Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rula Sharkawi, Founder of My Little Chickpea Gourmet Foods, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My Little Chickpea Gourmet Foods is a producer of clean, plant-based, gluten-free products like Falafels, Risotto Balls, Veggie Burgers, Sliders, and Cauliflower Bites. We make foods that help busy people eat well. Our customers are health minded and interested in convenient, nutrient-dense foods that are energy-giving.
Tell us about yourself
I was an executive in the corporate world who wanted to eat clean, healthy foods while I was on the run. But I found myself reading long ingredient lists on products that I often had to google to understand what the ingredient was.
My disappointment in the offering at local supermarkets drove me to leave my job on my 40th birthday and start my own company that uses simple, minimal ingredients that my grandmother would recognize.
I know that people are busy, and my team and I absolutely love making meals easier and healthy. I am motivated and grateful for the opportunity to nourish people.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am proud of building an award-winning brand that people have come to love and recognize. Since launching, we have won 2 national awards for the innovative product of the year and the people's choice award for gluten-free innovation. Also, we were recognized by Woman of Influence as one of Canada's top female-led companies.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I recently heard an entrepreneur that I respect describe her role of CEO as Chief Everything Officer. It's true. I have an amazing team who takes pride in what they do, and I depend on them tremendously. I also have to hustle and think about every aspect of my business, especially with all the changing dynamics, you have to be fully alert in the driver's seat, and multiple obstacles are constantly thrown at you.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Ask for help. Seek mentors. Find people who have already done what you are trying to achieve and ask for their advice. Surround yourself with a group of like-minded business owners and peers to act as an advisory group and sounding board. Multiple brains are better than one....and we all need a shoulder to lean on too.
- Stay out of the weeds. It's important to know all aspects of your business, but you don't have to be the operator. I spend most of my time growing the company while my amazing team executes the company's vision. Work on your business, not in it.
- Stay focused on your vision. Have a clear vision and refer to it daily, especially when times get tough (which they will). There is a reason why you decided to start your own business and don't let that get lost in the day-to-day challenges that you might be facing. Remember why you started your company and re-direct your energy and focus to stay on track.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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