February 14, 2023
Last year, (included) CPG, a collective of BIPOC founders and executives in consumer packaged goods, launched (included) ACCESS, a retail growth accelerator that prepares BIPOC food and beverage founders for trade shows. New Hope Network, as part of its mission to create health, joy and justice for all people while regenerating the planet, has been a partner in this accelerator. The eight-week cohort concludes with sponsored exhibition and programming at Natural Products Expo West in March.
The 10 emerging brands participating in this cohort will exhibit in booths N1530-N1539 in the North Hall, level 200. In each issue of Expo West Show Scoop through March 1, we will introduce you to two ACCESS members.
Yasameen Sajady can’t remember a family meal that didn’t feature her mom’s “magic green sauce.” The secret-recipe cilantro and ginger chutney—a secret recipe was like ketchup in the Sajady household: It went on everything. After hearing years of recipe requests and making thousands of small batches, the family decided to share their secret sauce with the world.
“We had to go through a surprising number of test batches until our version got Mom’s approval,” says Sajady, Maazah’s CEO.
The Sajadys—mother Fatima, Yasameen and sisters Sheilla and Nasreen—named the new venture Maazah, which means “flavor” in Farsi, and set up shop at a St. Paul, Minnesota-area farmers market. In 2021, Maazah was selected from more than 1,000 brands for Kroger’s Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator program, which catapulted the company’s growth nationwide.
In Afghanistan, from where Yasameen’s parents emigrated, chutney is traditionally eaten with rice, korma, dahl and kabobs—but it’s equally delicious on eggs, sandwiches, meats, vegetables and salads, as well as in soups and grain bowls. Fresh cilantro and ginger pair perfectly with lemon, apple cider vinegar and jalapeño pepper for a six-ingredient flavor burst that adds bright complexity to any meal. The chutney also makes for a scrumptious snack when enjoyed with chips or pita bread.
Now Maazah is prepping for Natural Products Expo West with the help of the (included) ACCESS program. We chatted with Yasameen in advance of the trade show to learn more about this close-knit family business and exciting BIPOC-owned brand.
As the youngest of four siblings working with your mom, what’s it like being a family business?
Yasameen Sajady: Building a business with your family is not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me! I’m lucky to have amazing family members to help build Maazah. Together, we’ve grown our farmers market stand into a national brand. My family inspires me to think bigger and push myself to places I never knew were possible. (Editor’s note: There is a Sajady brother who is not heavily involved with the business.)
What standout lessons have you learned since joining the natural products industry?
YS: Build a network of partners who share similar business values and goals. Missteps or hasty decisions in this area will cost you time and money, but you can mitigate [those risks] by taking the time to strategize and map out key partnerships. Finding the right fit takes time, but overall, the road ahead will have less bumps, with a greater benefit to the success and growth of your business.
Tell us about your partnership with Malala Fund.
YS: My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in the 1970s, and growing up, we had the privilege of hosting Afghan exchange students in our home. Providing a safe space for these incredibly brave and courageous students—primarily women—was a way for my parents to support their country from afar and bolster future generations of Afghans.
It is more important than ever to support relief work for the safety, support and development of young women. Maazah donates 1% of sales to support girls’ education programs in Afghanistan through [the nonprofit] Malala Fund.
What challenges have you faced as female founders of color in the natural food and beverage space?
YS: Traditionally, the natural products industry has been stagnant in its growth in terms of diversity. We hope to change that—starting with more access to venture capital funding, eliminating ethnic aisles and true mentorship programs for people of color.
Any advice or words of wisdom for fellow BIPOC founders and CEOs?
YS: There is no such thing as the perfect business when you start. There is so much you don’t know, but that you can’t know until you begin. Sometimes you have to just go for it and take the leap knowing that you could fail—or it could be your greatest adventure yet!
How has the (included) ACCESS program helped you prepare for Natural Products Expo West?
YS: The program gives you a behind-the-curtain look at what it means for your brand to present at Expo West—and not just in the logistical sense. We are a group of 10 companies contributing to the innovation of our industry. Trade shows can be very noisy, and if you don’t show up authentically or have anything to say, you can get lost in the crowd. This program gives us the platform to amplify our voices and [home] in on our reasons why.
What do you hope to accomplish at Expo West?
YS: We hope that our story helps pave the way for more opportunities for immigrants and people of color in this space. Our country is diverse, and our food and beverage founders should be too. We also hope to meet good people who love good food. We invite you to visit our booth for samples, introduce yourself and come meet our mom.
What else should attendees know about Maazah?
YS: Our family and culture are the most important elements in our business, which is why we proudly named our company Maazah, which means “flavor” in Farsi. This word is used to describe great-tasting food, or it can be used to describe something beautiful, like a summer night. It is how we express something that satisfies your soul or something that hits the spot—just like our chutney.
Watch Yasameen Sajady and representatives of nine other emerging brands compete in the Natural Products Expo West Pitch Slam live at 3 p.m. March 8. Watch in person at the Marquis Center at the Marriott Anaheim, or virtually on the New Hope Network Events page. To learn more about this program and others, as well as exhibiting brands, visit ExpoWest.com. To see registration options, including those for virtual access, click here.
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