As part of our profile on small business series, this time we are heading to Calgary, Canada to have a deeper look into the success of The Silk Road Spice Merchant. This business managed to defy the odds and grow from a 2 person operation to 2 locations and more than 25 employees in just a few short years. Owners Kelci Hinds and Colin Leach didn’t come from retail or food service backgrounds in fact Kelci was an RN while Colin worked in digital marketing.
Outside the office and the hospital they did have one shared passion and that was the love of good food. Both love to cook and bake and constantly explored different recipes and cooking styles. But, even in a fair sized city like Calgary finding the right spices for different recipes wasn’t always possible. That’s when they saw an opportunity.
Find a Need and Fill It
Spices have been around for thousands of years and absolutely every culture in the world uses them but they barely merit much more than a shelf in the grocery store. There is very little variety and they are at the end of the aisle along with some other sundries. Kelci and Colin decided to give them a little more respect and attention.
The doors to their shop first opened back in 2008, along with an eCommerce website so that you can order their spices online at any time. The store isn’t a fancy boutique, but it has done a brisk business that has allowed them to expand and open another store in Edmonton. They have a complete product line of herbs, spices, and flaming hot chilies sourced from all over the world. In order to maintain the high quality and freshness, they are known for still keep orders from suppliers small so the spices stay fragrant.
Quality has been their selling point throughout their business. Many of their spices are ground in their shop, never seeing a warehouse. No cheap filler ingredients are used so their customers can count on the same quality with every order. This same quality and the availability of some hard to find spices are what keeps customers from all over the world ordering again and again.
Challenges Along the Way
They have faced challenges and slow periods as the economy changed just like any other entrepreneur. They are both first-time business owners and the biggest challenge they struggled with was with management skills. Neither had ever had to hire or fire employees or manage time. Thrown in the deep end they both learned and adapted rather quickly and their business is thriving because of it.