Bringing Ossetian pies to the UK from his native Russia was a dream for Soslan Salamov. But potential customers were unaware of this unique food. So, with the free help of Digital Boost and mentors from BT, Bloomberg, Google and other companies, he created a website, a social media presence, and a mobile retail experience to tell his story. “To me it was brilliant to find Digital Boost. It is a great avenue to get to the right people who can give you the knowledge you need to grow your business.”
Salanti Pies is the realisation of a long-standing dream for its founders, Zarina and Soslan Salamov. When they began selling authentic Ossetian Pies in 2020, their customers soon realised this was not just delicious food, but an offering of fellowship going back thousands of years. What is lovingly recreated in their Buckinghamshire kitchen is a centrepiece on tables in Ossetia in the southwest of Russia, where the descendants of Persian nomadic tribes live. Steeped in tradition, the pies are served three at a time for celebrations, representing the unity of the sky, the earth, and the underworld. For funerals, one is removed to honour the departed. They are never far from the table when guests come to call.
Soslan had run a successful business consulting on UK education opportunities for twenty-five years. However, when his customers could no longer travel due to the pandemic, he created a different type of cultural exchange.
The range of ten pies are made only with locally sourced ingredients – various cheeses, potatoes, cabbage, beetroot leaf, pumpkin, beef mince – bursting from a thin bread pastry. Most are vegetarian, with some vegan options.
However, the family business faced a major challenge: how to raise awareness of Ossetian pies amongst potential customers? Soslan needed to design a logo, build a website, set up contactless payments and plan promotional campaigns. He turned to Buckinghamshire Business First, through whom he learned about Digital Boost.
Digital Boost provides free, unlimited 1:1 mentoring and advice, workshops and digital training from volunteer experts, equipping business owners like Soslan with the knowledge and inspiration they need. In eight sessions so far with experts from BT, Bloomberg, Microsoft, and others, Soslan explored how to create a digital platform for a new food business during a pandemic. He was impressed by the mentors, their professional approach, and the way they researched his business and showed great personal interest in his success.
An executive from BT suggested Salanti use fully equipped mobile vans to sell and promote Ossetian pies through festivals, farmers markets and fairs. Mentors from WH Creative and Google stepped in with productive sessions on digital promotion and hands-on ways to get the best out of Google My Business and the Salanti e-commerce website. An HR expert from Bloomberg helped him approach culinary colleges and bakery schools.
The work is ongoing, as customers need regular reminders of why Ossetian pies are so special. Social channels provide educational tips on how to reheat, keep and serve them, as well as background on how they are made and where they come from.
“I never intended to start a food business” said Soslan. “But Ossetian pies are different, they help bring people together as a community.
“To me it was brilliant to find Digital Boost. It is a great avenue to get to the right people who can give you the knowledge you need to grow your business.”