Name: Julia Latif.
What is your business called?
Our House of Spice.
Where is it based?
Fort Augustus, Inverness-shire.
What does it produce?
Authentic Indian spice kits, which are based on our family recipes.
To whom does it sell?
Indian food lovers throughout the UK.
What is its turnover?
Around £20,000. We have been badly affected by the pandemic.
How many employees does it have?
Two: My sister Nadia and I.
When was it formed?
Why did you take the plunge?
We were both working full time and miserable in our roles. Then we suddenly lost a good friend of ours, at a young age. This was the catalyst that made us realise that life is too short to be unhappy. We both quit our jobs the next day. At that point, we didn’t have a plan, we only knew that we wanted to work together – it was a case of now or never.
When my sister and I decided to go into business, we talked about what our passions were – Indian food came up instantly. It’s in our soul. Growing up, we watched our parents and grandparents cook for friends and neighbours. There were always mouthwatering aromas coming from our kitchen. Initially, when we launched the business, we released a range of ready meals however we found it difficult to keep up with demand. We started researching alternative products that had a longer shelf life and were easier to produce.
After a lot of research and product development, we launched five spice kits onto the market. They were very popular so we carried on increasing our spice kit range. Currently, we have fourteen kits on the market.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
The equipment we needed to start up our business was relatively low cost so we were able to invest our own money in the business. As the business grew, we carried on re-investing so we could develop new products, including catering spice kits for restaurants.
What was your biggest break?
We were awarded ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Best Small Business’ for Scotland at the Family Business Awards in 2018. It was like receiving validation for all of our hard work.
What was your worst moment?
I’m sure this will be many people’s worst moments but Covid 19 really affected us.
I frequently attended food fairs and carried out cooking demonstrations, so having all these events cancelled had a dramatic effect on our turnover.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
I enjoy having the responsibility to make Our House of Spice a success. The business doesn’t just belong to Nadia and I, it belongs to our whole family. It’s made up of aunts, uncles and cousins from all over the world so there is a lot of pressure! I also enjoy collaborating with business support organisations like GrowBiz as they have been fundamental for our development. Their expertise in supporting rural businesses has been crucial for us and building these mutually rewarding relationships is a hugely enjoyable part of running a business.
What do you least enjoy?
Running a business is exhausting, both mentally and physically. Sometimes I need to turn off my phone and close the laptop to regain some clarity. It doesn’t happen often but I find it a really useful exercise, even if it’s just for an hour or so, every now and then.
What is your biggest bugbear?
It’s 2021 and rights for women, especially women from an ethnic background, are as concerning as they were decades ago. I don’t know what it’s going to take to have real change, both in business and in day to day life.
The Federation of Small Businesses states that only five per cen of SME employers are run by leadership teams where the majority are from a black or ethnic minority groups’. For me, that’s an alarming statement. When Our House of Spice was first launched, I sometimes felt like I had been dealt a ‘double blow’ as I was female and from an ethnic minority. I am extremely proud to be a British Asian business woman, however, there are not enough of us and this needs to change.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
Our online shop is growing and will continue to grow and recover from the pandemic, which is fantastic. Personally, I am also looking forward to championing women’s rights in any way I can, whether on a business level or if some women need personal help. I feel we have a responsibility to look after others who are vulnerable.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
I would say that both Westminster and the Scottish government need to show some genuine interest in supporting and promoting ethnic women in business that isn’t part of a ‘Photo Opportunity’. They both need to directly engage with ethnic women in business to develop a plan of how we can increase and encourage women from different backgrounds to be proactive in building a bigger community and unlocking their economic potential. We have a huge amount to offer,
How do you relax?
I’m a big fan of music. I have a bit of an eclectic taste in music from rock, pop music to musicals and classical. My grandfather was a classical violinist and my mum is a huge music fan so after a busy day I turn to music to help me relax. My current ‘go to’ song is ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ by Sam Cooke.