Divorced, retrenched – but Amina has spiced up her life and her atchar will now sell countrywide

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Exotic Taste’s  Amina Abrahams and her daughter Faatimah Nordien, who is a director of Exotic Taste, managing all sales, marketing and the export business.
Exotic Taste’s Amina Abrahams and her daughter Faatimah Nordien, who is a director of Exotic Taste, managing all sales, marketing and the export business.
Photo supplied by Exotic Taste
  • Amina Abrahams started a business in her kitchen as she struggled to survive after being retrenched.
  • Her company Exotic Taste now employs 30 staff and operates from a more than 500-square-metre factory.
  • Abrahams has also signed an agreement with JSE-listed retailer Shoprite that will see her product sold across the country.
  • GOOD NEWS DAY IS BACK! News24 celebrates the people restoring pride in our country. Read their stories here

From its humble beginnings as a strategy for financial survival 17 years ago, Amina Abrahams has managed to develop her atchar business into a profitable company – and it's steadily increasing its footprint, with some 30 staff on its books today.

Moreover, a recent agreement with Shoprite has resulted in her popular product, Exotic Taste, being sold under the retailer's Homegrown private label brand nationwide.

But if it were possible to travel back in time to 2006 to tell Abrahams, who lives in Cape Town, what was in store for her, she would probably have had a hard time believing you.

At the time, she had just got divorced and lost her job at a bank and was desperate to support herself and her two children.

Abrahams said she had no clue at the time what to do to earn some money and approached Rukeya Akoojee, a close friend of her family who she calls her "spiritual mother" for advice.

Tough start 

Akoojee gave her the idea of starting an atchar business and taught her how to make it.

"It was a terrible time. It was very unsettling. With the help of my spiritual mom [Akoojee] - and she was such a support - I was encouraged to start my own business. I decided: let me see how far I can take this atchar business. What can happen? At worst, I won't pay my rent for three months. I really took the biggest jump of my life to do this."

At first it was just family and friends who purchased Abrahams' products, along with Elite Supermarkets in Athlone, whose owners, the Banderker brothers, she had known since she was a child. And then 12 years ago she approached a Shoprite buyer about her products. The group became interested in her Exotic Taste product and piloted it in both Shoprite and Checkers, before deciding to roll them out across the entire Western Cape's Checkers store footprint.

Now, given the agreement with Shoprite, the atchar product is going to be sold under the Homegrown private label in all 550 Shoprite stores countrywide.  

Abrahams says that as her business has grown over the years, she has needed to expand the premises from which she operates - from a one-bedroom, one kitchen flatlet to a 544-square metre factory in Parow today.

There has also been a lot of personal growth for her as well, with Abrahams saying that when she started she knew very little about producing food products for retail and had to learn everything by going on short courses, ranging from food safety to technology. Today, she has a full-time food technologist on site at the factory. 

Never give up 

The latest agreement with Shoprite fulfils an ambition that Abrahams always had: that of having a national footprint for her products. She explains:

I am very proud of that fact. I had set myself a goal that I wanted to distribute nationally.

She also believes what gave her a good foundation to run her own company was learning from her grandmother, who ran a successful transport business.

"What I learnt from her were not the hardcore MBA skills, I learnt about the soft skills from her. How you deal with people; that when you give your word, you honour that word."

Her advice to others who may find themselves in a similar position to the one she was in when she was struggling to survive is "patience and perseverance" and never "giving up" on your goals.

"Life will always throw stumbling blocks and you constantly have to overcome them and as I overcome them – divorce, retrenchment – I also had to overcome the stumbling blocks in my business journey. I have grown as a person and the business has also grown in its own capacity."

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