We meet the New York-based entrepreneur Nazia Aibani who is officially the first Indian American to appear on The Dr. Oz Show featuring her Long Island based Gourmet Ghee Company.
Born in Bombay, India, Nazia always grew up with natural homemade ingredients that were passed down the generations. It was all too common to see the vibrant colors of saffron and turmeric or smell the buttery goodness of ghee. As she notes, her mother never failed to carry those essential ingredients with them when they moved to New York in 1984.
At the ripe young age of 4, Nazia already knew ghee was my favorite thing to have. Little did she know years later she would be a pioneer in bringing this legendary ingredient to the masses. After spending years in television production and casting as a producer, Nazia made the jump to become an entrepreneur during the summer of 2017. Taking her passion, experience, and savings to bring a wholesome ingredient and revitalise an ancient superfood for today’s palate, the result: Gourmet Ghee Company.
After being in business for six months Nazia’s been lucky to get recognition from the Dr. Oz show, and a few celebrity chefs. “People ask me why I chose ghee butter and my answer is always the same- that the women of ancient India had amazing foresight to know the dietary, health and beauty benefits of ghee. As an Indian woman, I feel it’s my responsibility to represent and share that knowledge while making it a useful staple in peoples everyday life.”
Hey Nazia, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Nazia Aibani I am the founder and owner of the Gourmet Ghee Company, located on Long Island. We make gourmet ghee butter, (clarified butter) in sweet and savoury flavours; using a grass-fed award-winning French Butter.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I worked in television for 15 years before I decided to open up my own business, I was a producer in casting and development for reality shows scripted and unscripted. I also worked for talk shows. After having my son, I decided I wanted to work for myself. The thrill of working in television was amazing. However, I no longer felt the need to be a part of an industry where shows and staff have shelf lives. So, I started making a product that is, fortunately, shelf stable, healthy, and taste great. We are one of the few but only companies to make artisan ghee butter in sweet and savoury flavours that help the “quick cook” enjoy the taste of gourmet meals without spending too much time in the kitchen.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I am a full-time mother of two boys both toddlers, a wife to a loving & very supportive husband, a contributing writer for Arianna Huffington’s platform; Thrive Global. Being of the Islamic faith, my day starts with the morning prayers and ends around 10pm. It becomes quite hard to balance family, business, and my personal life. However, I have found that compartmentalising is extremely important. Also, I don’t lack on my sleep, I drink plenty of water and eat better than I did at the beginning of my business.
What was the concept behind launching Gourmet Ghee Company?
The concept behind The Gourmet Ghee Company was to bring an ancient superfood from back home; India. To the American audience in its most authentic form. For years I saw so many rich superfoods come out of India and be used the wrong way or “overused”. I really wanted to be the first Indian woman to showcase ghee butter and educate people about the various health and beauty benefits.
How is Gourmet Ghee Company funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded ect?
The Gourmet Ghee Company is funded 100% by my husband and myself. My husband asked me if I wanted a third baby or a business. After dealing with the terrible two’s with my first son Deen; I decided on having a business.
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos at Gourmet Ghee Company?
Our brand has strong core values that have helped us succeed to high level rapidly. We believe in giving our customers “two superfoods in one jar” we never substitute essences and aromas to replace main ingredients. Our customers are extremely important to us, as we interact with customers from all over the world who use ghee in their diets for various health reasons.
I also believe in simple packaging and labels, we don’t spend so much on our image as our brand taste speaks for itself. Instead, we take that money and invest it into using imported butter with benefits and rich ingredients.
Can you give us 3 useful tips to help us launch a food-related product into the market?
- Don’t compare your beginning to another business who is in the middle of their career or more accomplished. It’s bad for the mind, body, and soul. It consumes new business owners’ thoughts and outlook and slows down progress that is crucial for a new business to grow.
- Get a great tagline for your company in a sentence, and wrap it up. Your audience should always remember your tagline with your company name. Don’t be generic and “piggyback” off competitors, be unique and show who you are as an individual business owner.
- Make sure your company name is trademarked and not already taken. Get a great name and then do some research in trademark databases to make sure there is no one else with the same or similar name. A lot of business owners have lost money in the beginning stages by not checking trademark databases.
Who does the team involve behind you Gourmet Ghee Company?
The team behind Gourmet Ghee Company is fantastic. My husband is my partner and decision maker as well as I. We have a fantastic CFO based in India & Dubai who has worked with numerous successful businesses across the globe, his name is Mr. Shakir Aibani. My right hand is my mother who always tests recipes, and is our main buyer and travels to India, France, and Europe on a yearly basis on the look for new ingredients and attends trade shows.
