This Mother And Daughter Started A Side Hustle Selling Chutneys And Spices

Published: December 12th, 2022
Sadaf Ahmed
Founder, Karachi Kitchen
Karachi Kitchen
from Seattle, WA, USA
started May 2020
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Sadaf, co-founder, and designer behind Karachi Kitchen Foods. I started the business with my mother who is a long-time chef and culinary instructor. We specialize in small-batch traditional Pakistani chutneys and spice blends. All products are handcrafted from scratch using locally sourced ingredients and no artificial preservatives or additives. Our goal is to create high-quality products that capture the authentic taste of traditional Pakistani home cooking.


Our products are available online at and at local farmer's markets including the Skagit Valley and Shoreline Farmers Markets.

In the past two years, we have launched several new products including our best-selling Spicy Roasted Garlic Chutney, Spicy Mango Chutney, and Smoked Tandoori Masala.

We had hoped everything would move much faster than it did. When we first started working on the project Covid hit and everything came to a halt. There was also a lot more learning to do than we had anticipated related to federal and state regulations. In the beginning, things were slow but they gradually picked up. Since we launched our online store last fall, sales have more than doubled for us.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My background is in design and development while my mother has been a chef and teacher for over 35 years. In 2017 we collaborated on a self-published cookbook “The Karachi Kitchen” which started as a project to compile old family recipes for ourselves.

The book took us 4 years to put together. We both had other jobs and were navigating the world of self-publishing from scratch. Initially, we bootstrapped. When the design was complete we took out a loan to print the book. We had a small PR budget during the launch but aside from that the two of us did sales and marketing ourselves. The book was featured in the national press and 2018 “The Karachi Kitchen” went on to win a Gourmand Award!

The following year for the holiday season we created 2 new products to test in the market - a chutney and a spice blend using profits from the book. The positive response we got from our existing community exceeded our expectations. However, Covid began and markets came to a halt. Later that year we decided to build an online store which I built myself. We launched with 3 spices and 3 chutneys in September 2021

We now have 7 different chutneys and 7 different masalas that rotate our collection. I manage the web store while my mom runs production. We were featured in Seattle Times in May and have grown over 200% in the past 12 months.

This is still a side project for me but my mother dedicates a lot of her time to it as we are anticipating faster growth in the coming months. She is also a part-time culinary instructor.

Getting feedback from your target market during product design and development can save so much time and money after launch.

Take us through designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

Our product line has been through many iterations. I designed the packaging myself and initially, we used to print labels at home because our budget was tight. The quality of our packaging has improved, and the design has changed over time as we have become clearer on who we are and what we want to communicate as a brand.

Currently, we are working on new packaging for a subscription club we are launching in 2023.

The formula/ingredients of our products go through a lot of testing before we go to market with them. Initially, my mom makes them at home and we taste-test them ourselves. If we love something we share it with family and friends for feedback.

Favorites are lab tested to ensure they meet regulations, then we produce them in a commercial kitchen to sell them. We have to comply with WSDA and FDA regulations to sell commercially, even if it is in small batches. If something is successful at the farmer’s market, then we put it up on our online store.

Our ingredients are all sourced locally, directly from growers, and organic when possible. For spices we work with two spice distributors, one is in Washington State and the other is in California. They are committed to the high quality that we are. High-quality spices smell fresh and taste potent. They have a strong aroma and bright color that is maintained if they are stored correctly. You can see, smell, and taste the difference.

Describe the process of launching the business.

When we decided to launch an online store in 2020 the first year was spent on design and paperwork. The store launched in 2021 and this year we have been focused on getting our products out directly to customers at farmers' markets. Next year we will expand our focus to wholesale distribution.

We have learned a lot of lessons along the way. The biggest lesson I think has been patience because we had hoped everything would move much faster than it did. There was a lot more learning to do than we had anticipated. There were also supply shortages and no opportunities for in-person tastings as Covid hit a few months after we first tested our first chutney in the market. That is challenging because people’s decision to buy our products is taste driven.

The first time we went out to sell was after a cooking class my mother was teaching at a local cooking school in 2019. They invited us to sell products after the class during an event they were hosting. We sold The Karachi Kitchen cookbook, Spicy Green Coconut Chutney, and Tamarind and Date Chutney. The cookbook was already available in several bookstores but it was the first time we introduced chutneys. There were 15 students in the class and we were surprised that almost everyone bought one of each item.

Later that year we did a couple of holiday markets where we saw an equally enthusiastic response. Unfortunately, Covid hit before the market season so all our plans were delayed by over a year. When things got going again in 2021 growth was slow but sales picked up in 2022.

I built the website myself last year. We updated the photography and added new products this summer. My husband takes the photographs. We have added several new chutneys and spices to our product line and are going to be adding a recipe section soon. Image of original website:


Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Right now our online sales make up around 40% of our revenue stream. We are on Instagram and have a monthly email that goes out to our subscription list which has been slowly but steadily growing. We occasionally advertise on Instagram but most online growth has come through email marketing and press pieces like The Seattle Times.

50% of our sales come from retail and around 10% from wholesale. People need to be able to interact with our brand and taste the products to understand what we are offering. For this purpose, we are at 2 different weekly farmers' markets and do several holiday events. We also have a few small wholesale accounts. I am expecting this ratio to change as we grow the wholesale side of the business, which is in its infancy.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

In the past year, we saw more than 200% growth in overall sales. This includes mostly retail and online sales with a small amount of wholesale. Next, we are looking forward to growing the wholesale side of the business. We are also introducing an online subscription box and publishing recipes on our website in the coming months. We look forward to sharing with everyone.

We are still a 2-person team with a 3rd person joining for production weekly. We will expand as needed but are not looking to hire in the short term.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

We ran into many challenges when we began from having our paperwork rejected by regulatory authorities to supply chain delays for ingredients. It took time to get things in order and the cost of everything rose rapidly within our first 12 months.

We had to keep updating our costs and updating our prices as a result. It took a lot of hard work, confusion, and patience to overcome uncertainty. We are lucky to have a great support system of family and friends.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Square to collect payments online and in person. Their interface is very user-friendly, and they offer great tools and hardware. We also use them to send newsletters. For social media marketing, we use Instagram and Facebook.


What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Recent inspirations include Heritage Network Radio’s Food Without Borders, the Museum of Food & Drink in New York, and the Gastropod podcast. Cooking shows we love to include Salt Fat Acid Heat and Chef’s Table. Inspirational books include Atomic Habits by James Clear, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and The Net and The Butterfly by Olivia Fox.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Getting feedback from your target market during product design and development can save so much time and money after launch.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Right now we are not looking to hire but 2nd half of next year we will need help. Opportunities will be available on as they come up.

Where can we go to learn more?