There is an ever-increasing demand for ethnic foods to feed hungry consumers across North America, ready to try new flavours in the wake of globalism. One such company that has caught the upward trend is Surrey-based Nana’s Kitchen who produce 25,000 samosas per day in their 22,000 square foot facility.
With humble roots, Shelina and her now retired sister Nasim opened a restaurant together in 1998, moving into wholesale samosa production in 2000. Today, Nana’s Kitchen distributes samosas in seven different flavours, as well as pakoras and chimichangas to every major grocery chain across Canada and United States of America.
Shelina has won several prestigious awards, the latest being the BMO Women Leaders in Community & Charitable Giving. Employing a staff of 60, most of whom are immigrant women, Shelina attributes her success to the ideology of multiculturalism where through food, she is able to serve a piece of her heritage to the world.
Birthplace: Mwanza, Tanzania, East Africa
Came to Canada: 1981
Highest Level of Education: Esthetician by profession with a certificate from London, UK
Favourite Past-time: I get inspired by women, community and the power of giving. From the leprosy project to the orphanage in Mwanza, to speaking publicly about changing mindsets, you have to be there for your community to make meaningful societal change. I’m also currently working on my 60-year biography which keeps me occupied in my spare time.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
To be honest, I had no vision – I was born in a wealthy family. After I was married, I realized what hard work was and what it meant to build my own self and our company. If I can do it, anybody can do it.
Toughest professional decision:
After so many failures and financial set-backs, of course I had a lot of fear. But I thought that either I can back down or rise. Being in a heavily saturated samosa market in BC, it was very difficult to compete strictly on price. We looked outside the box and created a product that the consumer demanded by focusing on quality and safety, which is why we say, “taste the difference”. Local vendors don’t require the safety certifications that we do; we are a HACCP and BRC approved facility which means that it meets the strict food and safety guidelines as set out by the Canada Food Inspection Agency and the US Food & Drug Administration. Plus, all of our staff are WHMIS certified.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself, have a vision, write small goals daily and dream big. What you visualize, you actualize. It’s important to dress with confidence because you never know who you will meet to create an opportunity.
What does the future look like?
My husband Nawaz has been behind the growth of the company in the USA until now, but he has shifted focus to expansion next door to build our new facility where we aim to double our production soon by our added cold storage and labeling facilities in-house. The construction will complete in 2020. We are also actively looking into additional markets and creating new product lines. Whatever seeds we sow right now, it takes 6-12 months to come to fruition so it’s a slow and steady process.