You might wonder how someone can go from point zero to major success launching various products and services and continue to grow through a pandemic. Meet Shivani Dhamija, owner of Shivani’s Kitchen. This entrepreneur is the epitome of passion, pluck and perseverance.
Shivani immigrated from India to Nova Scotia ten years ago. After working at different positions while waiting for her dream job in the PR field, a trucker acquaintance expressed how he missed Indian home-cooked foods. Solution? Shivani started an Indian meal delivery service. It was so popular that she registered a business—Shivani’s Kitchen. Then people wanted to learn how to cook these meals. No problem; she offered cooking classes and started to attend Farmers Markets.
Customers loved buying her food and taking part in her classes, but how could they source the amazing spices she used? In 2016, the vivacious entrepreneur launched a line of spice blends, starting with Garam Masala. Two years later, Shivani opened a restaurant at the Seaport Farmers Market in Halifax where she continued to give classes and sell her spices. Now, customers wanted to buy her sauces! Going into high gear, she not only added ready-to-use-sauces like Butter Chicken to her product line, but Shivani also started showcasing her products at Pete’s Frootique, other Farmers Markets and in 2019, her products were launched in Sobeys.
Shivani closed her restaurant last summer in order to set up a food production plant in West Hants. CBDC came onto the scene, providing loans for Shivani to invest in equipment which would allow her to increase production and enter the wholesale world in a serious way. Today, over 150 major food stores, restaurants, cafés and other outlets buy her spice blends and sauces. “Shivani’s Kitchen” is becoming a household name. The successful business owner’s goal in the next two years is to be selling her product lines through Sisco, with sales throughout North America.
Setting up facilities that meet various certification standards, competing with bigger brands as production costs have all been challenging. For example, Shivani says, “The machine you need in Asia is only $1,500 but here in Canada it is $15,000.” She could take her factory to India and drastically drop her production costs, “but we want to be here and support our local farmers.” On the upside, the personal rewards are many. Customer feedback is always positive. She’s also garnered a lot of recognition including receiving the prestigious DEAM (Disability Employment Awareness Month) award for supporting diversity in her company.
There you have it: passion, pluck and perseverance. This entrepreneur is madly in love with what she’s doing, has the courage to try new ideas, and is as tenacious as a dog with a bone as she holds onto her vision. There’s also a fourth “P”. Positivity. Asked what advice she’d give others starting out, Shivani says, “Make your skin very thick, because you are going to face a lot of challenges, politics, and discrimination. Learn from it! The next day is a new day.”