For Aisha is a unique brand of baby food and is based in Nottingham. Launched in 2015, they are now now selling 1 million pouches of food per year via multiple grocery stores.
Their founder and Managing Director Mark Salter, takes our Q&A session.
How and why did you start the business?
I started the business to address the need for healthy, natural and great tasting recipes for the UK baby food market. I also wanted to address the need for products of dietary significance; our food is halal and dairy free for example. 1 in 10 infants in the UK are muslim and until for aisha, there was no brand of halal infant food. Ours in now the largest UK and worldwide.
I had over 20 years experience in the UK food and drink market so thought it was about time that I came up with my own business idea! I sold my house and car to come up with the initial investment and then linked with a major investor to launch the range. I turned down a Dragon’s Den pitch and a few others along the way to find the ideal person to work with.
How long have you been a GS1 member?
Since we started developing our baby food products in 2014.
Do you trade with any partners/channels?
Yes - most business is via Tesco, Asda, Boots, Morrisons and Tree of Life but hospitals are a growing part of our business too. We also sell online via these retailers and Ocado. We begin selling via our own e.commerce site later this month.
What is a typical day like for you?
Every day is different. Last week we were in Spain tasting ingredients, then I’m with a retailer in the North, the next day a publisher in London and today working in a Costa. It’s all very fast and never ever dull.
What are the main pros and cons to running your own business?
The pros are seeing creations come to life and time and location flexibility. Next month I’ll be working just as hard but taking the laptop to Florida for a few weeks of holiday & recipe planning time. It’s great to run a business in the digital age!
The con is stress. To be truthful I haven’t slept a full night since starting the business. I do yoga and outdoor sports which definitely help the balance but you can’t ever fully switch off when you own a business. A contradiction to the ‘pros’ above I know. It’s double edged.
What’s your biggest challenges for the business - what keeps you up at night?
Worrying about cash in the early days, then worrying about stock holding, then what retailers would do next. Most of that’s gone now as we’ve been almost 3 years trading and results are great. You kind of get into a pattern of worrying about everything big and small when the lights go out. Brexit and the exchange rate of the pound has been the big worry in the past year.
What are your plans for the business for the next 12 months?
We have 2 new product launches so we’ll have 20 food products instead of just 6 last year. We will export more and invest more with key grocery retailers here at home. We’re open to franchising our brand within the infant food and drinks category to the right partners. We’ve had approaches from interested parties to purchase our business so that’s even a possibility. No rush.
Tell us an interesting fact about you?
I’ve had numerous head injuries from sports and general clumsiness. I fell under and Intercity 125 as a child.
Who inspires you?
My dad was my inspiration. He was a terrific businessman and family man of 6 children. He achieved many times more than I ever could.
What top tip/piece of advice would you give to our other brands/sellers?
Find the right partner(s). Raising money for a good business idea can be relatively easy but getting the right partner is the trick. Be strong, confident, diligent, tenacious and remember to put ego aside; listening to others along the way.
Visit www.foraisha.com or follow on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram