alternative treatments to reduce/stop the cancer I came across an article that talked about the link in some studies between turmeric and cancer treatment.

"Despite being a fit and healthy 31-year-old, my brother-in-law unfortunately lost his battle to cancer. This spurred my research into processed and mass-produced foods affecting our health due to their carcinogenic and high in fats and sugars profile. I knew that I had to make an impactful change in the food we were consuming.

"As my love for cooking grew, so did my passion for the spices which give them their tantalizing flavour. The more I used them to season my dishes, the more I learned about their incredible health benefits. I was shocked to discover that 'conventional' (i.e. non-organic) spices and herbs tend to be treated with toxic chemicals to kill off potential bacteria, mould, yeast, insects, and pathogens they may contain. It was a far cry from the natural spices which seasoned my mother's cooking.

"This shocking revelation planted the seed of The Singing Spice Company in my mind. I switched to organic spices for all my cooking and when family and friends started complimenting the taste and flavour of my curries, I would share my secret of using organic spices and create bespoke blends for them.

"As my small tribe of loyal spice lovers grew, I realised this was something I could share with other health and quality-conscious home cooks. It became my motivation to launch The Singing Spice Company."

What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

"The challenges I faced was running my business, working as a lawyer, and raising a family. Juggling so many hats is challenging and then throw a pandemic into the mix! As a result of the pandemic, I decided to leave my job as a solicitor and focus on my business and family which was definitely the right decision to make.

"A lack of funding and mentoring support was also a challenge. That was overcome to an extent by Enterprise Nation and other small business networks that have signposted me to further support."

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

"My marketing strategy has changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic. I started off going to farmers’ market which allowed me to talk with people and find out exactly what pain points they had cooking authentic Indian meals. Their main issue was not knowing what spices to use and in what quantities. As more people started cooking from home during the pandemic, I realised that this was a great time to launch my premade organic spice blends.

"During the pandemic, I switched to online sales channels. This came with challenges as digital marketing has a plethora of selling options. I had to learn areas such as Facebook advertising, search engine optimisation, email marketing, influencer marketing and how to sell on stores like Not On The High Street, Fodabox, Amazon and eBay.

"This is when I utilised the Enterprise Nation platform and the Amazon Small Business Accelerator programme. The free e-learning has provided me with invaluable and insightful advice for growing my online brand awareness and sales.

“A key marketing strategy I have learnt is the importance of having a sales funnel and making sure you have good quality content on your website's home page, product pages and about us page. I've also worked on having a flow of welcome and abandoned cart emails and investing in organic traffic through Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

“With the digital world we live in, it’s important that brands have an omnichannel presence. It helps with discoverability across digital platforms and provides credibility for your target customers.”

Why did you decide to join the Amazon Bootcamp for Black-owned businesses?

"I joined because I realised that being on Amazon’s online store would be instrumental to the success of my business as it has an engaged and targeted customer base that can help me to grow my business and develop my product range based on the customer feedback I receive.

"In addition, it was extremely important for me to see what opportunities were available for businesses run by ethnic minorities."

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

"It presented to me the opportunity to reach millions of customers easily. I loved the information from Amazon’s Angel Onwochei who pointed out that by selling on Amazon you only need one account for Europe. With Brexit and the minefield of changes affecting customs and exports, this presents an exciting opportunity for my business. My dream is to be able to sell my products in Europe given there is a large customer base in countries like the Netherlands and Germany who are big on organic products.

"Another tip I picked up from the Bootcamp was the importance of including keywords associated with your listing in the product title and product description on Amazon because this allows your products to be discovered by customers and increase your conversion.

"It was also insightful to learn that the more images you have the better as it allows the customer to understand exactly what you’re selling and how it can benefit them.

"These tips were key for me as they allowed me to work on my product title and description thoroughly to enable my organic spice blends products to be discovered by more customers.

"I found the session on Global Trade Items Numbers (GTINs) extremely useful. It highlighted the importance of having barcodes because when a product is sold through different vendors and marketplaces, an internationally recognised standard, such as the GS1 GTIN system, makes it possible to identify products. It was also interesting to note how having a GTIN increases online search engine conversions by up to 20%.

"The segment on how to secure funding as a Black-owned business was useful as it encouraged me to ask myself those difficult questions founders often put off such as understanding exactly what business I am building and thinking about my long term goals."

the singing spice company

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

"I started researching other products like mine on Amazon and researching their unique selling points. I also read the reviews of products on Amazon’s online store which validated my business and gave the confidence to launch knowing there is a product market fit as there are shoppers looking for premium quality, organic or healthier alternatives to mass produced spices and food products.

"I followed the tips from Angel and set up my Amazon account. Her advice and slides made it extremely easy to navigate the registration process.

