“I established my food company just because I was hungry at the time”. Shazia Salem
Shazia is a 29-year old from Lutton England and a British Muslim who noticed both a gap in the market and found a way to celebrate the two parts of her cultural identity.
Ms. Saleem is the founder of a newly launched ready-meals business leat Foods (meaning “I eat”), which offers a variety of traditional British and Italian cuisines like shepherd’s pie and lasagna prepared accordingly to the Islamic law.
Shazia was a student of Warwick University when she came up with this great idea about eight years ago, simply because she was tired of buying vegetarian food to abstain from non-halal meals.
“Most of my friends at university were non-Muslims, and when we did a weekly food shop together their trolleys were full of really tasty-looking ready meals, and all I could buy were things like cheese and onion pasties,” Shazia said.
“It was really frustrating, and I used to whine a lot that I was missing out. I thought, why wasn’t anyone making halal ready meals, other than the odd curry?’’
“That was when I decided I needed to do something about it. While moonlighting on other things, I then spent the next eight years putting together all the pieces of the jigsaw that needed to be in place before I launched Ieat.”
Ms. Saleem is, without a doubt, the true definition of a serial entrepreneur.
“Some people thought I was mad, but I needed to go and do something completely different” Shazia Saleem
She was good at sports during her years attending the university as she conducted her own sport-coaching academies, focusing on hockey and netball.
Although the money wasn’t that much, she still managed to pay her bills.
Upon completing her course at the Warwick University, Shazia got her first job working under Peter Jones, who was a UK entrepreneur from the BBC TV show Dragon’s Den.
It was quite an “unbelievable opportunity” working in Mr. Jones’ investment and portfolio office, according to Ms. Saleem. She managed to acquire some skills whilst working in that establishment which contributed to her hard-earned success.
By the time she turned 25, she decided to resign in pursuit of her own dreams.
“It was great working for Peter, but I needed to go and do something for myself,” she says. “I needed to push myself.”
After saving for some time, she moved to Cambodia and joined a travel agency, where she bought 50% of a run-down resort.
“Some people thought I was mad, but I needed to go and do something completely different,” she says.
“I was like a project manager, and we turned the development into Cambodia’s first eco-resort. We made a success of it, and ultimately I sold my share.” She added.
Late father’s influence
Ms. Saleem returned to the UK because she believed it was high time to launch her own company, leat Foods.
But unfortunately, during the initiation of her company in 2013, her father passed away.
“One of the last things he said to me was, ‘You must go and do it, and make it successful’,” she says.
Shazi was a strong woman, so she wouldn’t let the event get the best of her. She bounced back on her feet and decided to keep striving.
Whilst conducting a survey in the U.K, she discovered that there were thousands of second-generation UK Muslims like her who also found it difficult to buy halal ready-meal versions of traditional British and Italian dishes.
“The first generation of Muslims who came to this country typically would have stuck to the food they were used to,” she says. “But us younger Muslims want to try different types of foods, we want to eat the ‘normal’ foods that British people do.’’
“Ieat gives those that follow the halal rules a convenient and healthy chance to do so.” Shazia said
Muslim entrepreneurs all over the world are constantly trying to make a name for themselves, but with our utmost support, they’ll surely get there.
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