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From Dreams to Dumplings: A Journey of Starting a Cultural Food Business

Amidst the hustle and bustle of London, how often do we indulge ourselves in the pleasure of good quality food without breaking the bank at a restaurant? And how often do we ensure our loved ones have access to the nostalgic tastes of our childhood? Surprisingly, there's someone right next door who shares these sentiments but with a unique approach that has made a significant impact.

At 8pron, we take great pride in connecting you with experiences like this. We are privileged to introduce Snezhana, the visionary behind Not Only Dumplings, whose homemade delights have captured the hearts of her West London neighbourhood. She is a shining example that every small step counts and her journey to success deserves celebration.

Now, let us present one of West London's fastest-growing small food businesses and listen to Snezhana's inspiring story. Discover the passion, authenticity, and flavours that make Not Only Dumplings a culinary sensation.

How you came to start Not Only Dumplings?

So let me share the story of how I started that. Reflecting on my New Year resolutions and what I had accomplished so far, I felt like a lost mother caring for a two-year-old child. At the time, I wasn't working because I was focused on caring for my kid and managing the household. However, I knew that this year had to be different. I had always prioritised the wishes of others and neglected my own wishes.

I used to dream about having my own cafe and even went to work there to learn how this business operates, but then I didn't know what I should do next and how is it possible to open my own cafe without any savings.

One day, I decided to make dumplings for my husband and daughter since it was a traditional dish in our culture. As I prepared the meal, I thought: why not sell dumplings? I had always wanted to do something but had yet to learn what it was. Nevertheless, I have always been passionate about food. As I served food to my family, I remembered my love of cooking and the importance of sharing it with others.

What are your motivation and challenges?

So many thoughts were in my mind stopping me from doing something. Oh, what if I can't do it? What if it doesn't go well? Because it was my dream, and I was disheartened that I didn't know where or how to start it.

When I shared this with my family and friends, they were very supportive. I realised I should not give up, and I can see a picture that the small steps I’m taking now can lead to something big like opening the cafe. I can start by making dumplings, selling from home, building my brand, saving money, and opening a cafe one day.

Why dumplings?

Dumplings are a very cultural food in Russia, where I come from. When I was a kid, I made dumplings with my mom and my grandma, and it is the sort of thing that we make together with family.

Then when I moved to London, I started making them on my own because I missed home; I missed this type of food which you can find here, the dumplings in the shop. But it's different when you make your own. One day, I met and married a Turkish guy; they have a similar culture and do dumplings. So we make and cook the dumplings whenever we meet with his parents.

It's in my culture, in his culture. And this is definitely what is inspiring me; people are inspiring me. I want to bring a taste of home to people, especially those who moved abroad.

"I made dumplings with my mom and my grandma, and it is the sort of thing that we make together with family..."

Memorable moment

There is an element we missed when we moved abroad, and food is more than food sometimes. It can give you fond memories, and it's like a shared language or feelings. I received a review from the girls who told me, "When I ate your dumplings, I remembered how our grandma was cooking dumplings for me". So it brought them to that day, and that memory makes me so happy.

And what inspires me is that I want to help them to cook for their kids and family. Because sometimes, a day can be challenging, and having high-quality homemade food that should be easy to access, cook, and quick, could be a lifesaver. It saves time, it saves energy, and in the end, it makes everyone happy.

Feeding our kids is challenging sometimes; sometimes you just don't have the energy to think about what to cook. It's quite common that you put all your afford cooking for the kid, and they reject eating your food. My friend, for example, orders food from me monthly, which helps her a lot during the hard days.

I especially love helping those who moved abroad to keep their own culture. I moved here twelve years ago when I was 17 years old, and now I'm making this type of food, which is part of my culture. It makes me so happy that I remember where I came from and my journey here through food. Some people are moving to another country not by choice but a necessary step. I want to support those people and show them that they are not alone, and if I can help bring a bit of home to them through food, then that's what I want to do.

What sets you apart from the competition?

I am very open and transparent. I share every step of my journey with everyone through social media. My customers joined me every step of the way. They saw how I started and see good and bad because I shared everything. I am an open book. I have even shared negative reviews openly, not because of anything wrong with my product but because the customer expected it to be a bit different, and that's okay. I have nothing to hide. People can see how I have grown and how it's developing. That's the difference.

Like once I accidentally mixed beef dumplings and chicken in one bag (1kg) and had to do it all over again for the customer. I'm not ashamed, and we learn from our mistakes because I shared that in my story, and luckily, one of my followers saw it and decided to buy that mix; I sold it for a discounted price!

Because of what I do, people trust me, feel they're with me on this journey, and know what is behind my project.

Can you walk us through your typical day in life?

Yes, I'm responsible for everything. I'm doing everything from cooking, marketing, customer communication, and even delivery. On top of it, I'm looking after the kid, the house, and my husband, haha.

The key is to delegate what you don't like to do and do what you must do. I understand my priority in the business and family and organise and follow my tasks. Before I started delegating, I spent too much energy on things and didn't do what was important. I used to clean the house on my own, and one day I decided to buy a Hoover cleaning robot. It helps keep the house clean, and I found a cleaning lady who comes to clean my home weekly! They help me minimise the need for me to do the cleaning, and I focus more on the customer, and also before I had my big freezer, my neighbour let me use their freezer. Every little thing helps!

