Perzen Patel is helping Kiwis envision a life beyond butter chicken and giving them a taste of the real India with her business Dolly Mumma (named in honour of her grandmother). 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 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 where butter chicken still ruled the roost.
It clicked that if I wanted my friends to experience life beyond butter chicken, I had to do more than talk about it. I had to bring real Indian 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: How have you managed to balance your day job, family commitments and starting a venture?
In one sentence – with a lot of struggle. It is not easy juggling everything and some days I feel like I am failing at everything. What helps is time-blocking. I keep set times in my calendar in the evening and weekends for working on both my podcast and my business and use that focused time to get ahead. At the start of the week, I also identify just one critical thing I need to get achieved this week in each area and then spend my week just completing that. It’s amazing just how much you can chip away by doing one small thing at a time.
Q: How has being involved in the Velocity entrepreneurship programme helped with developing your concept and knowledge of venture development? What support have you most appreciated?
Being a part of Velocity really helped me fine tune my target customers and create meaningful sales projections. I’ve always known both those things are important but I have never taken the time to actually write them down. Both these activities have really helped guide me in what steps I should take next. There’s only my husband and me in the business for now and A LOT of things to achieve so knowing this helps us focus. The best part for me was my mentors. Being connected to Janene Draper and Brendan Vercoe who both have very different specialities gave me valuable insights into my business that I otherwise would not have received. It’s really helped me with my product development process.
Q: It’s a huge achievement to have made it to the finals out of 80 entries. Has involvement helped build your confidence and connections?
I’ve always been confident in my business idea. However, being a part of the programme and talking about my business has helped me refine my elevator pitch and clearly communicate what Dolly Mumma is all about to a variety of stakeholders. It’s also helped me develop some key connections which I will always value.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone with an idea they want to develop?
I am an ideas person and have a new idea about a business or project all the time. My key piece of advice always is to just start. That’s the only way you will know whether you want to pursue it and also whether it is worth pursuing. Without action, it will always just be an idea you had.
Q: What next for Dolly Mumma?
Next for Dolly Mumma is a year of putting our heads down and just getting to work. We only just got our kitchen registration so now we plan on getting into as many farmers’ markets as possible so that we can get real time feedback about our product and create some sales. We are also in parallel building our website, social media channels and sorting out other operational details. Hopefully by this time next year you will find a Dolly Mumma bottle at a Farro’s near you (Farro’s, are you listening?).