“Proudly queer": How Diaspora Co. is changing the face of the spice world

Diaspora Co.

Discover how one company is breaking down barriers and changing the way spices are grown and traded.

When Sana Javeri Kadri talked about her company, Diaspora Co., being a “proudly queer business” in an interview back in 2018, she wasn’t expecting backlash.

Sana launched Diaspora in 2017 at the age of 23 with an ambitious goal: to revolutionize the global spice trade through partnerships with farms in South Asia, paying farmers four to six times the commodity price, and sourcing the highest quality single-origin spices.

Sana’s journey as an entrepreneur coincided with her own coming out experience, which inspired her to establish her company with inclusivity as a core value.

The focus of our company is inherently queer because we’re choosing to do something that is not the norm and choosing to dream up a new system,” Sana says. “So, in a way, our commitment to equity and supporting farm workers reflects our queer philosophy in action. We’re not saying you have to be queer to be part of this work. We’re saying we believe everyone is equal, and everyone deserves the right to exist in their own way, and that makes us queer.”

At the time of the 2018 interview, Sana was juggling multiple roles, working part-time as a line cook and photographer while also building Diaspora. Money was tight, but having worked in the food industry for over a decade, she was determined to create a space that recognized and celebrated the diverse individuals who contribute to the sector.

“I felt that the food industry runs on the labor of queer individuals, immigrants, and people of color,” she says. “But they often don’t get the credit they deserve. So, I felt the need to claim space, be honest about who we are, and acknowledge the people who grow, cook, and sell our food. And queerness, to me, is not just about sexuality. It’s about inclusivity and embracing all kinds of experiences out there.”

Following the response, Sana became concerned not just for herself, but also for her business partners. She worried that her political stance might jeopardize the livelihoods of the farmers who had taken a chance on her and who grew the spices she sold, including turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

However, Diaspora and their growing collection of spices sourced from farms in India and Sri Lanka found a supportive customer base.

“I trusted that there was a community out there that cared, and to whom we mattered. All we needed to do was find them,” Sana says. “And they were indeed there. We found our people—150,000 individuals who love and are committed to everything we do. It feels pretty amazing. I’m really grateful.”

A city girl from Mumbai

Sana is originally from Mumbai, India, and moved to the U.S. when she was 18 to pursue her college education. During her time at Pomona College in California, she developed an interest in agriculture through the school’s four-acre organic farm, where students could fulfill their work-study requirements.


The farm not only sold its produce but also practiced regenerative farming techniques, which fascinated Sana, a self-described “city girl from Mumbai,” and sparked her curiosity about regenerative farming practices in India.

Regenerative agriculture involves practices like intercropping, where multiple crops are planted together, agroforestry, and integrating livestock.

I wanted to understand how that agriculture could work with the market in the US,” she says. “But then when I went back to India, the more I learned about the spice trade, the more I realized that there were all these amazing regenerative spice farmers all over South Asia—India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal—but they didn’t have access to a viable market.”

Sana’s observation was that the existing spice market prioritized traders’ interests and profit maximization over quality and flavor. Determined to make a change, she embarked on a mission.

“I believed that there were countless home cooks across America who recognized the lackluster quality of spices available at grocery stores. They longed for something more delicious. My 23-year-old arrogance was, ‘I can build the market, no big deal,’” she laughs.

Her initial driving force was to ensure fair compensation for Indian farmers and be transparent about it, and her mission has grew from there. She regularly travels to South Asia, visiting each partner farm at least once a year and conducting rigorous lab testing on every spice harvest to check for chemical residues.

I trusted that there was a community out there that cared, and to whom we mattered. All we needed to do was find them.
Sana Javeri Kadri
CEO & Founder, Diaspora Co.

Since 2018, Diaspora has paid over $2 million to family-owned regenerative farms across the region. One of their partner farmers is Prabhu Kasaraneni, a self-taught Indian organic farmer who, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Spice Research, started cultivating heirloom Pragati turmeric in 2015. This turmeric was the first spice Diaspora offered and became one of their most popular products.

“When I started Diaspora Co., my goal was: let’s build our dream model,” Sana says. “We won’t launch something until it’s the best on the market, and then let’s see if it works. And I think, in a way, I got really lucky that it worked.”

Challenging the status quo

Disrupting a centuries-old trading system proved to be challenging. The first two years of the business were tough, with Sana struggling to gain traction. At times, she found herself caught in a cycle where her business growth was limited by the funds she could invest. She often wondered how other business owners overcame these obstacles.

“There were many times I was up at night staring at the ceiling, wondering, What am I going to do?” Sana says.

The onset of the pandemic brought an unexpected turn of events. As people found themselves confined indoors, many turned to cooking and experimenting with flavors. This sudden surge in demand for food products worked in Diaspora’s favor.

“Everyone was at home, realizing they needed something to make their food more delicious,” Sana says. “Our orders skyrocketed. We grew six times in 2020.”

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To maintain the momentum and expand their customer base, Sana and her team started selling in Amazon’s store in 2023. For Diaspora, the costs associated with reaching and acquiring customers had steadily increased, and they had to find an alternative.

“Selling with Amazon was an obvious choice for us,” Sana says. “The Amazon store is easily accessible and straightforward to set up, allowing us to scale our small business efficiently and reach a broader audience.”

As they navigated their journey as new sellers in Amazon’s store, the Diaspora team gained insights into their top-selling products and discovered bulk bags performed well.

“Amazon allows us to reach customers who would otherwise be inaccessible,” Sana says. “The Amazon store caters to a different type of shopper, and it enables us to sell excess inventory.”

Envisioning a queer future

Diaspora Co.

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There’s a well-known saying that those audacious enough to believe they can change the world are the ones who ultimately do. For Sana and her team at Diaspora, a transformed spice world is one where quality, flavor, and fair pay prevail—and where queerness is celebrated.

Despite any potential repercussions, Sana stays true to her mission of inclusivity. To celebrate Pride Month in 2021, four years after the interview that stirred up so much commotion, she and her team crafted and shared what they dubbed “A Queer Biz Manifesto” on their website. In this heartfelt document, they reflect on the significance of being an openly queer business, and define queerness as a fearless embrace of unconventional, magical, and radical ways of existence, challenging societal norms along the way.

One notable point from their manifesto states: “We want the future to make us redundant. [We want] for the future to be so queer that this manifesto only serves as an archive of a different, transitional time.”

Do you have a business idea that’s going to change the world? Check out this guide for tips on how to get started with your idea, launch in ecommerce, and grow your brand.

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Lola Okusami
Lola Okusami
Sr. Creative Writer