Very helpful neighbour! Is your family supportive too?

Yes, good neighbours and of course my family is happy for me. They're so glad I'm happy because I started my dream. It's not easy sometimes, but I feel so excited and wonder why I didn't start it earlier.

And my husband too, helped me to open the company, registered me for the food safety and hygiene inspection, and helped me open the bank account for the business.

Business Evolution and Future Potential

I'm doing very great because I just registered and started four months ago. I passed with five stars hygiene rating and have my own freezer. Now I have friends helping me with social media and extra helpers for making and delivering dumplings.

One day restaurants will put my dumplings on their menu, or shops will use them as their supplies or collaborate with me by putting my products on their shelve where customers can buy them from. Honestly, it is very positive to have a dream, and I hope to have my very own cafe one day.

Types of dumplings

For now, I am doing Pierogi and Pelmeni. But I’m interested to learn from others as well. Russia is a very big country with different cultures and many varieties of different dumplings. I plan in the future to learn how to make Manti, Hinkali, and Chebureki. Plus, I found out that dumplings are very popular all over the world, and almost every country has their own type.

Many people are curious why I don't use pork. I don't because I married a Muslim, and we don't use pork in our home, so I respect that. Although I don't use halal meat for my dumplings, I have customers who bring their own halal protein for me to make for them, or I can buy halal mince on my own too. Another family also got me kosher meat, so I cooked the dumplings, especially for them. It is not a problem. Yes. Happily to do it on request.

Success and Inspiration

My family are my pride and joy. They inspired me to pursue this project, and because of them, I don't want a job that would make me work away from my family. If I had worked for another business, I would spend little time with my daughter, and she would go to the nursery about four times a week.

Meanwhile, now I can spend more time with her and work on my project simultaneously. I have reduced her time spent in the nursery; while it has some benefits and gives me time to focus on the project, a full day doesn't provide any real meaning. I won't say it is perfect now, I learned how to manage time well, and I know when I need to work and when I need to be responsible for things like my daughter.

So now I am on the right path to success. I'm making little money with hard work, but I can spend more time on important things. I only work when she's in the nursery or in the evening when I put her to bed. I make sure I have enough time to pick up my daughter, rest, and go outdoors for a walk or coffee in a nice cafe to recharge and relax. So the other key is discipline and self-care - Do not forget about yourself.

Failures and Lessons Learned

Honestly, I did not have many bad situations because I just started, but there was one time when I went to deliver the dumplings, and the customer did not pay, which was quite stressful and awkward. It wasn't resolved on the spot, and I had to bring the food back home with me. I shouldn't have delivered the food without payment, I did it because the person was a friend of a friend, but I learned my lesson.

I also learned how to continue to pursue the dream no matter what, don't give up. You see, now I have a cleaner, cooker, driver, accountant, and content maker, one person is working on my website, and another on my labelling - that's a full team! I have realized that I have more people who help me.

Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

My daughter, of course, is my biggest inspiration. I want to be a good example for her and show her that she can do anything she likes in this life and be anyone she wants, and there is nothing to be afraid of. It is important to find out what interests you and think about how to monetise it and turn it into a business.

And there is nothing to be afraid of. If you like dancing, singing, cooking or whatever, don't listen to those who tell you "it's not serious" because it can stop you from trying. Everything you do is important and serious. Don't listen just to anyone, and believe in yourself. Don't take other people's fears into your life because it's blocking you. Just be truthful to yourself. In the end, we do what we do for our own happiness.

There were times that I was depressed with motherhood and work. Yes. I felt like I'm doing nothing, but it's not nothing. Try to remember the moments about good things. For me, it was my first orders, payments, and reviews.

It is very inspiring to have support from people. My customers, family and friends are very supportive, and sometimes my customers even give me advice and offer to help me, and I really appreciate it a lot.

And my main advice to young start-ups is my motto - prioritise and then organise. It is important to prioritise tasks, make a to-do list and organise your schedule accordingly. Also, time management is critical when it comes to balancing personal life and business.

The last point I want is that people motivate and inspire me. I remember those exchanging communication and sharing experiences. I was very excited and ambitious and had no problem doing all the hard work. I even did the delivery myself, and I remember meeting my first customer, speaking to them, and seeing them smile. That made me very happy, and that's when I understood that people are the key to my motivation, and they keep me going. Sometimes others see more in you than you feel by yourself, and it's nice to know how another person sees you.

What we think

Snezhana's inspiring story resonates deeply with me, and it brings back memories of the times when my family and I gathered to make dumplings together. At that time, I didn't fully appreciate the significance of those moments. However, like Snezhana, moving to the UK has made me cherish the traditions I left behind. In my culture, cooking and preparing meals together with family speak volumes, another form of expressing 'loves' with unspoken action.

Join me in connecting with Snezhana and witnessing her incredible journey of growth. Her homemade dumplings are not just delicious; they encapsulate the essence of cultural heritage and love. Experience the flavours that evoke nostalgia and forge new memories. Visit Snezhana's page, watch her soar, and savour the taste of her exceptional dumplings."

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