Former French teacher starts up Toronto-based business because of homesickness
A teacher for seven years has left his job to start up a Toronto-based business selling African foods that he would get homesick for.
Taltis Foods was founded by Gilles Tchianga, who is originally from Cameroon. Taltis comes from a recombination of letters in his name, as the project represents a sort of rebirth for him.
"My business is, for me, the projection of my transformation throughout my journey and struggles. I have always wanted to participate in my community to contribute to diversity and inclusion," Tchianga tells blogTO.
"For me, food represents people and their culture. Supporting a variety of cultural foods in the market gives each other a chance to mutually offer the best of who we are and show recognition at the same time."
After finishing high school in Cameroon and university in Italy as well as a master's degree in food processing, Tchianga came to Canada to look for work opportunities to support his family back home.
"Once in Canada, things didn't go as planned because it was hard to find a job related to my study background. I went on to register for a program at George Brown College to improve my English, but my conditions to find a job did not get any better," says Tchianga.
"I finally started a bachelor's degree program at the University of Ottawa that landed me a position as a science teacher for seven years in a public French secondary school."
After living here for a while, he realized it was very difficult to find African products to prepare the cuisine he was familiar with. He eventually came up with a ready-made cooking sauce he made for friends and family during visits, and they started calling him asking for more.
"I realized that every time I suffered from homesickness since I came to Canada, I couldn't find a product that reminded me of my background in a single retail store," Tchianga tells blogTO.
"Living in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, such as Toronto, it was clear to me that something has to be done."
Taltis Foods officially started up in 2017, and now sells a line of African-oriented products consisting of hibiscus drinks starting at $3.99, jollof sauce starting at $4.99 and frozen African yams starting at $19.89.
Their products are now sold online and in some Afro-Caribbean shops and restaurants in Ontario. By 2018, Tchianga had left his teaching job to pursue Taltis.
"In our community, consumers have been showing tremendous support," says Tchianga. "Many appreciate our easy and ready-to-use Taltis jollof cooking sauce because it allows them to easily prepare various African foods in the comfort of their homes and save time."
A recent appearance on Dragon's Den brought extra attention to the brand, and they've been getting lots of product requests.
"That has also brought important attention to our business and a tremendous increase in sales," says Tchianga. "We were sold out in a matter of hours."
Now, his goal is to expand Taltis Canada-wide and to the United States. He is also hoping to introduce the products into major retail stores such as Sobeys, Whole Foods and Walmart.
"Although I enjoyed being a teacher, I have to sacrifice my position to focus on a full-time basis on strengthening the foundation of my business," says Tchianga.
"We want to democratize African cuisine by making African products accessible."
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