Shivani’s Kitchen: Exporting spices and sauces to appreciative customers
Monday, October 18, 2021
Shivani Dhamija doesn’t give up easily. When she moved to Nova Scotia in 2011 to be with her partner, Abhishek Asthana, she couldn’t find work in her field of public relations. While working on the front desk at the Canada Games Centre, she learned of an Indian trucker who was missing home-cooked food. He became Shivani’s first client and helped launch Halifax’s first packaged Indian meal delivery service in 2014. In 2015, Shivani’s Kitchen began selling spice blends at farmers’ markets.
In 2018, she opened a takeout restaurant in the Seaport Farmers’ Market and soon began wholesaling ready-to-use sauces, which, like the company’s spice blends, contain no fillers or preservatives and are gluten free.
When the pandemic closed the restaurant in August 2020, Shivani launched a food production plant in the Station Food Hub at Newport Station in West Hants. The spice blends and sauces she and her team make there are now sold in Sobeys and Foodland stores throughout Atlantic Canada.
Sobeys’ invitation to sell her products in their stores brought a much-needed boost. “I was so happy, there were tears in my eyes,” she says. “If I had not made the decision to wholesale my products in 2018–19, I would never have achieved that silver lining of Sobeys in 2020. Sobeys has taken me to Atlantic Canada, and now we are trying to export throughout North America.”
NSBI programs and funding have been a great help, Shivani says. “I am amazed how Omaira Ospino doesn’t forget me. She has many clients, and she still emails me to let me know of programs coming up. I had no idea how to export, and I learned so much from the virtual trade mission to Boston.”
I’ve received a lot of support in Nova Scotia. That’s why, even though I’m an immigrant, my heart is completely Nova Scotian now.
Cecile Landgrebe is a Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta, Georgia. “Trade missions are important,” she says. “We partner with provinces, which recruit local companies to bring to a mission or trade show. We then invite US buyers to meet with Canadian suppliers; this gives the suppliers an extra opportunity to develop their network and to meet with new partners. For a small company like Shivani’s, our support is very helpful.”
Shivani looks forward to attending another trade mission in Boston next year. “This year I want to get ready for North America, and next year I want to expand my products across North America as much as possible,” she says.
“Shivani’s Kitchen is a young, woman-owned company,” Cecile Landgrebe says. “She has developed a beautiful line of products with a real added value that customers appreciate, and she’s now ready to approach the US market. I’ve introduced her products to a US retailer, and they really liked her story. They are in negotiations, and we’ll see if it works.”
Recent awards have recognized Shivani’s entrepreneurial excellence and commitment to her community. They have included the Sobeys Local Innovation Award 2020, the IWEN Entrepreneur of the Year award, and the DEAM Certificate of Recognition for her business’s ongoing commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive community.
“I’ve received a lot of support in Nova Scotia,” Shivani says. “That’s why, even though I’m an immigrant, my heart is completely Nova Scotian now.”
Want to learn more about the companies doing business in Nova Scotia? Read the 2020-2021 NSBI Annual report.