Meet Matin Lashkari, one of the co-founders of Persian Food Tours. Matin is a Graphic Designer, freelance writer, and travel blogger at Travestyle, and also heads up the PR, design and Persian Food Tours Website as well as leading travellers around Tehran on culinary walks and bazaar explorations.
Persian Food Tours offers food tours and cooking classes in Tehran and Esfahan, two of the most visited cities in Iran. Tehran is the capital of Iran’s startup scene and was one of the fastest-growing ecosystems in the region before the economic sanctions were reinstated, this makes for an even more challenging market for Iran’s entrepreneurs.
However, as international interest in travelling to Iran continues to grow, Matin and Shirin have just recently expanded Persian Food Stories to include a second location. Their business has been featured in a considerable amount of international travel media including influential independent travel guide Lonely Planet.
How did you adapt to your new responsibilities as a first-time co-founder?
I’ve probably never had to do so many different things at the same time! My studies in design have helped me take responsibility of the design projects of Persian Food Tours. I created the logo, designed the menus, created the website and the rest of our print material. I had very little marketing experience, so I’ve had to learn things along the way. I also take care of bookings and have PR responsibilities. Thankfully, we’ve reached a point now that we can get other people to help us on different things and everything is not on the shoulders of me and Shirin.
What have been some of your biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?
Neither Shirin or I had experiences in tourism. At the beginning of our work, we were reached by a few big travel companies that wanted to expand on our work. This meant we would have gotten a big number of tourist but at the same time lose a share of the company. It was an extremely tempting period as we didn’t know if we could even get any customers. But I’m really glad we rejected the whole thing as everything would have gotten out of our hands and we couldn’t do the tour as we wanted.
This made our sale process a lot longer but also gave us the chance to learn things little by little in our own way.
What skills did you pick up in previous roles that you've applied to Persian Food Tours?
My studies in graphic design, freelance writing and maintaining my own blog really helped at the beginning. Not to mention, it was my travel blog and my community of readers that brought us our customers in the first year.
What are the most essential skills that aspiring entrepreneurs should learn?
Things like web design and writing skills will definitely not hurt but it’s crucial to have digital marketing skills and learn the basics of startups.
How did your living abroad experience influenced your career?
Apart from speaking English comfortably, it helped both me and Shirin to have a better idea of the taste of our customers. Shirin could adjust the flavours of the food to our clients and I had understood that specific details could truly make a difference for certain nationalities.
What career advice do you have for aspiring female co-founders?
I see a lot of people with great ideas. Sometimes issues like money or lack of resources stop them from putting the idea into practice but it’s mostly because they just don’t do anything about it. I never thought that Persian food tour would come to this point but I would have never known if I didn’t try. So my advice is just to go for it. Our road to success has also been very slow. I can’t even say that we’ve reached it yet. But this slow pace has given us the time to learn everything and make it better without making a mess. So I’m actually glad about it.
What other Persian entrepreneurs are making waves right now?
Lena Vafai and Nazanin Deneshvar are two amazing female entrepreneurs in Iran that I truly look up to and they have definitely become a role model for women like myself.
Are there any support networks or funding for female entrepreneurs in Iran?
There’s nothing especially designed for women but there are lots of accelerators and companies investing in startups nowadays in Iran. Things had gotten a lot easier compared to 3 years ago and there are more resources.
Do you have any future plans for Persian Food Tours you’d like to share with us?
We’re currently in the process of opening branches in other Iranian cities. Esfahan is already working but we’re hoping to open Shiraz and Yazd by the end of this Persian year. We’ve also been redesigning our website and setting a new structure for our business and booking system so that it’s adjusted to a bigger target. We’ve also just started the blog and we’d like to make our website a source of Persian food data that’s not limited to just food tours!