Inspirational Woman: Soraya Bahrami | Co-Founder & CEO of Toucan Fruit

Soraya BahramiTell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I’m half Mauritian, half Iranian, born and brought up in London. I studied hard and became a chartered accountant whilst rising up the ranks in banking over 10 years. I now run my own niche exotic fruit import company.

Introducing a new product into the market is always difficult, but changing someone’s perception of their basic diet is even harder.

Why did you start your business?

To put it simply, I was in search of a more holistic lifestyle. The banking lifestyle was a superficial one and I wasn’t who I wanted to be nor had the time to pursue my other interests. On my resignation I incorporated the business, taking my knowledge of trade finance and love of exotic fruit and putting them together to create Toucan Fruit!

What appealed to you about setting up your own business?

Working within my own timeframe, the ability to develop my skills laterally and of course to grow personally. Of course I am very motivated by the unlimited growth potential being an entrepreneur involves.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Introducing a new product into the market is always difficult, but changing someone’s perception of their basic diet is even harder. Breaking the mould and educating people about the fruits I import and how they can be introduced into the daily diet requires constant attention.

My biggest challenge personally has been balancing my family and work life. I often work at unsociable hours.

What’s been your greatest achievement personally?

Being the preferred supplier for the food halls of Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

The fruit themselves with their fantastical appearances, phenomenal tastes and excellent health benefits…

Can you describe a typical day?

I wake up at 4am to go to the major London wholesale markets either to buy fresh produce or supply them with exotics. Around 8am I am in my Notting Hill juice bar setting up for the day. During the day I will be in meetings pushing wholesale business, dealing with trade customer enquiries and working on product development. In the evening, I am in the warehouse preparing retail orders to be sent out the following morning. Pretty jam packed!

I will always to continue to source new and exciting produce from forgotten lands and we are even in the process of setting up our own plantations to conserve some of the very rare fruits that are threatened by extinction.

Which are Toucan Fruit’s biggest fresh exotic fruit imports at the moment? Why?

Soursop aka Guanabana aka Graviola – With rumoured anti-cancer properties, this large green fruit has spiky protrusions and weighs up to 2.5kg. Once open, we are met with a creamy white flesh which is not dissimilar in taste to the Pina Colada!

Cacao Fruit – This beautiful fruit is where raw chocolate is derived from. Inside the chocolate seeds are surrounded by a creamy white flesh that tastes like lychee. The fruit is a powerful anti-antioxidant and can produce a natural high. Many of our clients take part in Cacao Ceremonies due to the alleged spiritual qualities of the fruit.

Durian – Known for its pungent odour, this fruit is banned in public places in many Asian countries. However, it is considered a delicacy and has aroused much interest with curious food lovers. Once inside the thorny green fruit, one is met by a yellow custard flesh which tastes like aged cheese, caramelised onion and pineapple!

From where do you mainly source your fresh exotics? Why? Do you have a year-round supply?

We began sourcing exotics from Mauritius as I was keen to promote my heritage and the wonderful rare fruits that grow on this tropical island. I have travelled the world in search of interesting tastes and fantastic rarities which has culminated in additional Colombian and Thai ranges. They boast an impressive plethora of health benefits too!

What are your objectives going forward for your fresh offer?

I am definitely looking to bridge the gap between the source countries and the target markets. As such, I hope to take a more active role in re-exporting and facilitating trade that has not been possible before. My focus currently is acting as a re-exporter to the Middle Eastern market. I am also in talks with European importers and French wholesalers at Rungis market.

I will always to continue to source new and exciting produce from forgotten lands and we are even in the process of setting up our own plantations to conserve some of the very rare fruits that are threatened by extinction. Countries of interest are currently Kenya, Ecuador and Dominica.

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