Doaa Elkady is a health-conscious mom who saw a need in her own kitchen for clean, organic ethnic spice blends. So, she and her sister-in-law founded Spice Tree Organics. “We realized there really weren’t any authentic global spice blends out there that were certified organic. We decided to start this company to offer that to people,” she said. For more than three years, the company has been doing just that in the New York City area and through its Website.
Why did you start the company?
My sister-in-law and I were two moms with seven kids between us. We’ve always been passionate cooks who were passionate about clean and organic eating. When we learned about how conventional spices are grown with pesticides and sewer sludge, as well as how they are sterilized with radiation, we felt like we could no longer use conventional spice blends in the food we made for our families. We started making our own at home.
Neither one of us really had a background in business. I have a background in journalism and my sister-in-law worked in Corporate America at a consulting firm. We both became stay-at-home moms when we were growing our families. Our priorities shifted and we no longer wanted to balance family life with that grinding corporate life. We’d seen the appreciation for ethnic cuisine growing in New York City as well as the appreciation for artisans who make products by hand. We thought it was a good time and place to start a handcrafted small-batch global spice blend business.
How did you finance the business at the start?
We used our savings. We’re both practicing Muslims, so taking out loans with interest is not something we are permitted to do in our religion. We strategically chose where we sold and what we put our time into. We began forming partnerships and relationships with community groups and markets that sold organic foods and artisan products.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
We are very strict with our balance sheets. We set budgets when we do events and have samples. We’ve been more strategic with where we sell – We try to do triple the cost of the market in sales. We make sure that we’re always monitoring our suppliers and the costs of our raw materials. It’s just a matter of always being on top of our numbers.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the business?
The most challenging part has been that we’re doing it all on our own. The opportunities are there. When it’s just two people handling everything, you’re limited in what you can take on.
In today’s society, the social media and content creation aspect is something you have to do. That’s something we’re still learning and trying to master. We’re trying to offer new platforms like recipe videos and things like that. It’s difficult to stay current. After three years, we’re now having to rebrand to keep up. I don’t think when we started we were aware of that.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the business?
We are a business with a mission. We are passionate about helping people get back in the kitchen so they don’t have to rely on takeout and unhealthy foods. We make it easy for them to cook when they don’t have a lot of time. Our customers know that our products are pure and that they’re feeding their families and themselves food that’s pure. I know that we’ve educated people and made a difference in their confidence level in the kitchen.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made at the start?
The biggest mistake was trying to say “yes” to everything. We didn’t realize that opportunities would never stop coming. It is especially hard to do everything when you’re a working mom. It’s a lot to handle. Now, we’re more secure about where we can spend our time and we try to include our family in what we do. We had to go through some tough points to learn those lessons.
What’s the smartest thing you did at the start?
We did everything ourselves initially. We did our own photography and worked with friends to do our website. We did everything low-cost in the beginning and I think that works for a company like us. We were able to build up our revenue, and now we’re in a position where we can hire professionals to take the company to the next level. I don’t think companies should feel the pressure to start with guns blazing and hire consultants. Use your network and do as much of it as you can with as little cost as you can.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Just begin. Start the process. Find the agencies in your city that can help give your business free advice. It’s out there if you’re looking for it. Start the journey and you will find yourself led to where you need to be.
What’s next for Spice Tree Organics?
We’re going to be finishing up the rebranding of our products within the next month. We hope to begin a heavier push into stores versus face-to-face markets.