To find answers, we met with the founder, Maggie, to get her story.
Question: Why did you choose to move to Scotland?
Maggie: I had family in Scotland first; that’s why I chose to come here in 1992. I started studying with the Edinburgh Women’s Training Centre and other colleges for 18 months to gain a certification in Computer Systems and Communications before moving on to a Higher National Diploma and Batchelor of Engineering in Computing, specialising in computer networks and distributed systems, which I finished in 2003.
Question: What was your story before you started your enterprise?
Maggie: I founded Sashita in 2008, the same year that I started my Master’s; I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to be here, and I wanted to use that advantage to help people. Back home in Tanzania, one of the big struggles in rural communities is access to clean water, so this seemed like a good focus for the charity. I used to make sauces as a sideline for fundraising events; pretty soon people started asking after them, requesting batches of sauce for their own fundraising events, graduation parties, and such. Founding the enterprise was just the next logical step.
Maggie is known for her cooking, but let’s take a closer look at what MaRobert's founder is involved with.
Question: What are your areas of interest?
Maggie: I’m really involved with discussions on gender, particularly amongst ethnic minority groups. I know from first-hand experience in the developing world, in a lot of rural communities, women have very little power; my focus is on initiatives that promote sustainability. In particular, I work internationally to bring income-generating solutions to those rural communities.
Of course, I also have other hobbies. I love netball – and cooking, obviously! I love to experiment with recipes at home.
Question: How would you describe your passion for food?
Maggie: Too much! I love to cook and eat home-cooked food – I don’t enjoy microwave dinners. I love natural, fresh food; exciting spices, bright colours, big, bold flavours!
You can find more info on Maggie's charity, Sashita, at http://www.sashita.org.uk/.
Question: Where did the name "MaRobert" come from?
Maggie: It’s named in part for my son, Robert, who was born in 2011, and who was named after my father-in-law. Robert (senior) was amazing – when my husband and I were getting married in Tanzania, he organised everything. It wouldn’t have been the same without the incredible job he did. He passed away just before the wedding in, but when our son came along, Robert was the obvious choice of name.
As for naming MaRobert’s; in Tanzania, instead of ‘Mrs.’, I’d be known as Mama Robert – it’s an honorific of sorts. Often ‘Mama’ would be shortened to ‘Ma’, and adapting that to MaRobert’s for the brand name felt like a perfect homage to a man who meant a great deal to us.
Scotland is home to a great variety of cultures, including MaRobert's great taste of Tanzania!
Question: How do you feel about cultural diversity in Scotland?
Maggie: Since I arrived in Scotland 24 years ago, I’ve seen greater and greater diversity year after year. At first, there were very few black African or Caribbean people about. Now, there are many more ethnic cultures at home here – it’s a very cosmopolitan place. Edinburgh especially is very multicultural!
Question: What was your inspiration for rebranding?
Maggie: I had actually rebranded before, a little while ago, but I think it went a bit too far – people missed the personal appeal of the brand. The image helps to reinforce one of the core values of MaRobert’s, that particular touch that lets you know there’s a person behind the product. People enjoy the character of it, and look for the profile when I’m on market stalls and the like. The new branding has a more African feel to it as well – more colourful, more exciting.
MaRobert's has gone from strength to strength with the support of customers, colleagues, and companions, so we're keen to know what the next step is!
Question: What are your future plans? What’s in the pipeline?
Maggie: We have a high demand right now, so we want to focus on scaling up and making more sauce; we’re moving from my kitchen at home to a dedicated production kitchen. It won’t be an industrial plant, much more of a home-away-from-home kitchen setup, so we don’t lose that genuine feeling of making the sauce. We’ve had a lot of interest overseas too, so we’re looking at options to export to places like Tanzania, Australia etc. Our new extra hot chilli sauce is proving very popular and people are already asking for an even hotter variety; expanding our range is another focus, and not all of it will come in jars!
Question: What’s the secret ingredient?
Maggie: It’s the process, of course – there’s no set steps to the cooking, and it’s a very organic process. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is true – it’s the personal touch, the passion and love that goes into making a batch that really makes a difference.
*This interview was conducted by the MaRobert’s team members and was released for promotional purposes*
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