My left hand is my sister Zeenat Duberia; who is a phenomenal public relations and media specialist. My sister Almas, helps me in setting up for events, and collaborations as well anything to do with design and labeling. We also have three phenomenal woman who handles all office logistics, order deliveries, and customer relations. Not only do I believe in working with family but we also have a whole network of women who want to be involved with the GGC; they buy however many cases they feel they want to sell a month and they are their own bosses. These women come from all walks of life from stay at homes, owners of cooking schools, dieticians, etc.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Within the next 3-5 years, I see myself expanding our company globally into Dubai and London. We also have plans to expand more into retail chains and wholesale grocers. There is something very big we are working on that no other ghee company has done to date, that’s in the works and will be unveiled in time.
What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of Gourmet Ghee Company?
The strategies we have in place as far as expansion is to sell locally first, we are in no rush to go big at the moment with supplying heavy to retail stores. We make a better profit than most retail suppliers just by supplying locally. Most recently we partnered with a famous coffee shop owned by entrepreneur David Steinguard and actor Hugh Jackman; their coffee company wanted to test “keto coffee” and we made it work for them.
We are becoming extremely popular on the east coast as I forecasted, we would after the airing of us being on the Dr. Oz show last June. Professionally I have definitely had some struggles with convincing our customers that ghee is safe to use when you are lactose intolerant. Because ghee originated from India and a lot of people are vegans and vegetarians, they don’t drink milk; thus, the reason ghee became a staple in Indian cooking. Also, ghee is shelf stable and people don’t understand that the longer it ages the more heightened the antioxidants and vitamins form naturally. At times I feel very defeated because the American public is dependent on quick fixes like pills, powders, and a man-made mixture of oils instead of a very healthy natural superfood that is not only safe to eat but affordable for all.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
My mentor is my father, he passed away recently and he was the worst businessman on the planet. He failed at every business he opened, BUT he was an amazing person to his customers he treated everyone who walked into his stores with kindness and compassion. He was honest, sincere, and loved by a lot of people because he didn’t hurt people and step on people to make it big. He was a simple man with a big heart and that is hard to find today.
He also taught me to be a good person and I always feel customer service is the most important and crucial part of a business. I thank my dad for showing me how to be a leader without stepping on people along the way. We have grown quite rapidly in sales, and with celebrities because of our customer service that is available seven days a week. We also have professional chefs who make recipes for us and this helps out a lot of people! We are a business that keeps giving and we will continue to do so.
What outlets do use to market Gourmet Ghee Company?
The outlets we use to market the GGC are Amazon, website, Shopify, Twitter, Facebook, and a very important site that I would recommend to anyone is RangeMe.Com it is a great site for new and existing companies who want to get in front of buyers. We have had some incredible success and are currently in talks with three major buyers in less than a year to get our products on the shelf, I compare it to a dating site because you get to pick where you want to sell and you can be selective. It works out great for companies no matter what stage of business you are in.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
My support network is crucial in my life as often times like most business owners I suffer from anxiety. Most recently a wonderful woman by the name of Agapi Stassinopoulos; approached me to contribute to Thrive Global who is owned by her sister Arianna Huffington and herself.
This has allowed me to not only write out and sometimes “vent” my thoughts out and learn from others with similar experiences. I also have a very loving family and an extremely supportive husband who will drop everything to make sure that I am ok and getting enough sleep. My biggest support is praying, prayer is very important to me and I make sure to do it on a daily basis without fail.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about the food industry and how are you using your platform and voice to educate people more?
The most common misconception in the food industry is that all fat is bad, and that’s just not true. There are great fats that your body needs and ghee is one of them. It is also beneficial for the mind to function. Dieting is great and should be done along with exercise but people are afraid to eat and that’s not good. People for centuries have had ghee inside their coffee, and in their meals because of the rich omega fatty and chain acids. Also, consumers tend to believe a brand is good if its marketed everywhere and that’s just not true, in my opinion, a lot of small companies make the best and healthiest food in non-generic mass-produced forms.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
As far as millennials in business I would like to see a change as far as less pill and powder form foods, and fewer preservatives. Everything has to be quick and convenient for today’s cooks and working-class generation but health also matters. A pill or a vitamin will never have the same benefits as a whole food.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
The best piece of advice I have received to date not to compare my beginning to someone else’s middle. I take things slow and go at my pace; I mentally have a car I drive and whoever is a distraction, I let them out. I take no nonsense when it comes to reaching my goals and my being happy.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
The most critical lesson I have learned Is to not be so hard on myself. I am my own worst enemy at times, everything has to be perfect and done the right way. I learned a lot along the way to be positive and take things slow. I also don’t rush around others schedule or get pressured into any deals big or small. I thoroughly check everything even if it looks “good” doesn’t necessarily mean its good for my company. Its ok to pass and say a polite “no.”
