We spoke with Raj Harika, the founder of DIY Delish, about her inspirations for starting her brand, her favorite dish to pair with her sauces, and how her background in nutrition influenced her product. DIY Delish carries 4 flavors: Tomato and Zaatar, Coconut and Ginger, Miso and Coconut, and Sundried Tomato and Lemon. Find them all on our Tastermonial shop!
- What inspired you to start your brand?
“Prior to starting the company, I was working as a Nutritionist where I learned a great deal about how eating sustainably and eating more fruits and vegetables is important for reducing your carbon footprint. It is good for your health, as well as the health of the planet. I grew up in India as a vegetarian where we included a lot of vegetables in the main course. Occasionally families would cook meat, but it is not something we would eat everyday. When I moved to the West, I noticed that people consumed a lot more meat, which has an impact on the environment. I also met vegans and vegetarians who were struggling to cook different kinds of vegetables and prepare flavorful meals. That’s how I came up with DIY Delish!”
- What is your favorite dish with DIY Delish?
“I have so many favorite dishes, but if I am to pick just two, it would be eggplant and garbanzo beans cooked in the Tomato and Zaatar Sauce, which has a nice tangy flavor. I also love broccoli and white beans in the Coconut and Ginger Sauce, which has a great Indian curry flavor.”
- How has your background in nutrition and health influenced your brand?
“I am a big champion of sustainability, eating more plants, and incorporating more vegetables into your diet. Making sure we eat those everyday and eating meat occasionally was key to me. Vegetables are so important, and not enough Americans are eating them. So, how can we make veggies more tasty and welcome on your table? These were the thoughts in my head when I was thinking of a solution to help people eat more vegetables, and that’s how I decided to come up with these sauces.”
- What is the most rewarding part of running a small business?
“It’s incredibly challenging to start a business. My prior experience has been working at a corporation where you only focus on one thing. But when you’re building your own brand, you have to wear multiple hats all the time. It is rewarding, though! The three most rewarding things is that one: I am able to build a brand that incorporates my values and principles, two: I am able to be in direct contact with my consumers, and three: I am my own boss. I can pick my own hours in a way that suits me and my family.”
- What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a business in the vegan food space? Or challenges nobody talks about?
“Of course, every food business starts with a great product. It has to taste great, have good stability, and it has to be appealing to people. But, that’s just the start. There’s so much about selling the product, taking pictures, driving around town to different stores, networking with people. It’s really hard to get your product places and you typically have to meet multiple times. There’s a lot of physical work, like being at pop-ups and farmers markets, as well as mental calibration. You also have to set up your own email marketing, social media, product development, and you have to constantly be wearing different hats. My advice would be to work for a small business or start-up first, even if you don’t get paid. In so little time, you learn so much, and you’ll also figure out if it’s really something that you would like to do. It’s not just about the product, it’s about the whole experience.”
- What are some lessons you’ve learned from starting a business from the ground up?
“It’s much harder than I thought. In a job you give your time, in a business you give your time, energy, and money. You have to keep pumping money into your business, and sometimes it’s very nerve-wracking and you don’t know if it’s the right thing to do or when to draw the line. The food and retail landscape is so competitive and because there is a lower barrier to entry, a lot of new products are competing at this level and securing shelf-space is very hard. It’s about having the resilience to keep going everyday and fighting the urge to quit. Bringing a resilient attitude is really important when you start your business.”
- What are the biggest challenges you faced during COVID-19?
“We just started in December 2019 with pop-up markets, farmers markets, and Christmas markets, just to test the product and see if people were actually buying it and coming back for more. We were thinking of going to smaller stores to see how our sales are and if our product gets picked over competing products. It’s good to understand that before approaching larger stores. However, smaller stores were so badly impacted by COVID-19 that they were not accepting new products. There were an endless number of meetings, phone calls, emails, and follow-ups, and you still don’t end up in a small store. If you aren’t in smaller stores, the bigger stores won’t even consider you, which makes it challenging because there are many steps and funnels. Now, even in pop-up markets and farmers markets, sampling is not allowed, so people can’t taste your product and it’s much harder to convince them that it’s a great product.”
- What is your vision for DIY Delish in the future?
“We want to be recognized as a sustainable and fun brand that helps you to eat more plants while doing it in a delicious way. We also want to do our part in making the planet more sustainable by giving the option to combine our product with vegetables and plant proteins instead of animal proteins. Promoting more plants and vegetables is what we are passionate about, as well as being a sustainable and healthy brand.”
Want to learn more about Raj? Find her at www.eatdiydelish.com and on Instagram @eatdiydelish!