I had the pleasure of interviewing female entrepreneur, Smita Daya who is the founder of Olea Oliva.
What’s your background?
I was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. I left Zambia at the age of 12 to attend boarding school in England and then moved to the United States in 1980. After having worked in corporate for over 25 years, I decided it was time to follow my true passion for healthy eating. For the past 29 years, our journey has taken us to various countries where we became enthralled in the world of oils and spices. Living and traveling abroad has allowed us to explore the finest in savory spices, gourmet oils, and seasonings from home, charming ourselves and our two daughters along the way. Now a family tradition, every home-cooked meal incorporates different oils and spices, enticing our taste buds with exciting new flavors.
What inspired you to start your business?
Life is full of wonders, and we are fortunate to have lived next to an amazing Italian family (the Calamai family) for 16 years. Our lives changed when we were introduced to freshly pressed olive oils, straight from the Cantina. We grew to love fresh oils and continue to further expand our palate with gourmet olive oils, vinegars, and spices. We had the privilege to visit the Calamai family several times in Romola (near Florence), Italy and were fortunate to visit the Cantina, where the olives are first pressed. That did it, we were in love! Olea Oliva! (“The Olive Tree”) is a family-owned and operated business, and we want to share this tradition with you.
Where is your business based?
Our business is based in East Cobb, Marietta Georgia. We are also an e-commerce business that ships in all 50 States.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
At the beginning of 2015, I was searching to find the right business to start that would allow me work to take care of my family. My husband, Dilip and I travelled to various countries over a period of several months to do some research on spices and olive oils. It became clear to us while travelling that we wanted to create a business where our customers know that when they buy an Extra Virgin Olive Oil from us, they are getting exactly that — the highest quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made with attention, care and love from preferred handpicked olive groves. With a family-oriented community, and an appreciation for health and good taste, it seemed to be a perfect setting for a gourmet super spices, olive oil & vinegar taproom.
So, both Dilip and I decided to get certified in our areas of expertise. Dilip, is a certified Olive Oil Sommelier from University of California-Davis at Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Sciences, together with over 10 years of experience from Florence, Italy with the Calamai family. In addition, he is also an Industrial Chemist. I hold a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from The T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell.
It was very important for us to get certified. In a world where fast food and convenient foods devoid of nutrients have become the norm, we feel that offering people simple and quick cooking tools and techniques is more important than ever. Our passion is sharing our spices, oils and balsamic vinegars with you and getting people excited about cooking. With two daughters and a business to run we know how hard it is to plan freshly cooked, flavorful healthy meals every day. For us, these spices, oils and balsamic vinegars have changed the way we eat! Our products make creating flavorful and healthy family meals easy and fun.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
The most effective way of raising awareness for my business is word of mouth branding. I love to partner with the community and local business owners and help empower individuals to make sound healthy choices. We offer healthy cooking workshops in the store and private venues. I have been blessed to share my passion for healthy cooking at the local senior centers, fitness centers, YMCA’s and Churches. Community development and partnering with local businesses is very important for Olea Oliva! Social Media is another effective way I have been raising awareness for my business.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
One of our biggest challenges is trying to educate the mass consumer on authentic Extra-Virgin Olive Oils, barrel-aged Italian Balsamic Vinegars and Super Spices. Since we opened our doors we’ve received so much amazing support from the Marietta and Atlanta community and local community business partners. These are our champions, our friends and the people who share our mission to spread the word about cooking real food with quality ingredients and amazing flavor combinations. We love the growing community of regular patrons — and the opportunity to serve them. We think of Olea Oliva! as a little store with BIG heart. Getting to know and understand our customers has been a rewarding experience.
How do you stay focused?
It is not always easy to balance work/life. You really have to be disciplined in so many ways. My boarding school days in England taught me a lot and having some structure in my life has helped me to balance both. I am an early riser and start my day with “me-time” and work out for an hour. This sets the tone for the rest of the day. My family is and will be the most important thing. I always plan ahead and prioritize what is important and take the time to understand what needs to get done first. Planning ahead is the key to managing the work/like balance.
Work and career are there to help us grow and enable our family to do special things together but as the old saying goes, a good work-life balance is one in which you work to live, not live to work. I have been so blessed to have such wonderful support from my family, friends and our local community!
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
I differentiate myself from others by offering healthy cooking workshops on how to use super spices with Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamics by boosting flavors while maintaining high nutrition in a dish. My customers want to learn more on how to “Eat better, not less”. They want to be able to go home and provide their family with the healthier options. This is very gratifying to see!
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Hands down, it has been word of mouth and reaching out to my local community partners! I also send out my monthly workshop schedules to my database email list. We love to work with local markets and do pop-ups.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself! Work hard. Know what you are capable of and have faith in your capabilities! Do what you do best!
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
We use Shopify because of the business tools, resources and processes it provides. This platform also provides us with information about marketing campaigns and promotions. We also use Shopify for our day to day analytics and shipping.
Who is your business role model? Why?
My father, who taught me how to run a business at a very young age of 18. Always giving me strength and courage to fulfill my goals and face my fears. Love you, Dad, for always challenging me to do my best!
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Growth, author another cook book, and start to teach at culinary schools!