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
I try my best to create an evenly balanced personal and work life but that is not always the case I am still growing and learning a lot about my business, and even myself. My husband sometimes has to come and shut down my laptop or take away my phone when it goes off too much; it sounds very childish but sometimes I need that extra push to stop and look over at my children playing and go be with them. Or go for a walk with my husband and just enjoy the weather. The work will always be there its never going away and a deal won’t be done no matter what deadline a buyer or a company gives. I also give work to others and pass it on, I no longer feel if I am not in charge it will not get done. I have a great team that is capable of handling all the logistics of my business if I am not around at times
The highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career was definitely getting chosen to be on the Dr. Oz show amongst and being approached by Thrive Global. Those two platforms really elevated my business to be more in the celebrity world, and since then we have been featured in numerous articles, and even asked to have our edible ghee favours at royal and celebrity weddings, and galas in Dubai, California, New York, Mumbai, and Europe.
The Dr. Oz show taught me a great lesson to not be afraid to speak up for my product. Also, working with Thrive Global as a contributing writer on a freelance basis really helps me a lot; I get to write my heart out and lend my experiences to other people who are looking for advice and comfort. I also got to meet Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank and she has been one of my mentors for years even before Shark Tank so it was an honour meeting her and she was so lovely to be around.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
The ultimate career satisfaction for me is helping people who come to me that really need help and know the benefits of using ghee. A man who has a celiac disease called us some time ago and I just happened to be in the office and picked up. I am usually never there on weekends but I was so glad I was, as this man really changed my life and we speak until this very day.
He became a big fan of using our 24k gold ghee butter because doctors were using 24k gold injections to treat a span of ailments. He was really interested in trying ghee butter and he has been a loyal customer since. I had another woman who called and she said ghee is big in Somalia and she wanted to use it for her thinning hair, as she had a hard time finding an authentic ghee company. She orders a case from us every other month and loves our products. My clients put a smile on my face every time, it is beyond rewarding.
What challenges have you seen to have been presented during the growth of Gourmet Ghee Company?
The biggest challenge I see is people using ghee on the market, that we have tested and tasted and being from an Indian background. I know its not authentic ghee butter, but because its mass produced with a label that reads “grass fed” people assume it’s the real deal. I am very proud of my Indian heritage and Its truly flattering when I hear about people in yoga, Ayurveda, and using holistic herbs but often customers jump the gun on catchy phrases or use products in excess. The most hilarious thing I read to date was a ghee company who chants and waits for a full moon before making ghee butter. I was born in India and grew up there, I go back home quite often and I have never heard or seen of such methods. Ghee is so simple and it is another ancient Indian ingredient being exploited by manufacturers who are just sifting generic butter and not taking the proper steps to make wholesome authentic ghee with benefits.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I have many people I admire if I had to break it down it would be the late Mike Illich and his wife Marian; they are the couple who opened up the famous pizza franchise little Caesars. Their story is fascinating and very humbling. Dwayne the “Rock” Johnson and ex-wife Danny Garcia have a very humble beginning that not a lot of people know about. Also Dr. Phil, and Tyler Perry are fascinating people and I admire them a great deal.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I don’t have too much time read like I use to before my children, but I still watch and read the news and latest topics and events. I can say it makes me sad to see so many old-time stores closing down which I went to as a kid. Sometimes I feel we are professing at an alarming rate which is great, but I would like my children to enjoy something I did and not everything should be sold solely online. It’s more sentimental than anything to me to see some of the biggest retail giants close their doors.
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
- ‘Rise And Grind’ with Daymond John.
- ‘Thrive Global Podcast’ with Arianna Huffington.
- Any type of politically based podcast is what I listen to the most.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
I measure success by how I can still be a great mother to my children, a loving wife to my husband, and a caring daughter to my mother; and still, have time to manage a growing business. I keep a journal and every time I “plant” a seed for my business I date and time the event/email/conversation. I always go back to the page in a month to keep track of the success or sometimes failure of the seed to grow. I measure success by seeing my personal garden of life blossom every day on a personal, spiritual, and professional level. I also never compare my successful or “dead ends” to another business or competitor; my success is my own to celebrate and my failures are my own to learn from.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means not caring what the world thinks of me, this is my own way of living, loving, and learning. I cannot be everything to everyone life does not work that way. My personal experiences are my own and at this point in my life after a lot of heartaches, struggles, and personal sacrifice I am not longer afraid to talk about who I was before a business owner.
Lastly, what is next for you?
The next step for The Gourmet Ghee company is to meet with buyers and expand and grow as a company, the next step for me personally is to go to back home to India and enjoy some time off with my family.