If you like your food hot and spicy, then Kerwin Mohun’s Pimata, a hot chilli sauce based on a Mauritian family recipe might just be what you’re looking for. Kerwin started his company Twin Islands Limited almost four years ago. His primary focus is to sell and find new market opportunities for Pimata in Jersey, the UK and on his home island of Mauritius.
The name Pimata comes from two Mauritian words, ‘pima’ which means chilli, and ‘ta’ which means awe. So in essence Pimata means ‘awesome chilli sauce’.
While working full time as an accountant, Kerwin spent two years researching his market, equipping his kitchen and doing all the due diligence work required to start a commercial food business. Pimata was finally launched in March 2015 and in just over a year his product is stocked in several locations in Jersey. Through internet sales, he now has happy customers in 25 countries from New Zealand to Canada.
No one knows better than Kerwin how much work and energy is needed to take an idea and turn it into a viable business.
I had a dream in my eye and a recipe for a chilli sauce.
Kerwin explains: “When I first met Jersey Business, I had nothing more than a dream in my eye and a recipe for chilli sauce. It was great to be able to talk to someone about my ambition to create a commercial brand from my father’s original recipe and turn it into a viable business.
“As a qualified accountant, I have a methodical mind and have always been confident with numbers and financial matters. But I knew absolutely nothing about starting a food business or how to create a brand. June Stead at Jersey Business gave me excellent advice on how to start the project. It was important to do this right from the start, as it’s often difficult to try and do it retrospectively. She also provided me with very helpful information on the rules and regulations you have to follow in the food sector about environmental health and trading standards. Again, this is something that has to be taken very seriously and needs to be done right. Packaging was another area where Nick Steel’s, from Jersey Business advice was especially helpful.
“I put a lot of effort into doing my background research and created a detailed business plan together with a marketing strategy and a timeline of actions. Through my conversations with Jersey Business, I found it reassuring to discover that I was doing these things the right way, which helped build my confidence to continue with my plan.
Starting a business can be a lonely experience. Working with Jersey Business meant that I wasn’t alone.
“The other real benefit from working with Jersey Business was the sense that I wasn’t alone. Starting a business can be a lonely experience. Although I had been living on the island for a while, I wasn’t really hooked into the local business community and I needed to make connections with suppliers and business partners. Being part of Jersey Business definitely helped open doors for me. They introduced me to other businesses some of whom were able to help me directly while others gave me valuable feedback and advice.
“There’s a wonderful generosity of spirit in the Jersey Business community which made a huge impact on my progress. I met people who were interested in listening to me talk about my dream and happy to share their knowledge and experience with me. I also found people who put their trust in me. For example, I had to hire an electrician for some work in my production kitchen and he kindly gave me extended credit terms to pay his bill. My graphic designer, a reputed local firm, also gave me very preferential payment terms too. This is more than just a business, it’s about being part of a community.”
Opening new market possibilities in Mauritius
Kerwin has big plans to export Pimata to his home island of Mauritius. He already has a sales operation and his marketing strategy in place on the island.
He explains: “Pimata is not just a chilli sauce, it’s more like a condiment in the same vein as salt and pepper. The heat and spice flavours in Pimata from the Scotch Bonnet chilli peppers are very appealing to the multi-cultural Mauritian palate, so I think there is massive potential to carve a strong niche there.
Most of the shops on the island are independent, so it’s much easier to just walk in and show people your product and start a conversation. I’ve had a lot of interest already from retailers who want to explore a relationship once Pimata hits Mauritius.”
An eye on future growth and expansion
While it’s still early days for Pimata, Kerwin has plans to grow his production capacity and increase his export sales. He hopes that Jersey Business will be able to help with international trade fairs and advise on the best course of action to look for funding opportunities.