A one stop shop for everything healthy! | Sunday Observer

A one stop shop for everything healthy!

Don’t we all love chocolates and sweets? However, the fear that our sugar levels will rise keeps us away from our favourite sweets. Now everyone can take a sigh of relief ! Budding entrepreneur Shani Wickramasinghe has introduced a range of sugar free sweets to the Sri Lankan market through her online store cafe ‘Sugar Free’. Shani shares her thoughts on her products and the Sri Lankan business environment with the Youth Observer.

Shani said her inspiration to provide sugar free products was through one of her previous jobs. “In my previous job I had back to back meetings. At those meetings I had to serve sweets. Although about 90 percent of the people who came to such meetings were tempted to eat sweets, most often they declined, mainly due to health reasons. I felt sorry for them. This inspired me to initiate the procurement of sugar free sweet products and its distrbution for the Sri Lankan market”.

She thought that the best way to promote her sugar free products was the internet.

She had been involved in business related environments for much of her career. “I have been part of business administration for as long as I can remember. I was at John Keels for about ten years. I’m lucky that I had very innovative bosses who empowered me and gave me the opportunity to learn about business. My most recent job where I worked for a consultancy firm enabled me to engage in different projects that focused on energy, hospitality, real estate and e-commerce. It allowed me to gather a lot of experience and knowledge which has empowered me to become an independent businesswoman. I’m very thankful to my former bosses,” she said.

Shani stressed the importance of quality in the operation of her business. She said “I am concerned about ISO standards, hygienic matters and all other food related concerns which has an impact on my start up company. I didn’t want to get involved in a business which I didn’t possess a broad knowledge of, because I refuse to play with people’s health. I want people to take care of their health while allowing them to enjoy their food and being happy”.

The cornerstone for the new business was laid with Shani writing to global companies to receive distributorship of sugar free sweets in Sri Lanka. She remarked “I searched for places from where I will be able to import sugar free products. After writing to companies I got two exclusive distributorships for Sri Lanka from reputed Australian and Singaporean companies”.

She emphasised how sugar free sweets are a niche market but she was optimistic about people willing to pay a higher amount for a good product. “I would prefer if I could give it for a lesser price so that a majority of the people can enjoy the product. But unfortunately, with our tax system and other issues I don’t think I will be able to do so. Sugar free sweets don’t have a different tax category from sugar sweets,” she said.

In the hope of raising awareness of the availability and quality of her sugar free sweets, she has allowed consumers to taste all products available at her outlet free of charge. She said “One can come here and taste anything before buying, because they are all new in flavour. Unfortunately because of the term ‘sugar free’ people assume the sweets will have a bad taste. This is wrong. I assure you they are tastier than normal sweets.”

The sweet taste in sugar free sweets is due to the ingredient known as ‘Stevia’, which is 100 times sweeter than table sugar. Although there is an online store, I opened the physical store to allow people to enjoy the experience - to visit, touch, feel and select their favourite flavours. There is a range of tastes which includes chilli, green tea and potato chips”.

She plans to introduce a novelty concept for Sri Lanka through creating a library for older people where they they can read up on health. Free medical consulting will be provide them once a week .

Focusing on her plans Shani said “I would like to give recipes on healthy food on an online platform to provide people the knowledge on what to eat and when”. She has featured her products in ‘Uber Eats’ enabling consumers to purchase them through the online platform, where the products will be delivered to their homes anywhere in the country.

Shani imports high quality products, mainly from western countries.

“I want to give the public premium quality products which would not compromise their health and the trust they have placed on my products, imported from Spain, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia and the United States to keep the quality standard high”.

She is currently conducting her business through different channels to cater to a wide array of consumers. She explained “I mainly do online business but also provide the ability for consumers to taste the products and buy through my retail shop. Apart from that, I’m planning to have my products in a couple of supermarkets. Although currently they are targeted to a niche market due to the products being expensive, I’m planning to source natural, local ingredients to initiate a locally made inexpensive sugar free sweets range. The local products will be in the market in about six months. My next aim is to export the locally made products to the international market”.

Although her desire is to operate a café themed retail shop which will enable customers to relax and enjoy healthy products, she is willing to cater to bulk orders if requested.

Explaining her ambitions for the future she said “I want to expand my project to provide customers a place where they can relax, enjoy eating healthy products and meet friends leisurely. It will be a place where customers can do everything possible to improve their health”.