If you’re anything like me, you could spend hours in a grocery store looking at all the different foods the store has to offer. About a year ago, I stumbled upon Bolani at Whole Foods on one of my very thorough grocery runs. I’m not sure how or why it caught my eye, but my life was changed in that moment.
From then on, I made sure to have a Bolani reserve in my bank account so I could go and treat myself with one of these delicious flatbreads. There was a time where I really had to limit myself, but once I met the owner and was enlightened on the company’s humble beginnings, hard work, and passion in their company, I felt justified to continue buying their products in copious amounts.
I might even be eating a flatbread right now (spoiler alert: I am).
I had the opportunity to talk to the CEO, Nazifa R. Sidiq, and she eagerly answered questions I had for her.
Spoon: Could you tell me a little bit more about the start of the company that might be missing from the website?
NS: I came to New York City when I was sixteen years old from Afghanistan. When I came to New York City, I didn’t even have a quarter in my pocket to take the bus. I began working at McDonald’s and I worked so hard that I became a manager in six months. I was living in New York City and I visited California and I fell in love with the state.
My family and I moved from New York City to California and we settled in Northern California. I still live in Northern California today with my kids and husband. I still struggled when I moved to California for some time, even after I was married with four kids of my own and two adopted kids.
I worked seven days a week for years. I worked Saturday and Sunday in the Farmers Market for ten years and I always wondered to myself why Afghan food was not there. Why wasn’t Afghan food ever being offered both in Farmers Markets and mainstream grocery stores?
I thought one day to myself that I wanted to start a business and I wanted to sell Afghan food, but I didn’t know what type of food I wanted to sell yet. I thought back to when I was a little girl in Afghanistan and how I would watch my grandmother in the kitchen as she would cook.
I remembered how she would go into the gardens and pick fresh vegetables to make our stuffed flatbreads. I remember the smell of the spices and the sunlight hitting her face as I watched her every move. I remember her making the dough from scratch. I can still see her rolling the dough out and stuffing the flatbread, and putting it in our clay oven. She would bake it to perfection every single time.
I try to replicate her exact process to this day. I decided that I would make my grandmother’s stuffed flatbread recipes and offer people a taste of Afghanistan with my traditional recipes. I brought the Spinach flatbread, potato flatbread, lentil flatbread, and pumpkin flatbread to the Farmers Markets.
I decided to also make my grandmother’s Garlic Mint Yogurt because I remember as a little girl, I loved to eat the flatbreads with this sauce and I would dip my finger in the sauce before it was served to everyone. I loved it and I always thought to myself that this sauce was something special.
My first Famers Market where I debuted the products was the Corte Madera Farmers Market. I will never forget, I sold out of all the products in two hours. I couldn’t believe it.
I had worked in the Farmers Markets for ten years and I had never seen anyone sell out of their products so quickly. My husband and my son went to this market with me and we knew at that moment that this food was something that everyone would love, even if they weren’t vegetarian.
I continued to expand into more Farmers Markets and then I began to sell my products in Andronicos. Andronicos was the first retail store I ever sold my products in. I ended up selling my products in 200 Farmers Markets across California and then I was approached by Whole Foods in a Farmers Market, they wanted to sell my products.
I expanded into Whole Foods and I became the top seller, beating out eggs and milk on more than one occasion. I was featured in Wall Street Journal as the company that sold more than eggs and milk. I continue to beat eggs and milk to this day when it comes to selling and now Bolani products can be found in Calfornia, Oregon, and Washington in Costco and we are continuing to grow.
Spoon: What can we expect from Bolani in the future?
NS: Bolani has launched four USDA organic certified teas that are brewed in house with real tea leaves instead of powders and extracts. Each tea contains only three ingredients and is sweetened with only raw organic sugar. The teas are packaged in Tetra Pak which allows the shelf life of the tea to last up until twelve months. The teas are also citric acid free. The teas are extremely healthy and are made from all natural and real ingredients but offer real flavor.
We have already launched our teas in local Farmers Markets in California and they are a hit! We will soon offer our teas in retail stores where Bolani products are currently sold. Our teas will be the next great hit for Bolani because we have a flavor that is caters to any customer.
Spoon: What is the best-selling product, and which is your favorite?
NS: The Spinach flatbread has always been the top seller when it comes to flatbreads. The Basil Pesto and Garlic Mint Yogurt are the top selling sauces. My personal favorite flatbread is the 100% Whole Wheat lentil flatbread that we just added to our product line. I also love the pumpkin flatbread.
My personal favorite sauce is the Sweet Jalapeno sauce. I love it because it is so versatile, I can use it on the flatbreads or when I am cooking at home as a marinade. My family loves it on baked salmon.
For more information on their products, roadshows, and where Bolani currently sells, you can visit their website. And for my Davis peeps reading this, Bolani is at the Davis farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday.