Wednesday, January 23, 2008

SBDC Interview: House of Spices

The following appeared originally in the October 2007 "LaGuardia SBDC Quarterly Newsletter". It is an interview with an owner of a successful manufacturer & distributor of ethnic food items. I think that it could be of interest to any number of our clients.

It is reproduced here with the permission of the LaGuardia SBDC. My thanks to them.


House of Spices was started in 1970 with one store in Jackson Heights, New York by brothers G.L. Soni and Kumar Soni. In the following years they experienced extraordinary growth and opened up warehouses around the U.S. that import, store, manufacture, and distribute over 3,000 different food items from all over the world to the ethnic as well as mainstream markets.

The following interview was conducted with Mr. G.L. Soni:

Q: House of Spices has grown to be a large and successful wholesaler with exclusive distributorship of major food labels including several of its own. However, it all started as a small retail store. Looking back, what do you believe helped your company grow to scale?
G.L. Soni: The reason for our growth was my decision to sell the best merchandise money can buy. I also knew that, based on the size of the U.S., a comprehensive distribution network was the key to reaching customers.

Q: In what ways did you need to modify traditional ethnic products to ready them for the diverse U.S. marketplace?
G.L. Soni: Of course our product labels had to change, and when the FDA started detaining products, I decided to start manufacturing products here. Hence, our products say, "Made pure, made fresh and made here."

Q: How would you advise entrepreneurs to best leverage personal or cultural ties abroad to create a successful business model?
G.L. Soni: Remember, relatives are a double-edged sword. Do not forget who you are or where you came from, and always take the best of both cultures. Not everything in the old culture is right. Think "ethnic" with the ultimate goal of being mainstream.

Q: What lessons have you learned about working with international suppliers?
G.L. Soni: I have been very lucky and successful in dealing with international companies. Always honor your contracts, even when you lose money doing so. Your word should be your contract and guarantee.

Q: Finally, what would you say are the key elements any business owner should have in place before he or she starts up to ensure the kind of success that House of Spices has experienced?
G.L. Soni: Be focused and determined to overcome any hurdles, small or large. Honor your obligations on time without giving excuses, as the other guy has heard them all before. Be firm in your conviction and don't give in, even if you have to fight for it. Finally, never take "NO" for an answer. There are always legal avenues to get things done in the good ol' USA.

1 comment:

Roger Green said...

Too much food on this blog! ;-)