The Business Owner: Mark Salter, for aisha
He sold his house and his car to bring about his business dream, and now Mark Salter talks to is4profit about his halal baby food brand
Founder: Mark Salter
Company: for aisha
Location: East Anglia
Proposition: Halal Baby Food
Size: 1 sole owner and four support contractors (marketing, international sales, social media and licensing)
How is your business different from what’s already out there?
for aisha is Europe’s leading halal baby food brand. We make exciting exotic recipes that contain a wide variety of all natural ingredients, that expand the taste palates of infants and therefore are extremely beneficial for families during the weaning process.
How did you finance your business?
I sold my house and my car to put towards the original design works and R&D. It took my net worth to zero and I peddled my old bike to the train station for all of my meetings. I bought a basket to carry my samples in. It should have been £15 but it was bent so the shop let me have it for £5. I have the receipt and will keep it always.
I auditioned and was accepted onto the Dragons’ Den show at that time but rejected it as I gained investment from a group of private individuals. Finding the right business partner was probably the biggest hurdle but it’s extremely important to get right. We’re now in a strong position with private equity backing.
What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?
Superb product quality has to be the number one. It’s essential that parents trust your products for their little one.
What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?
There are many challenges such as changing people’s perception of halal food (which can be every bit as respectful to animals as non-halal food).
What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?
A mixture of media relations, awards, direct marketing, social media and attendances at key baby and Muslim lifestyle shows where we include sampling activity.
Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?
Absolutely. It’s good for business and it’s crucial for the UK economy. The pound is weak now and although that’s awful for importing our goods, we should be making hay with exports.
What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?
Excel. Cash is king and we must be on top of our finances at all times.
Describe your company’s culture in three words:
Innovative (pioneering), dynamic, quality.
What would you like the government to do for small business?
Standardise or legislate the halal meat certification so that we can export far easier.
Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?
My father was my only hero. He was the best businessman that I’d ever known, before his long term battle with vascular dementia. He was a pioneer and never took no for an answer.
Where do you want the business to be in three years?
We already became Europe’s largest halal baby food company in our first year. I expect us to be the largest UK owned baby food company by that stage
What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?
Work with consultants who are professionals in their fields of expertise. They don’t have to be the largest of agencies, but they need to be aligned to your ethos and vision.