Hey everyone! Or shall I say, Asalamu Alaikum which in Arabic means ‘Peace Be Upon You’. I’m Syed Usman Shah, or you can just call me by my given moniker, the Date Sultan.

I absolutely love dates – disclaimer, I’m not talking about the romantic type, I mean the edible fruit. Dates just pack so much flavour, taste, nutrients, minerals and most of all, they are a supreme natural delight. I eat dates everyday and I just can’t get enough of them.

However, I also love innovation too. Therefore, I decided to merge my passion for dates and innovation and began to fill dates with a variety of fillings, to create flavour sensations, to make the taste buds go insane. New creations such as the Medjool date with salted caramel or peanut butter… Or honey roasted nuts - the list goes on and on...

It was only when I was awarded a travelling fellowship by the Churchill Memorial Trust (for my services to Diversity & Inclusion) did things become serious.

As part of my fellowship travels, I decided to visit many date farms across the Middle East to further my passion and explore the vast date farms for research and development.

On my travels, I found some of the most mesmerising and sumptuous dates the world has ever known. I firmly believed that such heavenly dates had never crossed over to British Shores, to delight our taste buds and I wanted to be the first to purvey them.

But what I also discovered was the gut-wrenching and heart-breaking reality of modern slavery. It was rife across various many date palm farms in the region. Labourers on these farms would tell me that they hadn’t been paid for months; they looked malnourished and without hope and it was clear that they were being exploited.

I arrived back in the UK with my heart filled with dread and my thoughts still with the labourers I met with at the date farms. It was at this juncture that I realised that this was my calling. I decided I wanted to tackle modern slavery on date palms head on. I approached these farmers and landowners who had luscious dates but immoral practices with a different proposal which they agreed to:

'Pay your workers on time, offer them a fair living wage, and agree to being audited randomly – and I will buy from you – and for that, I’ll happily pay more for the dates if this is the cost’.

It was these very labourers I helped on a farm in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, who started to call me the 'Date Sultan,' which in English translates to, Sovereign of Dates or the Emperor of Dates. I liked this name so much, that it has since become my brand name.

So in 2021, I founded a social enterprise by the name of, you guessed it, Date Sultan. A premium dates brand, where ethics is at the heart of everything that we do. I purvey the finest dates from Madinah, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. I ensure that everyone in our supply chain is paid fairly and isn’t a victim of modern slavery.

Working in a little shed in Forest Gate, Newham, wasn’t the easiest way to begin our production – the local public had no visibility of my dates and of my mission.

However, I kept persisting with my values and was regularly posting on social media, until, one day last year, a TikTok video of Date Sultan went viral and really put us on the map.

The demand was sudden and we quickly ran out of our stock of dates. I needed funds asap to scale up (buy more dates!), so I decided to create a reward based Crowdfunder.

I asked my local community in Forest Gate, friends and family, to help me raise £8000 so I can buy dates in bulk – and as a thank you, I’d send them dates. I had doubters who thought I’d struggle to raise £1000, but I was blown away by the response and somehow ended up overfunding and raised £19,999. Since then I’ve invested every penny in Date Sultan.

The blessings of God continued to rain on me as I was selected by the United Arab Emirates ‘Khalifa International Award For Date Palm & Agricultural Innovation’ to speak at the International Date Palm Conference on ‘Ethical Trading within the Date Industry’ – and they have since flown me to Jordan and Egypt to find, or inspire, premium ethical dates.

The mission is to fight modern slavery head on; the dream is to become the biggest and most beloved Date company in the world – where every household gets to taste premium ethical dates purveyed by Usman, the Date Sultan – all from the wonderful realms of Forest Gate, East London.

In April 2022, I launched our new look rebrand of Date Sultan, in the hopes to better convey our story and to ensure that we promote our premium product. For all my Forest Gate family, from May 2022, we will be stocking in very first boutique cafe, Forest Gate's very own, ‘Wild Goose Bakery’! So do pop in and support two local businesses supporting each other!

Finally, please do follow my journey on Instagram and tiktok using the handle @datesultan. The website is www.datesultan.com