"The Bootcamp also encouraged me to focus on writing a business plan so that I could really understand the market I’m entering, and whether there is room for my business to grow."

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

"I found the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme really useful, especially the 'setting up on the Amazon stores' module. I watched it all and picked up some great tips. I was able to create and set up my Amazon store which was verified by Amazon due to the helpful tips in the bitesize videos.

"In my earlier response I commented on the many marketing strategies small businesses have to navigate which can be an absolute minefield if you’re just starting out. The Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme has all the key information and advice you need to accelerate business growth in e-commerce. I also love how the programme has been broken down into 'start', 'grow' and 'turbo' so you can choose which part of the journey you’re on and tailor learning at your own pace.

"I've also enjoyed watching the Amazon Seller stories as they are a great source of inspiration.”

What are some of the successes you've achieved and what are your plans for the future of your business?

"We had the privilege last year to win the Fabulous Food Find competition and we were selected to exhibit at the BBC Good Food Show. This introduced us to a large foodie customer base who absolutely loved our sustainable spices.

"We won a Great Taste Award for our garam masala and it fills me with pride saying we have one of the world’s great tasting garam masalas!

"We won our first pitch to a large online retailer, so I’m excited to launch nationally in the coming year.

"Finally, we have launched a new tandoori masala rub, will be introducing new products and will launch on Amazon’s online store later this year."

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?

"Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia; Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, and Sahar Hashemi, founder of Coffee Republic, all really inspire me.

"From Yvon Chouinard I’ve learnt the importance of sustainable business practices in order to offset the effects of climate change.

"From Sara Blakely and Sahar Hashemi, I’ve learnt about believing in yourself, being the director of your own movie and the captain of your own ship. They show how to believe in yourself and not surround yourself with people who feed your insecurities.

"Sahar Hashemi’s motto is "leap and the net will appear". I totally agree and live by this because until you don’t say to yourself you can do it and take that leap of faith, no one else will."

What are your top tips for business success?

"Be patient and do something you love and are passionate about.

"It's key to start a business with a clear and defined purpose, essentially understanding the 'why' for your business. For some that might be to make money but when you really dig deep, you’ll likely realise you’re doing it for a higher purpose than just money.

"It's also important to work extremely hard and celebrate all your wins. See your failures as feedback and work out how you can improve your business."

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.

Sofia Javed
Sofia JavedThe Singing Spice Company
Hi, I'm Sofia, the founder of The Singing Spice Company. Food as medicine is becoming a topic of interest to consumers as they opt for prevention over treatment. Scientific research has shown the health and immunity boosting properties of spices. Health conscious consumers are seeking out information on how to eat for better health and statistically this was shown when in 2020, consumers spent over £50 million a week on organic food in the UK as it met consumers’ greater focus on health. Indeed, myself included. It was whilst I was working in the corporate sector that coming home from a hard day at work, cooking became my place of escapism. I wanted to recreate the meals I ate growing up as a child that were healthy too, which led me into research about spices and I started taking a particular interest in organic spices as a way of offering optimum health benefits given their organic profile. However, I struggled to find premium quality South Asian spice blends that were not only exceptional in taste but were made using 100% clean ingredients. I wanted blends that were organic, tasted fresh and authentic. One with a variety of organic spices so that I could gain the optimum health benefits and allow me to recreate the meals I had grown up eating as a child. This resulted in making my own range of spice blends and soon The Singing Spice Company was born. Our range consists of 5 tasty organic spice blends handcrafted to family recipes and made in the UK using ethically sourced organic spices. Our blends contain only 100% organic polyphenol- rich spices with no additives or fillers so great for gut health and immunity to name but a few of their benefits. The 5 flavours are: Award winning Organic Garam masala Organic Meat masala Organic Biryani masala Organic Masalan Daal/Veggie Blend Organic Curry powder and Organic Tandoori Masala Barbeque Rub Each blend comes with its own authentic recipe card, made just the way my mum taught me so that you can create mouthwateringly delicious family meals for you and your loved ones. Working as a Human Rights Lawyer I had witnessed first hand the struggles people go through not even being able to afford basic necessities such as food for their families. It was therefore imperative for my business to have a "giving back" element to it as I strongly believe if businesses adopt a more holisitic and ethical approach to how they operate, this will resonate with customers as we all want to make the world a better place and when you can support a business that allows you to do that then I think we are all doing our bit for both humanity and our planet. I achieve this in my business by sourcing sustainable ingredients from the ingredients right down to the packaging as well as giving back to those less fortunate, by providing a meal to a child in need with each spice pack sold and we think that's worth singing about! To find out more head over to our website Happy Cooking! Sofia x

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