Sana Javeri Kadri, Oakland, California
Images by Sana Javeri Kadri
Sana Javeri Kadri is intent on building a better spice trade. She founded her business, Diaspora Co. in 2017, launching with an heirloom turmeric that she had worked very hard to source from a small, organic farm in India. Since then, Diaspora Co. has seen unfettered expansion, and now, Sana is travelling frequently between the US and India, seeking out new farmers and sharing stories of food, culture and prosperity along the way.
Sana lives with her partner Rosie, and their pup, Lilly in a bright home in Oakland California. We spoke with her for the Journal to hear more about their life together, and learn how Sana built her thriving business.
“This house was built in 1871 – so it’s old, and creaky, and kooky and wonderful. We moved in here about two years ago – it was my first real big girl apartment (without roommates, without family), just me and Rosie, and our new life together. This home has been where so many firsts have happened, where we’ve become health insurance purchasing adults and really grown into our partnership, and so I’m very, very attached to it and all the memories it holds. We’re moving out in a year (making a big move to Mumbai for 6 months, then New York for another 6, and then who knows?!), and I’m already heartbroken at the thought of leaving this little nest we’ve built.”
“I’m definitely not yet at a point in my life where I’m investing in art, so filling our home with prints by desi women, and people of color has been a really beautiful process/affordable alternative to buying paintings worth thousands of dollars. Our living room is woman themed, and I love working from home surrounded by powerful women on every wall.”
I love working from home surrounded by powerful women on every wall.
“Rosie and I were each others first ever Tinder date! An internet love story! The actual date didn’t go very well, and it felt very odd and platonic, we were both incredibly awkward, and I got so hangry halfway through that I ate the bouquet of radishes that I’d given to her! Weird situation. We eventually started casually dating, then breaking it off within a couple months because we both had prior commitments/things to work on, but ended up becoming great friends, then becoming best friends, then realizing we were head over heels in love with each other- so it was a messy, long, confusing two year process that frustrated all of our friends and families. But we moved in together two years ago, and have been inseparable ever since!”
“I was working in marketing at the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses here in SF in 2016 and just noticed a huge gap in the farm to table market when it came to spices, or really anything in the “ethnic food” aisle! This was around the time that turmeric was trending, so I went down a total rabbit hole of wanting to understand the turmeric supply chain; who was supplying to it, and who was profiting off of it. I ended up going on a 6 month research trip back home to India where I visited the Indian Institute of Spices Research as well as several spice farms. By the end of that trip, I was more certain than ever that I needed to start a business that could radically shake up the spice trade, and bring equity, transparency and high quality to this very broken system. We launched a small, homespun website in August 2017 with $3000 from my 2016 tax refund and a small shipment of heirloom turmeric from a young farmer, and sold out within hours. It’s been a wild ride since then, and we’ve grown 300% YOY every year, so I have barely caught my breath. But by next year, we’ll have ten spices, sourced from small organic farmers across India, and that to me is so incredible and powerful, it makes it all worth it.”
“Some [of the farmers] I get connected to via the folks at the Indian Institute of Spices Research, and others I find via Whatsapp groups, facebook groups, field visits, and tips from my network. It’s true sleuthing to find a farm partner who is growing the quality that we’re looking for, growing it pesticide free, able to scale, eager to do business a little differently, and willing to take orders from a 25 year old woman who shows up spewing big ideas and wearing work boots. I usually do sourcing visits alone, showing up in small towns and way-out-there estates in my rental car, with bright eyes and a notepad full of questions, which is a little terrifying, but also the hospitality and community I’ve found during these trips has been phenomenal. I feel very grateful to spend so much of my year on farms across India trying to understand how this supply chain could serve small spice farmers better.”
I feel very grateful to spend so much of my year on farms across India trying to understand how this supply chain could serve small spice farmers better.
“We’re launching two new spices this fall – chillies (ground and whole) and peppercorns, and three collaborations (a popcorn spice, a granola and a hot chocolate).”
Lilly getting cosy on Sana’s bed, layered in IN BED linen duvet and pillow slips in Grey & White Stripe, with fitted and flat linen sheets in Charcoal.
“I did not grow up liking animals, they felt a bit… unnecessary? I always said that it was hard enough keeping myself hydrated, never mind worrying about a small creature too. But Rosie and Lilly (her 50lb pocket pitbull) have been a 2-in-1 offer ever since Rosie rescued her as a puppy six years ago, so when Rosie and I started seriously dating, getting to know Lilly became very important for me. She came to stay with us one weekend and to everyone’s surprise- I fell very in love, when it came time for Lilly to go home at the end of the weekend, I wanted her to stay. We joke that she’s the only dog I will/can ever love, and I truly think she’s the smartest, most emotional and cutest dog out there. My parents are so tired of me calling home to gush about Lilly’s antics. I have no idea how I became this person.”
“I’m already so excited to get on our flight to Hawaii visit with Rosie’s family on Christmas day and turn off my email for two full weeks. Our two week Christmas trip is what I look forward all through the fall when work is absolute mayhem and sleep is an afterthought.”
On learning: [I’m learning about] “Block chain! I’m a creative, with very little technical know how, or interest in tech or numbers. Spreadsheets are NOT my favorite, but as the CEO, I’ve been leaning into the technical side of our supply chain as much as possible, knowing that the better I understand it now, the better I’ll be able to hire someone to take it over from me in the future.”
“Block chain will essentially allow us to track our spices from seed to jar, and giving our customers a QR code with which they can see time stamps, data and location tags for everywhere the turmeric in their hands has travelled. It’ll be bringing a new level of transparency to the industry, and I’m so excited to be one of the first people to be implementing it into our supply chain. Nerdy stuff!”
“I spend about 4 months of the year in India- it’s where my whole family lives, and Mumbai (where I was born and raised), is still the place I most consider home. In the 2+ years I’ve dated Rosie, she’s never been able to visit with me. So this November, we’re finally going together. I’m nervous, excited, and mostly just grateful that we have the privilege to do this. For me, making time and space for personal stuff feels almost impossible with Diaspora Co. growing so quickly, so I’m really proud of myself for prioritizing this. I’m so excited for my family (Rosie) to meet my other family (in India)! EEEEEEKKKSSSS!”