Being featured in BBC’s Good Food Magazine’s Christmas edition has certainly been a 2020 highlight for Health and Social Care BSc graduate Ruth Baidoo – who is also founder of Ruthy’s Best Sauce –award-winning natural hot sauces inspired by her Ghanaian background. She’s additionally finding time to fit in an MBA at London Met.
Tell us about life with your grandma in Ghana, and what led you to try and recreate those flavours here?
I started living with my grandma shortly before my first birthday when my parents travelled to Italy in search of a better life for all of us. As I was so young, I didn’t really notice or feel the absence of my parents. Living with my grandmother was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It gave me the opportunity to learn so many cultural elements of my country – Ghana. One of my favourite activities I loved doing with my grandma was food shopping and cooking. She would allow me to follow her to the market and I observed how to negotiate with market sellers for the best ingredients at the best price. At home, she allowed me to get involved in the preparation and cooking, which of course as a little girl I loved. One of the most popular dishes my grandma loved making was shito, a traditional Ghanaian hot pepper sauce. She loved making it because it could be eaten with almost any food, as a side or as a marinade.
Some years later I joined my parents in Italy and after several years I decided to come to live in the UK. Upon arriving, I realised that I could not get shito sauce that tasted like my grandma’s, and this really frustrated me, as I loved it. I decided to make my own shito using the techniques I’d learnt from my grandmother. After inviting some friends over for dinner, they were amazed by the taste and uniqueness of my sauce. My family and friends started encouraging me to turn it into a business, and although I was shy and afraid to embark on this in the beginning, their persistent encouragement each time they ate my shito sauce made me believe I could do it. This is how and when the journey to Ruthy’s Best Sauce (shito) began.
What were the trickiest bits of setting your business up?
The trickiest part of my business was getting a manufacturer, getting a long shelf-life and finding the right team (which I'm still working on).
Can you tell us about any help you received from Accelerator, London Met’s business incubator?
Through the Accelerator programme I gained the confidence to proceed with my business, I learnt how to structure my business plan, and how to market and gain customers. The fact my product is featured in the BBC Good Food magazine Christmas edition is a direct result of me going to Accelerator.
I understand that part of every sale goes to the charity Speakout – can you explain more?
Speakout is a charity that I started with the sole objective of creating awareness of abuse in the African Caribbean community, whilst giving support and education to victims.
My reason for starting this organisation was due to my own personal experience growing up – hence when the business started, it was natural for me to designate the profit to Speakout, which is a non-profit organisation. The funds are used to provide housing for victims, pay for legal and professional support as well as organising anti-abuse campaigns both in Europe and Africa.
How did you feel when you won the Food for Good category in the Big Idea Challenge 2020?
I didn’t believe I was going to win, because there were also other good businesses, so when I won it was quite a surprise to me, though a very welcome one, I felt special!
Being recognised in the awards makes me feel inspired and motivated to do more. By going through the process, I was able to improve my pitching skills, refine my business plan and understand my target market better. Winning the competition has helped me to believe in my business idea even more.
What’s next for the business?
The next face of the business is to finalise the mass production with a manufacturing company which is already in process – and also getting distribution and investors.
What made you decide to do an MBA here too?
I decided to do my MBA at London Met because I think it’s a great place – I have received so much help. I believe taking an MBA course will help me grow my business, and give me the skills and knowledge I need for my business. We started not long ago and it’s going very well. The Leadership module has been the highlight so far.
Any advice for any student entrepreneurs out there?
The journey is long, so do not give up so soon – keep pushing and do not be afraid to take risks. Stay focused, be consistent and all will eventually come together. Also – do not be afraid to get help.
And finally… what’s the secret ingredient in your sauces and where can we buy them?
I can’t tell you the secret ingredients, but I can assure you that when you taste Ruthysbestsauce (shito) you will feel the exotic taste of fresh premium natural ingredients.