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Hershil Patel and his sister Krina grew up in an environment where family and business always blended. Their parents, Dipti and Bharat own a successful bakery in the community of Barkingside, Ilford.
Despite this the siblings both went on to pursue more traditional careers – Hershil working in sales and Krina becoming a graphic designer. However, since the desire to be their own boss was in their DNA, they both wanted to find a way to create a business that supported their own families and gave something back to the community, just as their parents’ business did.
Unsurprisingly their mum Dipti is a great cook as well as a fantastic baker and her traditional Indian sauces and relishes were firm favourites amongst their family and friends. So Hershil decided to build a business that would make her flavours famous.
Hershil shared his idea with his sister, her husband Jimit, his wife Shetal and his parents. They all agreed to invest time and money in the business and decided to launch it with a bang at a fine food fair in London in September 2014.
Hershil gave the business the name Dips and began planning for the big launch by finding suppliers, testing and moderating recipes, and ensuring all health and safety standards were met.
With industrial cooking facilities available at his parent’s bakery, Dips’ set up costs were lower than most going into catering, so the business was at an advantage. But with recipes that require a 4-month preserving period for certain ingredients, they needed to prepare their products well in advance and accurately predict the demand.
Hershil tweaked his mum’s recipes for the market, Dipti and Bharat took on the cooking, Krina dealt with the design aspects of the product, show literature and the website and with (number) jars filled and packed, they were ready for the show.
“The show was a commercial success and also an incredible learning curve,” says Shetal, “Everyone loved the products and we soon found out the favourites were the single-use products like the lemon chutney as it’s so simple. However, our more versatile product, the garlic chilli paste, required more explanation and so we knew we needed to educate the market if we were going to sell into it more.”
To build a better understanding of the chilli paste, Hershil created menu cards, posted recipes on Dips’ Instagram account and its sales began to climb. The family continued to produce more products and sell them at food fairs and farmers’ markets on a fairly local basis. Local retailers also began to take notice and Dips jars were soon stocked at local independent retailers.
The business now sells 10,000 jars of its sauces and relishes each year, and continues to grow. Plus, without any additional equipment, Hershil has calculated they are able to multiply that output by a factor of five. To that end the family is gearing up everything to take the range to a distributor.
“We’re getting barcodes and so on to make the range more appealing to retailers,” Hershil explains “But we’re determined to keep control of our quality ingredients and cooking processes so our intention is to build the business without compromise, which may mean we have to rule out the bigger retailers.”
“I have always encouraged the children to work hard and help the local community.” Dipti adds. “So as a business and as a brand we are much more interested in being part of community events and independent stores rather than the bigger chains that are more concerned with shareholders than communities.”
In its first 18 months Dips has given Hershil and Krina the business they always wanted and brought the extended family together in a way working apart from one another never could.
Hershil says, “It’s great being able to build a business in this way. We all have our respective roles and we’re all prepared to roll up our sleeves when the demand peaks so we can fulfil orders and market new recipes. Obviously it’s still early days but if our current growth rate is anything to go by we won’t look back.”
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