Meet Shelina Mawani of Nana’s Kitchen: A Disruptive Woman in Business

Meet Shelina Mawani of Nana’s Kitchen: A Disruptive Woman in Business

As a Disruptive Woman in Business, Shelina Mawani has blazed a trail for every woman who dreams of sharing her culture’s food with the world. As Founder and CEO of Nana’s Kitchen (based in Surrey, BC), Mawani’s vision to produce convenient comfort foods is inspired not only by her culture but also by the caring and kitchen memories we have of our grandmothers, no matter where in the world they live.

The company offers a wide range of ready-to-eat savoury foods inspired by the food from “your Nana’s Kitchen,” including handmade samosas available in unique and delicious flavours such as Vegetable, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tandoori, Chicken, Beef, Pakoras, and Savory Sauces that include a Tamarind Sauce. The Mexi food line includes Chicken Chimichangas and Burritos. Coming soon are a Mac & Cheese Toasty, South of the Border Toasty, and traditional vegetable samosa. 

The sisters behind Nana’s Kitchen demonstrated remarkable determination and risk-taking when they ventured to create a unique samosa that differed from the already available Punjabi samosa. Their courage and dedication were not only in pursuit of their dreams but also in supporting their families in a new country.

shelina mawani, nana's kitchen, samosa, ecoluxlifestyle, helen siwak, vancouver, bc

We recently interviewed Shelina to acquire insight into her drive, passion, and commitment to community and culture.

Tell us more about your childhood. Were you always business-minded?

“I was born in Mwanza – a city in northern TanzaniaEast Africa – where I grew up without computers, cell phones, TV, large shopping malls, and many of the conveniences we have today. I was a carefree small-town girl just living daily, unsure of my long-term goals or vision, especially after failing my senior year of high school.”

When you were a young adult, you became aware of the horrors of childhood leprosy and were spurred into action. Share how you got involved.

“I decided to become an ambassador for leprosy. In my first project, I landed myself the role of youngest chairperson for the Lioness Club of Mwanza, an internationally affiliated organization dedicated to helping communities through charitable causes. For one of my projects, I set up diagnostic camps for locals to create much-needed awareness about leprosy. The other project I assisted in was sending eight children to England to receive treatment for their heart murmurs, which was unavailable to them in East Africa. These initiatives were a testament to my commitment to making a difference in my community.” 

In 1982, your brother sponsored the family to move to Canada. You got married and had two children. This is when the you began to think entrepreneurially and opened a restaurant. Although it did not succeed, you had a taste of being your own boss and quickly transitioned to a new venture, samosa production.

“There was an increasing demand for ethnic foods, and samosas were being sold in mom-and-pop stores all over the area – this was a food that we had grown up with and loved, so we thought we could impact the market. With that, Nana’s Kitchen was born. Our first factory space was only 1,700-square-feet, allowing us to produce between 400-1,000 samosas daily. We started selling them to small coffee shops, gas stations, universities, and pizza shops as grab-and-go items.

“When we first looked at creating our product, we considered what we could do to stand out. Initially, I thought it would be about taste. We looked outside the box and created a unique gourmet product that stood out from the traditional Punjabi samosa that was commonly available. We used a completely different pastry and taste profile, and our samosas were almost three times the size of our competitors. In 2001, we acquired our first major grocery retailer!”

From 2001 to 2024, you grew the company and now produce over 30,000 hand-crafted samosas per day in a much larger factory. We understand that you designed a ‘Three C’s’ approach to problem solving. Would you share that with us?

“That is right. Throughout my professional career, the ‘Three C’s’ have benefited decision-making throughout my journey and those around me.”

“The first C is ‘CONVERSATION,’ which holds significant value in the business world. Conversation is your biggest asset when you encounter a problem, no matter how far-reaching it may be. One of the ways I raised awareness about our products is by starting to network on social media and advertise at community events. I did product demonstrations at local stores, spoke at local colleges and universities, and attended events where I could have a table to display my flyers and share what makes my product different from any other in the market. These allowed me to communicate directly with our customers and ensure that our product met their expectations.” 

“The following C is ‘COLLABORATION.’ Regardless of your strengths, you will fail to achieve your goals in business without collaboration. While you must first believe in yourself and your product, you must ask for advice from those with experience in the field and be willing to use their help to take your business to the next level. I joined women’s organizations that would meet every month so I could network with like-minded women and get some solutions to my problems.” 

“The final C is ‘CELEBRATION,’ which remains a pivotal component of my journey to success. You must never forget to celebrate every win, no matter how small. Initially, I would forget to celebrate because I was so focused on my struggles and failures. Still, now I celebrate every milestone because they demonstrate that everything has entwined together to create a business built on love and respect. And thankfully, we have lots of reasons to celebrate!” 

Nana’s Kitchen has much to celebrate, given its growth and recognition from the community. What awards have you received throughout your journey?

“As a businesswoman, I have won many prestigious awards, including ‘Business Woman of the Year’ by the Times of Canada and ‘Best Export Business’ by the Surrey Board of Trade in 2016

In 2017, I won ‘Woman of the Decade’ through the Women Economic Forum, and in 2018, I was the only Canadian woman awarded the ‘Bharat Saman’ award by the House of Lords in London, England. In 2019, I was recognized by the Bank of Montreal for community and charitable giving. Business in Vancouver listed me as one of the Top 11 ‘Women-Owned Businesses in BC.’ In 2021, the Surrey Board of Trade awarded me the Business Resilience award for the ’41 Plus’ category.”  

I was also on the organizing committee for the Salama Gala, which raised funds for Camp Good Time for cancer kids and supported the Watoto wa Africa orphanage in my homeland of Tanzania. Most recently, my business has become a community champion for the Surrey Memorial Foundation, local food banks, and local community programs. I truly believe no matter how busy you are, there is always time to give back!”

We invite you to explore Shelina’s entrepreneurial journey in the latest issue of Portfolio.YVR Business & Entrepreneurs Magazine.

Digital – perfect for hand-held devices:  CLICK HERE!

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Author Profile

Helen Siwak, Plantbased Food & Beverages
Helen Siwak, Plantbased Food & Beverages
Helen Siwak is passionate about plantbased culinary, promoting a vegan lifestyle, shopping secondhand, and supporting eco-activists. Her plate is full as founder and president of EcoLuxLuv Comms (Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine,
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