Three years ago, Sanjay Aggarwal was sitting at the Christmas dinner table with his newly retired parents, discussing ideas for them to keep busy.
“My mum, Shashi, was already bored with retirement,” he says, “so with food being one of her biggest passions, we came up with the idea of setting up a spice business she could run from home. And so Spice Kitchen was born.”
The company sells freshly ground spice blends and sets of spices in shiny stainless steel spice tins, known as masala dabbas in India. Shashi makes everything by hand in her kitchen using traditional equipment, including the family’s 100-year-old hand grinder and an African pestle and mortar, blending, roasting and grinding a huge range of spices.
It was after Sanjay posted some pictures of her handiwork on eBay that things began to happen.
“Within 24 hours we had our first sale, and others followed quickly,” he says.
They reorganised their family home, in the West Midlands, to create a dedicated area for the business, converting a room into an enormous spice larder and using a separate kitchen for the preparation of the spices. The family also cleared out their garage to make space for packaging. And, while preparing for food shows, they’ve even taken over the garage of a family member who lives nearby.
Spice Kitchen has expanded its products to include a full range of international spice blends from places like India, Jamaica, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Bengal and North Africa.
While Shashi handles all the manufacturing, Sanjay has assumed the role of marketing and PR for the business, promoting the brand across a number of platforms, including Amazon, notonthehighstreet.com and Etsy.
The key to Spice Kitchen’s success, he says, lies in its authenticity. “We have stuck to the traditional methods of preparation, so every element is done by hand, by my mum, which lends an authentic feel to the business.”
With business booming, Sanjay’s dad, Ashok, also came on board to look after the distribution side of the business – becoming an expert in all things IT in the process.
Sanjay has no reservations about going into business with mum and dad. “My parents used to own a small food shop, so I grew up helping them to run their business,” he says. “I’m used to working with them, and I still love doing it, especially seeing how excited and passionate they are about what we have created.”
Spice Kitchen is working with a number of restaurants and chefs, creating bespoke spice blends for them to use in their dishes. And having established an online market for their products, Sanjay is now taking Spice Kitchen out to the local markets.
“We have some exciting things in the pipeline for Spice Kitchen, and it is great to be doing them as a family,” he says. “All in all, everything comes back to my parents’ house, where the innovation, creativity, hard work and fun happens – and we’re improving what we do every day.”