Inspired by their rich Venezuelan, Trinidadian and Caribbean roots, founders Auntie Mavis, Debra and Kiah Sandler birthed “Bazodee Foods” from their own family’s line of traditions, recipes and heritage. While three generations of strong women stand behind the enterprise, the iconic, robust flavors and seasonings from the Caribbean have been passed down from generation to generation, taking these tastes to new countries, from Venezuela to the United States. Today you can purchase these delicious sauces and get inspired to connect with your own roots and enjoy a delectable meal with your family. We sat down with Debra Sandler, one of the women who make up the Bazodee enterprise. She shared with us some of her inspirations, experience behind the brand and deep-rooted family memories.
Tell us about your company as a whole and why it is unique.
‘Bazodee’ essentially means to be head over heels in love with something. Everyone in our family literally goes “Bazodee” when our Auntie Mavis makes any of her delicious traditional dishes. For us, we have a generational wealth that is really special and it starts in our kitchen. Auntie Mavis has passed down her out-of-the world family recipes and cultural heritage and traditions to me, and I to my daughter Kiah. We have learned that all the time we spend together in the kitchen cooking is so much more than creating our next meal. It has created a powerful bond between us and has brought us closer to our family roots and past generations. We want to share and encourage other families to grasp that experience from something as simple as cooking. Our company is so much more than a sauce enterprise that pulls from Trinidad, Caribbean and Venezuelan flavors. It is a passion from which we urge you to create bonds with your loved ones, form a healthy relationship with your culinary and familial experiences, and let out the creativity stirring inside you by experimenting in the kitchen with some really unique tastes from the world.
Who runs the business with you? What is their relationship to you?
Auntie Mavis, my daughter Kiah and myself are behind the magic of Bazodee.
Where did you grow up? What inspired you to make Caribbean products?
I was born in Venezuela, but grew up in Trinidad. Growing up, we borrowed flavors from global cuisines. My family tree ties from the Caribbean islands. If you look into the sauces, you can see we pull from our own “Holy Trinity” – a trifecta of flavors from Venezuela, Trinidad and the Caribbean Islands. These are flavors we have the most experience with, and most importantly, fun, using! The blend of ingredients creates tastes in our sauces that work perfectly with so many different dishes! Another aspect that was really important to us was to be able to use ingredients in our sauces that can be applied to many different kinds of dishes. We want people to not feel intimidated by using different flavors or spices they haven’t tried, but to feel inspired by the culture and brightness of the Caribbean!
When did you start your business? What are some of your biggest accomplishments with Bazodee?
Bazodee was started in 2017. We are so proud to share Bazodee with the world and giving back to others is a big priority for our brand! Working with non-profit organizations such as Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission in Philadelphia and the Morristown Neighborhood House in New Jersey serves as a reminder of gratitude and triumph of being able to see how we can make a difference in someone else’s life. In collaboration with Sunday Breakfast Mission, our Bazodee team was able to provide a full plate of meals to the homeless community of Philadelphia. In New Jersey, our work with the Morristown Neighborhood House led us to be able to provide meals to underserved kids right in our own backyard.
What have been some of the most difficult challenges with your company?
Navigating through the pandemic was an experience for so many people and that especially rings true for our small business. Although this was a challenge and called for a lot of pivoting, we have always listened to our customers’ needs and wants and that communication has afforded us the opportunity to continue the Bazodee legacy. We are extremely grateful for the support of our Bazodee community.
What is your favorite product from your company?
Of course I love all of them, it’s impossible to choose just one! However, I must say one of my favorite things to do is combine our Hot Hot Soca with Soca Sauce! The mix is delicious and I highly recommend it.
Do you sell solely directly to consumers online or in any stores?
We sell directly to customers from our Scovie-Award Winning website! Prior to the pandemic, we also loved attending food festivals and events all around the East Coast!
What has been the most effective way of building your customer base?
Bazodee is built on family values and we continue to develop wonderful rapport with our social media followers and customers. Bazodee continues to underline its emphasis on maintaining connection to heritage and sharing traditions with our customers in innovative and authentic ways. We’ve hosted contests, giveaways, recipe challenges, follower spotlights and participated in various social media movements. Our focus on PR and social media along with participating in several Williams Sonoma events, food festivals and sauce competitions have greatly contributed to our success!
What values do you make a priority to bring into your business?
Family is everything to us. Bazodee fully supports strengthening family bonds worldwide and encourages creativity, expression and experimenting with different flavors in the kitchen. Bazodee would be nothing without the culture, rich history and heritage that we have been passing along in our family and we urge other families to do the same. Reconnecting with your roots is something to take pride in always in all ways.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from starting a business?
To be successful you will need:
- Determination — You need to be single-minded to get through the many distractions that come your way.
- Courage — A must for our great leaders. Tough divisions don’t come with easy answers so you will need to be courageous and step out on your beliefs even when they are unpopular.
- Resiliency — You will fall and sometimes you will be thrown so learning to get back up quickly is critical.
- Authenticity — People can identify fake in a heartbeat, they will work harder with and for you if they believe in you.
- Accessibility — You can’t hide at your desk or in your office — you need to be available, approachable and accessible. Sounds simple but it’s a lot harder than it might seem.
- Adaptability — Things will not always go as planned so you need to be nimble and adapt plans in the moment if needed. You won’t always have all the information you need to make a decision so invest in a healthy gut about your business.
- Team Player — Perhaps the most important trait, you must be great at working on teams and building fellowship and follower-ship. As you grow in the organization, the teams you are on will get smaller but the teams you are leading will be greater. You need to do both exceptionally well.
What advice do you have for others looking to start a business in packaged foods?
Take a page from the larger corporations that are adapting, cutting back and renewing. Don’t underestimate the role your customer or client base can play – most people are willing to do what they can to keep small local businesses operating. I would also advise looking for ways to insulate your business model from a potential repeat event.
Where do you find motivation/how do you stay motivated during tough parts of running the business?
I take self-care very seriously. I find time to focus on myself, my family and my business. Family is a big thing that keeps me driven and keeps me on track.
Any plans for expansion/additional products soon?
We’re focused on continuing to share the message of the brand and encourage more families to have a sit down dinner with each other to learn about their culture and history. As for new products, you’ll have to stay tuned to Bazodee.com and our social feeds for updates!