For Gloria, the isolation of those early months of lockdown inspired her to make shito, an umami-heavy sauce full of tomatoes, onions, garlic, dried fish, ginger and peppers that’s ubiquitous in Ghana (shito means 'pepper' in the Ga language). She’s since turned the kitchen-table side hustle into a proper business called, appropriately, Gloria’s Shito.
We caught up with Gloria and came away with these top tips for launching something new.
Start from a personal need
Some business ideas come after identifying a market gap. Other founders follow the SCAMPER tool, improving something that already exists. But tons of ideas come from pure selfishness – literally making a product for yourself. Gloria had just returned to LA following a memorable family trip to Ghana where she’d eaten ‘street food after street food’. Back in the US, she was looking for ways to recreate the familiar flavours of home. ‘I figured if I can make my own shito, then it would make everything taste like how food tastes in Ghana,’ she says. ‘Shito-making just became something that I looked forward to, to occupy my weekends and nights.’
Your skills are transferable
Gloria kicked off her cosmetic science career at L'Oréal USA and has developed personal care brands for the likes of Paul Mitchell and JAFRA Cosmetics. The gig involves sourcing ingredients used to moisturise skin or add shine to hair – it’s about ‘understanding how to put ingredients together and the protocols that are required to take a product from ideation to scale-up in terms of manufacturing’, she explains. ‘Being exposed to this environment helped me to treat my shito recipe development in basically the same way.’
These skills really came into play during the hunt for ingredients, which was a challenge in Los Angeles. ‘But understanding flavor profiles, I knew that there were other cuisines that have similar ingredients,’ she says. Soon enough, she was canvassing LA’s Asian markets for substitutes. ‘I had to adapt those, understanding how much of something I could use to get the flavors that I was looking for.’
Lots of new business owners go freebie-crazy. But people are unlikely to criticize something they get for free. There’s no better way of finding out if your customers actually like your product than selling it. After making her first batches and being proud of the result, Gloria called up her siblings across the US – from Michigan to upstate New York – and explained that if they wanted some shito, she’d ship some – but they’d have to pay.
A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more insights, analysis and inspiration, sign up here.