Interested in starting your entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Adnan Durrani, founder and CEO of Saffron Road (American Halal Company, Inc.), located in Stamford, CT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
American Halal Company's wholly-owned brand Saffron Road Foods, is the leading World Cuisines entree brand nationally, sold in Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods Market, Target, Publix, Wegmans, Costco, and 20,000 other stores nationally. We like to say we are leading the Culinary Revolution for clean, better-for-you, and healthier frozen meals. We never, ever use antibiotics, artificial ingredients, GMOs, protein isolates, or anything except simple, wholesome ingredients. We pioneered a number of firsts: the first Certified Humane Entrée, the first Non-GMO Project Verified entrée, the first antibiotic free entrée in Whole Foods Market, and the first national halal brand. While we indeed have a strong following among American consumers following a halal diet, the majority of our consumers are discerning Millennials looking for premium World Cuisines that score a "wow!" in terms of taste and culinary excellence while also being authentic, home-style, restaurant quality, and still true to their cultural integrity. We are also a socially responsible enterprise. We like to say we at Saffron Road would like you to join us on our Journey To Better – a journey which is better for your health, better for the farmers, better for the earth, better for the livestock, and better for humanity.
Tell us about yourself
I have been an investor or founder in the natural/organic food and beverage sector for three decades now—this is my 4th food company. I guess being a foodie is embedded into my soul! I realized 15 years ago, after doing a detailed white paper on the halal sector in Europe (where halal was surging back then) while also seeing much more compelling US demographics, that there was a huge need for healthier halal products in the US. I also realized that the frozen meal sector was devoid of innovation or culinary excellence as well as not having any better-for-you options. Most frozen meals were very poor nutrition wise, unhealthy, and lacking ethnic offerings. So seeing a huge gap between supply and demand, I took the risk and dived in to serve the modern American consumers of today.
I am motivated by two major outcomes. First of all, the overflow of positive consumer reviews and love letters we get from passionate Saffron Road consumers who are ecstatic about how we have filled a huge need for them that was missing—whether that be gluten-free, halal, non-GMO, ABF, or just having a delicious ethnic meal in their freezer that they could conveniently fire up in 5 minutes. Secondly, I am motivated daily by my awesome team. They are so committed to our mission at every level, and every day they inspire me with their work ethic, devotion, ethical values, discipline, and resilience. We have been thru the worst pandemic in 100 years, and our team never blinked nor missed a beat.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Building an emotional bond of trust with our consumers, team, and retail partners while still staying true to our values and mission. Especially during COVID, being able to supply healthy meals to first responders and medical care workers during the surge of the pandemic in 2020 was a blessing.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Responsibility, accountability, patience, delayed gratification, and egalitarian justice. I go to bed every night knowing I have 22+ family's livelihoods in my hands. We are accountable to our consumers to make sure Saffron Road's products meet our Brand Promise. In a society addicted to immediate gratification, we play the long game and must be patient –it's taken us 12 years to successfully reap the fruits of our labor.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do the original research about the industry/sector you want to dive into. Dig deep. Be brutally honest. Seek the advice of experts in the field for your research: if it's too good to be true, best not to pursue.
- Be A Rebel With A Cause. If somebody flippantly tells you it's impossible, it's most likely possible. As Einstein famously said, "If at first, an idea isn't absurd, there is no hope for it." Be a disrupter, but serve a critical need.
Perhaps this quote from Steve Jobs sums it up best for me: "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."
- Never stop believing in yourself and your mission, and stay passionate about it. Worry less about the immediate results. The biggest mistake young entrepreneurs make is to stop believing in themselves, to fill their heads with thoughts of defeat before the miracle happens. Everyone will at some point doubt you—even family, friends, experts, and investors. They may surround you constantly with doubts, but if you have done the research and are committed to your cause, carpe diem!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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