Perzen Patel is the creator of a tantalising range of Indian spice pastes designed to give New Zealanders a taste of the real India while still being versatile enough for a soup or Sunday roast. She is bringing her business Dolly Mumma (named in honour of her grandmother) to life while continuing her day job at the University of Auckland as Digital Engagement and Communications Advisor for Libraries and Learning Services. Perzen entered the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s flagship competition the Velocity $100k Challenge where she made the finals out of 80 entries and gained a place in the Launchpad programme to help hone her ideas.
Q: Passion doesn’t always equal profession. What inspired you to turn your love of Indian food into a business?
Before moving to New Zealand in 2019, I lived in India where I had my own catering business. While I loved serving food, I grew frustrated with the business model I had inadvertently created as it is very hard to scale a catering business. I knew that the next time I ventured into business, I wanted to have a product and I wanted it to be something that had a larger potential audience.
Upon moving to New Zealand I realised that despite the New Zealand food scene having matured and a range of cuisines now being available, the same could not be said about Indian food. I kept encountering the same conversations with my new friends –
‘Oh you’re from Mumbai? I love having curry’, they’d say. Or, ‘I love Dahl but sadly I can never get it right’. Or, ‘I bought curry powder at the Indian shop but my curry didn’t taste anything like the one I usually order. Not quite sure what to do with it now, aye’.
It clicked that if I wanted my friends and those around me to experience the true taste of India, I had to do more than talk about it. I had to bring those flavours into their kitchen. I had to show them that not only could they be used to make a great curry but that they could also be incredibly versatile and be used in their everyday cooking as well.
Q: What inspired you to take the plunge this year?
Originally I had always planned to do this business a bit later once I was a bit more re-settled into living in Auckland. In June this year I started a podcast, Kiwi Foodcast, where I talk to entrepreneurs and others working in the food space in New Zealand to find out about the amazing work they do. Talking to them and seeing so many food entrepreneurs thriving encouraged me to just give my idea a go rather than just keep on ‘thinking’ about it.
As a small next step I applied for The Kitchen Project, a food business incubator run by ATEED, Healthy Families and Panuku. The advice and support I got there helped me get started and move the dial on all the things one needs to get done. Later I applied to the Velocity $100k Challenge and the thrill of a competition meant I leaned right into the business and ended up with a detailed business plan and path forward. This helped Dolly Mumma get started.