Hitchin brothers' business dream becomes reality - with professional footballers among their clients

PUBLISHED: 13:04 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:04 10 May 2019

Simmy Dhillon (right) with brother Jhai at Rice n Spice HQ. Picture: Rice n Spice

Simmy Dhillon (right) with brother Jhai at Rice n Spice HQ. Picture: Rice n Spice

Archant

As children, Simmy Dhillon used to tell his brother, Jhai, that one day "we are going to have a company". For the former Hitchin Boys' School students, that dream has become a reality.

Simmy Dhillon set up Rice n Spice while at university in Bristol. Picture: Rice n SpiceSimmy Dhillon set up Rice n Spice while at university in Bristol. Picture: Rice n Spice

Sitting in an office space above the kitchen of Simmy's meal prep business, Rice n Spice, in Hitchin's North End Industrial Estate, he explained how it all began.

"At school, I was always selling things, I was always interested in entrepreneurial activities and food and healthy eating have always been a passion.

"I just felt like meal prep was a service that wasn't really being provided that I could provide."

With the idea in mind, Simmy went about getting Rice n Spice started at his halls at the University of Bristol.

Jhai Dhillon at Rice n Spice HQ. Picture: Rice n SpiceJhai Dhillon at Rice n Spice HQ. Picture: Rice n Spice

"In my first year, just after January exams, I started in my halls - just cooking. I made a Facebook page and started marketing on there," he continued.

"I was in a student complex of about 2,000 people so it grew really well through the page and everyone was talking about it.

"I'd get on the bus on a morning and no one knew it was me because I just called it Rice n Spice, but people would be saying 'did you see the post on the page last night' and no one knew. From there it just grew and grew."

It has grown so big that Simmy no longer spends time cooking the meals, with that job now falling to a chef he hired in January.

Rice n Spice meals being boxed up at their Hitchin warehouse. Picture: Rice n SpiceRice n Spice meals being boxed up at their Hitchin warehouse. Picture: Rice n Spice

The menu offered by Rice n Spice started with just one meal, but has grown into a much bigger range - with food prepared by 12 staff at the unit which cost the 22-year-old £50,000 in savings back in May.

But, as the business continued to grow in Bristol, Simmy was forced to make a decision about its future as he tried to juggle running Rice n Spice and his university work.

"In my second year of uni it just became too much because the business was going so well and I was just managing so much stuff and I got really stressed," he said.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to pass my exams because I was just spending so much time on the business.

Simmy (right) with brother Jhai (left) and their mum in the Rice n Spice kitchen. Picture: Rice n SpiceSimmy (right) with brother Jhai (left) and their mum in the Rice n Spice kitchen. Picture: Rice n Spice

"I wasn't doing anything and it just became a bit too much. I spoke to the uni and realised I had to either stop the business or take a year out and defer some exams to next year."

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Simmy decided to move the business to his hometown of Hitchin, with brother Jhai - a former professional footballer - joining him.

His contacts in the football world have secured Rice n Spice some big-name clients.

"We have quite a few professional footballers," explained Simmy.

"So we've got Nick Freeman who we have known since we were like five and now plays for Wycombe," he said.

"There's Keshi Anderson at Swindon and Jevani Brown at Cambridge - Jhai played with both at Barton.

"We got Adebayo Akinfenwa through Nick, which was huge.

"There's a few at Stevenage from when Jhai was there, Ben Kennedy, Ryan Johnson who has left now, but even players that Jhai didn't know, so Jack King messaged us and Fejiri Okenabirhie, who Jhai also played with, and we managed to get Charlie Colkett. There are loads of friends of friends really.

"We have such a broad and diverse range of clients though because the food is so good and healthy.

"You hear people asking about target market, but we don't really have one because it's for everyone."

It's not just brother Jhai who Simmy has got involved in the business, with his mum also helping out.

"Mum has always looked after us. Some people aren't so lucky to have a mum who looks after them, takes them to school, takes them to football and make sure that every single night you are well fed.

"I remember saying to mum back before I started RnS, there's no point in you getting a full-time because you won't enjoy it and I'll make a company one day and you can come and work for me."

The food is easy to order, too, with clients simply filling out a form to get their meal, while Rice n Spice also offers plans to help customers get healthy.

Always keen to improve, Simmy is keen to take the company to the next level, saying: "What we are working on now is making the next step, like forming partnerships with gyms, doubling sales by the summer.

"Going forward there are so many different types of meal prep we could do, bringing out a vegan or vegetarian line, going into supermarkets. It is just a case of deciding what we want to do."

To find out more about Rice n Spice visit www.rnsmeals.com. Follow RnS on instagram at rice_n_spice_.

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