Asja magically transforms simple ingredients of mashed chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic into a delicious experience. She is the founder and CEO of a food start-up Hummus Princess, which she created in 2016. Every single step from chickpeas cooking to garlic pressing, to filling and labeling the finished products, all without coloring and preservatives – everything is truly handmade. The hummus is sold on farmer’s markets and in selected shops in Prague.
“It is about enjoying life with small delicacies, for example with a loaf of fresh bread, hummus, a salad and maybe a glass of wine. You share meal with people you love – and this is wonderful!” says Asja. This is her life philosophy and it is one of the ingredients in Hummus Princess’s small, pretty containers.
Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
HP: I would say, that I was always entrepreneurial. Even though I was employed a couple of times, I could rarely get as excited as I was about my own projects. I used to work freelance for a long time as a translator and language tutor, writer, and even as a dance instructor. All these activities were pretty much about selling my product – would it be my knowledge, experience or a skill. I learned how to work with customers, and how to manage my own schedule – the most important elements of doing business.
Where did your business idea come from?
HP: I have been studying in Israel, where I fell in love with their amazing hummus, and where I learned how to make it. It’s such a popular staple food in Israel because it compliments many things. You can eat it with meat, but it is also ideal for vegetarians. Humus is proof that some of the best-tasting things in life sometimes sare the simplest to make.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
HP: My partner helped me with it by calling me the Hummus Princess every time I made it at home for us 🙂
Are you a solopreneur or you have a team helping you?
HP: So far I am managing everything by myself, but it is changing slowly. I am very lucky to meet amazingly kind and talented people, and currently, I am partnering with a chef, who’s helping me develop my product, cooking for me and giving me professional advice in general. I have never worked in the food industry before, so this know-how is crucial for my growth.
What helps Hummus Princess to stand out of the crowd in the food industry?
HP: Well, obviously, my product has all the features you’ve mentioned – it is fresh, hand-made, great ingredients and it is a unique taste. It is also a philosophy, because hummus is about enjoying life with small delicacies, for example with a loaf of fresh bread, a salad and maybe a glass of wine. You share your meal with the people you love and this is wonderful!
What best motivates you?
HP: Happy customers who appreciate what I do and how I do it.
What’s your biggest entrepreneurial achievement you are proud of?
HP: I think the overall enthusiasm. The year 2017 has been pretty amazing – in the period of only nine months I have achieved many things that seemed impossible to me at the beginning. For example: I had a pop-up kitchen in two most hip places in Prague (“Kavarna Co Hleda Jmeno” and “Vnitroblock“), I got to Dejvicka farmer’s market (one of the favourite markets in the city), participated in Prague’s most prestigious Prague Food Festival, got really good mentions in the press… and made many people, who ate my hummus, happy! 🙂 Altogether, considering that I started the whole thing alone with no previous business experience in the food industry, I think I got pretty lucky as an amateur. I got tremendous support from my community and my family, and I am very grateful for it.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow your business?
HP: Apart from managing all ongoing activities (participating in farmers’ markets and other events, supplies shopping, deliveries to shops etc.), I am trying to use social media as much as possible and also to reach out to as many potential partners or customers as I can. My most powerful tool is Facebook, of course. Prague is small, so it is possible to simply reach out to anyone who I think would like my product and start a conversation, invite them to a food tasting event or farmer’s market.
How do you market your business?
HP: Looking for places I would like to sell my product, arranging meetings with their sales departments, bringing them samples…. it is a relationship marketing and a very simple direct sales techniques 🙂 I have been very lucky to get featured in the printed media like ELLE magazine and in one of the biggest food magazines Appetit. Since I have some people helping me during events and sales at farmers’ markets, I slowly move away from direct sales and engage more into marketing and business development.
What does work-life balance mean to you? Do you keep them balanced?
HP: This is a tricky question for a startup because it is really hard to tell where does the “life” ends and “work” begins. But, it is important to keep them both in balance – because one is charging the other with good energy and can’t exist without each other.
My family has been extremely supportive, not only my partner but also my parents. My baby was about 8 months old when I started, and he had (and still has) to accompany me on business meetings on more than one occasion 🙂 So, on one hand, it is a hard work, but on the other – working on this project makes me feel more confident and empowered as a woman and a professional. Of course, there are ups and downs, but when I honestly think about what I would do if I didn’t have this business (e.g. if I were to sell the company after it grew), I would immediately think about some other project or job to create.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
HP: Do a lot of research before you start! But if you believe in your idea, just try it out and go for it. Enthusiasm and personal charisma can sometimes do more than a carefully calculated business plan.
Where can people find out more about you?