First of all; I heartily thank and applaud the efforts of Homemade Food Services (HFS) group for supporting food startups like mine. There is a scarcity of platforms which showcase talent in Pakistan and hence HFS’s work stands out as commendable.
My name is Shazia Raza a cooking enthusiast and budding entrepreneur. I am basically from the hospital industry but soon I discovered that I am intrinsically passionate about cooking all sorts of Pakistani cuisines and ended up creating my very own food business called ‘SZ Kitchen’.
I founded SZ kitchen in 2018. My family and friends praised me often for my cooking I decided to take my talent to a higher level by connecting with offices and homes who would like to have delicious home-cooked food on regular basis.
Yes; the journey was hard of course because my sister and I work full time at separate companies as well. So focusing on growing SZ took a lot of energy which we frankly were already short of. However; the passion for cooking kindled our spirits and despite being inexperienced about vendors, people-dealing, business structures etc; we were able to scale up our startup gradually to the extent that 80+ regular clients take delights from our home-cooked food providing service today!
We took one step at a time. We pitched our service to our social circle then companies whose staff require lunch on a daily basis. We faced several rejections and were disheartened often. Though through resilience, consistency and food quality enhancement; we started gradually getting new clients every months.
Our premium dishes include Chicken biryani (with value additions of aalo/shami), Chicken Palak, Mutton Pulao, Beef shami, Chicken karai, Chicken jalfreizi, Daal fry, mixed sabzi, Chicken chowmein amongst many more.
Some clients praise our speciality that we never use frozen foods. We use fresh meat and vegetables to keep the taste savory. We prioritise the freshenness of all of our food products not only to meet FDA quality standards; but to enrich the experience of munching down every mouthful of our expertly cooked delicacies. We prefer organic food products for the same reason. Purely home-made yougurt and similar side items ensure top-notch quality and richness in every single dish we cook. Yes; many food businesses take the shortcut by using canned products but we don’t and this is what has given us an edge over competitors despite us being comparatively new in the race.
I’d like to mention that finding low cost masalas and other necessities was a hassle too but with time and experience; we were able to partner with long term vendors. I gratefully and humbly would love to share that after 4 years of struggle; we provide bulk orders of food for around 70+ peoples in a single day! People even contact us to provide dinner for events and all sorts of celebrations both at domestic and organizational level.
I feel the need to share about how entrepreneurship is particularly challenging for local women especially when there is no strong male support like a husband or brother. Building a business is already emotionally and physically tiring. Apart from this; women are at times not taken seriously during professional dealings or are disrespected where there is a need to control them. Nonetheless; my sister and I were moral support of each other and we feel that we have done pretty well in our current circumstances.
Through SZ kitchen; we have become stable breadwinners. Our home expenses come majorly from SZ kitchen now.
Its kind of amazing how people who used to belittle and discourage us have now openly started applauding us and our work. Success has many fathers afterall and failure remains an orphan. Side by side; I want to let people know that success people are those who have failed countless times but learn from their shortcomings and grow stronger. This is why it is encouraged to ‘fail fast’ so that you can ‘learn fast’ as well.
Personally speaking; I messed up recipes several times before I was able to master them and add an SZ kitchen original touch in them. Nothing big can be achieved while remaining the comfort zone afterall. This in fact reminds me of how important ‘experimentation’ in the food business industry is. Without innovation or original touches; people will not choose you over the competitors. People like new-ness as it adds excitement to the overall dining experience.
I feel that I have learned much about the food business industry and about entrepreneurship as a whole. This is why I’d like to share some nuggets of wisdom for the readers as an ending note of this interview. My advice for other women is to have faith in your abilities. Trust and love yourself. Gain more skills. Gain mastery over your respective field. Learn as much as you can; especially about your target market and your customers’ needs and preferences. Treat people with respect and treat failures as stepping stones towards success. Make criticism a best friend. Instead of letting it drain you; use it to grow and motivate you further as it is always a bliss when haters are proved wrong.
I’m sure that through resilience; you will be able to create your dream business that is loved not only by you-know-what but by thousands of customers across the country! And never forget; no one can build an empire in a day. Take one step at a time and celebrate each of your small successes along the way. Your dreams await you!