This is the fourth installment of an interview series with the 2021 Target Takeoff Food & Beverage cohort. Participating founders are sharing, in their own words, details about their innovative companies. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Takeoff Program Management Team.

CEO & Founder, Essie Bartels

Meet EssieSpice.

TT: Describe Essie Spice in one sentence.
Essie Bartels: Vegan Small batch cooking sauce and spice company with spices from West-Africa with world flavor.

TT: What inspired you to start your company? What makes your product unique in the marketplace?
Essie Bartels: When I started EssieSpice in early 2014, there were no African inspired sauces on the shelves and in markets. This was a challenge and an opportunity to enter the market and to serve an important need and gap. The goal was to introduce people to West-African flavors, to do it in a fun and relatable way but to also make it accessible for everyone whether West-African or not. Another primary goals was to show the ease of using the sauces and how one could impart flavor to a dish without all the work and do it naturally in a healthy, delicious way.

TT: How did you decide it was the right time to join an Accelerator program? What are you most looking forward to getting out of the Target Takeoff experience?
Essie Bartels: EssieSpice has been bootstrapped by myself for over 7 years now and it’s been an incredible journey but it’s time to really pivot and grow exponentially. When we look critically at the business, we notice that we have a solid foundation, we have the brand awareness, we have the vision and focus, but we need external support to get us to the next level. The accelerator I believe will help us pinpoint some of things we may have overlooked along the way, give new meaning to some methods we’re using right now and also bring in completely new channels that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.


TT: What’s a problem you frequently face as a founder?
Essie Bartels: The two growth challenges we face is radical marketing and operations. Both of these require some capital of sorts to truly realize the growth trajectory that we need. We need a lot more conversions to be able to grab not just our current customers but future ones. A team is needed to facilitate all of this so that Essie can focus on new projects, new markets like Canada and UK, new ingredients and so much more.

TT: How do you stay motived through the ups and downs of growing your business? 
Essie Bartels: Family and faith are a huge support during the turbulent times. Also, when we see how our products affects so many people… in little and big ways. Our outreach and support of our girls school in Tarkwa Breman Ghana is something that is so rewarding and we want these girls to be proud of the work we are doing and to know that it can be done. And there’s nothing like receiving an email from a customer telling.

TT: How do you see Essie Spice growing after this experience?
Essie Bartels: My hope is that this accelerator will broaden my thoughts on how to run my business by my interactions with other small business on the program. I am sure there are tips and tricks that they have learned over the years that I would be able to apply and find highly valuable. I am also looking forward to the support, teams and systems that Target will furnish the participants which most of us wouldn’t have had access to in the past. These new lifelines along with having the backing of Target I’m sure will be monumental and game changing for EssieSpice.

TT: If$  you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be.         
Essie Bartels: Prepare to be a shock absorber because so many things will be thrown at you. So many things will go wrong and if you’re in business for the wrong reasons, it’s truly easy to give up. Your goals and vision should supersede your immediate need to make quick money and rather focus on impact which will likely outlive you.

To learn new recipes or pick up some spices of your own, head over to http://essiespice.com.