Koosha Kowsari qualified in 2016 with EY – in this interview he sheds light on his role with South American-inspired Cantina Eats and founding a successful business.
What have been the key points in your career?
Stepping up to a Financial Controller role days after qualification at startup One Re Ltd was a massive step. I had to learn quickly, and it gave me exposure to all sides of the business. However, the pivotal moment to date has to be leaving my job to go full-time with Cantina.
What does your job involve?
As the co-founder of Cantina with my friend Miles, we manage all aspects of the company. We created the recipe for our Original Chimichurri Sauce and Marinade and have had to deal with everything it takes to get it on to shelves.
Where did the idea for Cantina Eats come from?
Cantina was born out of our shared love of South America – Miles and I met out there in 2010. Asados (Spanish for barbecues) are a way of life and it was the food – namely the chimichurri – that laid the foundations of our friendship and our business. Fast-forward six years, we were throwing Latin-themed barbeques and were hounded by everyone to commercialise our chimichurri recipe.
What appealed about the entrepreneurial route?
Working on something I am passionate about, and the variety of roles, from the kitchen to pitching to buyers, to strategic decision making and drafting our accounts and tax returns.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The variety and the chance to create something we are proud of and take it as far as we can.
…And the worst?
When things get too ‘food-techy’. I remember painful days warily experimenting with litmus paper in order to get a desired acidity level for shelf-life purposes, while staying true to our mantra of using only natural ingredients.
Proudest moment so far?
Getting listings with Whole Foods Market and Fenwick department store in the same month.
What’s your next challenge?
Getting back in the kitchen and finalising our two upcoming products: Chilli Chimi (spicy chimichurri) and Chimi Mayo (a chimichurri-infused mayonnaise).
How’s your work/life balance?
I love that I have full control over my work/life balance, so I can work more when I need to, and live more on the rare occasion things are quiet.
What do you do to relax?
I keep active, in a white-collar boxing ring, doing the London Marathon, or at an impromptu salsa dance class!
Have you had a mentor in your career? Have you been a mentor?
Bobby Swarup was my first senior manager at EY and has been a great mentor to me. I have mentored a couple of school leavers from EY, acting as a sounding board for their career aspirations. You really do meet some incredible people at a firm like EY.
How has your training as a CA helped prepare you for this role?
I can’t stress enough how helpful it has been. Every day feels like the Test of Competence Case Study exam – I still refer to my notes regularly. Whether it be in regards to pricing strategy, marketing, finance or general accounting or appraisal requirements.
What single piece of advice would you give for a CA looking to pursue this career option?
Find something you’re passionate about, and challenge yourself on a daily basis.