GoodWorks Program Advances BIPOC-Owned Businesses
By Hanna Johnson
The Sajady sisters can’t remember a meal growing up that didn’t include their mom’s “Magic Green Sauce.”
A chutney made with the perfect blend of cilantro and peppers, they put it on everything. And they still do.
It’s what inspired them to found Maazah Chutney, a small-batch, gourmet goes-with-anything condiment, in 2014. Maazah, which means flavor in Farsi, is a nod to their Afghan roots.
“Being in business with my family is amazing,” says Sheilla Sajady, creative director, Maazah Chutney. “Being in the kitchen together is something we’ve done ever since we were very little, so this is just a natural extension of what we already do as a family.”
On their journey to grow their business and spread the love for chutney, they craved a more robust marketing strategy, including a communications framework to help grow their business online.
The GoodWorks pro bono volunteer program at General Mills, in coordination with HandsOn Twin Cities, was eager to help them achieve their goals.
“We needed to make the transition from being face to face with our customers at farmers markets to more retail and online selling,” says Yasameen Sajady, CEO of Maazah Chutney. “We wanted to work with the General Mills folks on how to tell our brand story in more of our communications pieces. We really needed some strategy and some extra muscle in figuring out how to communicate who we are and what our products are.”
A team of marketers from General Mills, including Jen Smith, a senior Brand Experience planner for Cheerios and two-time GoodWorks volunteer, dedicated their time and skills to help Maazah over a 12-week period.
“Maazah already had a really compelling brand story with a delicious product to match,” says Smith. “Our team helped by introducing some strategy frameworks that helped their brand put a stake in the ground on what they stand for.”
“It was really great to have General Mills step up in this way because it’s important for entrepreneurs to have thought partners in doing this work,” adds Yasameen. “Being able to find people in your community to help you make better business decisions is invaluable.”
The General Mills GoodWorks team was able to provide a clear road map for how Maazah could best show up for their consumers in the digital space.
“Having partners that know food so well has helped us pave the way for our next endeavor in this company,” says Sheilla.
“My favorite part of the GoodWorks program was helping a local company led by BIPOC women who are in those very exciting stages of brand development,” says Smith. “I hope we made an impact on the trajectory of this brand and I’m excited to watch all of their successes in the future.”
Maazah is one of eight small businesses in the Twin Cities that participated in the GoodWorks pro bono program.
This latest round of the program gave General Mills employees an opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to provide one-on-one consulting services to help local BIPOC-owned small businesses and nonprofits that were impacted by the recent civil unrest as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- Shifa Café
- Coconut Whisk
- Northside Achievement Zone
- Life Juices
- K-Mama Sauce
- Revival Training
- Healthy Roots Institute
“So many small businesses had to pivot their business models last year. When you add that to the social unrest that followed, they were facing two huge barriers,” says Joy Altmann, managing director of the Pro Bono Advisory Program at HandsOn Twin Cities. “It was great to see how General Mills could step in and help them in such an impactful way to manage their businesses in a new direction.”
GoodWorks originated in General Mills’ marketing department over a decade ago. Today, the program has expanded to include finance and accounting; sourcing and supply chain; and information, technology and quality (ITQ).
Since the program began, over 200 volunteers have completed over 60 projects.
“Intellectual philanthropy is one of the most impactful ways our employees can be a force for good in our communities,” says Minn Wang, senior global manager, community giving and volunteerism at General Mills. “And it’s a two-way street where our employees get just as much out of the experience as the small business owners.”
K.C. Kye, CEO of K-Mama Sauce, says the connections he made, in addition to the business advice, have been invaluable to his company.
The GoodWorks team worked with K-Mama Sauce on their brand strategy framework, helping them define their consumer, brand experience and sales.
“Having made those relationships at General Mills was huge. Everyone was so invested and excited for me and for K-Mama. The whole experience was really powerful.”
General Mills has a legacy of supporting and advancing our hometown community and we remain steadfast in that commitment.