7 Things I’ve Learnt In The First 2 Months Of Running A Start-up

I recently quit my corporate job after years of working with The Nielsen Company, to follow my passion. I started my business, The Hungry Chef, through which I give everything needed to cook delicious, healthy meals – that means the awesome recipes and all the ingredients needed to cook the meals, pre-proportioned. Anyway, this is not a place where I will advertise my business, I’m kidding I will, its awesome and you should check it out. I want to use this space and time to put down my experiences as a start-up, what I am learning as I am learning it, what works and especially what doesn’t. This will be a great repository for future use to me and if you find something useful here, well good for you!

So here are the things I wish someone told me before I started, to be honest some of these were told to me so maybe I should say things I should have believed in, before I started:

1. Don’t follow your passion I started this business to follow my passion for cooking and creating Ruchi and Ashu painting shopnew recipes. I get to do that and I am very happy about it, I am however also the photographer, marketer, procurement person, and anything else that I need to be depending on the need. You will need to do a lot of things that are clearly not your passion, those things are unglamorous and often times take most of your time. Painting your shop, for instance. So be prepared for passion to take a back-seat while you do the legwork.

2. Money no enough! No new news here, your calculations for your start-up capital should be at least doubled. It’s like a marriage though, everyone hears about it from others but feels ‘mine is different’ only to realise it isn’t. So, get into the arena only when you have the buffer.

3. This plant we got, is it even growing? Unless you have the next iPhone, which in all likelihood you don’t, though you may feel like you do, don’t expect the market to explode. It will be slower than you imagine, much slower. Ad effectiveness is lower than your assumptions, ALWAYS! A start-up is like a plant, its growth is slow, but with persistence and good care it will grow. The Hungry Chef caught steam when The Straights Times decided to do a story about us. We were fortunate this happened pretty quick for us, but it might not always happen.

4. Networking Networking Networking Once you decide to step into the start-up world, get ready to meet lot of new people and create strong professional relationships. It’s just been over a month that I started and I have already met so many wonderful people who have given another dimension to my thinking. Just talk about your business to anyone and everyone, hear their perspective sometimes a small thing they say might create a revolution in your mind.

5. Ask the consumer Now I have to admit I am biased, I have a soft spot for consumer research, a decade of my life was dedicated to it. I did a very small pilot test when I was still working on my business plan where I sent boxes of food to 15 families and did in-depth interviews with them. Those views and discussions lead to some significant changes in our way of approaching the business and also told us simple things like you can’t pack sauces in zip-lock bags.

6. Get them where they ‘like’ you When we launched our shop, our e-commerce platform gave us some Google and Facebook credits. We started advertising on both, we realized that clicks through Google were bouncing off while clicks through Facebook were spending much more time on the website. Being a researcher i just could not let it go, I realised that since my offering is new to market, no one goes to Google and searches for it they are probably looking for cooked food delivery and they land on my page and bounce off like a ball. On Facebook, they discovered my service, they visited my page read more about it, only if they were interested they clicked hence they spent more time there too. So be sure to use the right platform.

7. Have fun Cliché, but true, don’t do it if you’re not going to have fun. I work much more than i used to with my job, which also I loved by the way, but I enjoy myself tremendously. I look forward to creating beautiful meals every day and taking pictures, I love putting them up on instagram (which also I am learning now). The tasting sessions, mid-night cooking and all the designing of the recipe cards, everything is so exhausting and fun at the same time.

If I would have known all this, rather believed all this to be true, would I have done it? Of course, in a heartbeat! I have learnt so much, and continue to learn every day.

In my next post, I’ll write about what helped me to get the business published my multiple media houses like – The Straits Times, Tabla, Vulcan Post, Sassy Mama, Yahoo! Stay tuned.

The peace and joy and wonder of childhood!

You know what day it is today? It’s my yearly blog post update day! Yay! Look I just wait for something to really move me before I type. So some of you know that I am setting up a new business, this post is not about that, since if I were to start writing about that I will not be able to find time to set up the business any more. All I can say is its much more resource, money, time intensive than you first imagine it to be, but more on that later, maybe or maybe not. Back to what moved me.

So, Jahnavi is now about 2 & a half and terrible twos would be a huge understatement, one dialogue between me and Ashu doesn’t go by without some background score of a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-i-j-k-l-o-meno-p-q-your-s-t-u-v-double-u-x-y-and-zee or some other song from that genre. Dance and music is a large part of every toddler’s entertainment and mine prides herself in being a self-proclaimed ‘balina’ (meaning ballerina). We were filled with mixed emotions when her pre-school sent a letter about her participation in the annual concert, mostly we were excited but we were also sad mainly because the costume charge, ticket costs and video recording would set us back by over $100. Anyway, so that happens of coming Friday.

Now if you don’t have a toddler (you would probably not read this) let me tell you that teaching them a dance, or anything, is a HUGE task and the key is practice and more practice. Beginning of this week Janu fell ill so she couldn’t go to school, which meant she missed her practice, today was her dress rehearsal. So, giving it due importance I thought I would take her to the concert hall and get her familiar with the place, loud music, big lights etc. a tiny voice at the back of my head was telling me that wasn’t the best idea but I went anyway. You get an idea where this is leading right? Yes, it wasn’t a great idea, she cried all through the practice, did not dance at all and hated the entire experience and understandably I was extremely sad as well. Only silver lining for me was she had a very grumpy face, while all others were smiling in all her photos, which I thought I would buy at some atrocious price per print (in this era of digital photography) to show her when she would challenge me for being emotional or stupid or other such stuff few years later. Need to be prepared! You might have judged me by now as a mean parent, but I heard lately on Ellen show, ‘What you think about me is not my problem‘, so living by that these days.

She is a very thoughtful person, my little Janu! When we came back home from the concert she slept off and then when she woke up she gave me a photo opp that would save me quite a few  dollars, its a pity the powder-pack was only half full or we would have had a whiter Saturday than that! Notice how she refuses to look into the camera.

 

OMG - One Mad Girl!

 

This incident and especially this picture gave me immense joy for many reasons one of them is, as I am told, I did the same thing decades ago (I am that old! boo hoo!) with kajal and on a beautiful & aspirationally expensive dress which my folks bought to dress me up for diwali. When I did this, my mumma let me just enjoy, the dress was already painted in black with kajal smeared all over, but she let me soak the moment. Some might think that my mum at that time and now I, should have disciplined our child but I think sometimes we should just let them live as they want, not singing or dancing for other’s entertainment but their own, sometimes being covered in powder all over, or blowing bubbles on a very rainy evening aren’t these the joys of childhood that we all yearn when we grow up?

I won’t really change my parenting style but just for curiosity tell me:

Third Time Lucky!

Today is the third day in a row when I took Jahnavi, my daughter, yes I have a daughter, she’s about a year and a half now! Cliché but true, time flies! Anyway, so like any other working (read over working, taking calls till middle of the night) mother I always feel that I don’t get to spend enough time with my baby, and as if to validate that Janu is sometimes more excited about the nanny than the mommy. Few mommies will be able to take this supreme form of insult and I am definitely not in that super tolerant group, so I decided to turn the tables. First, I identified a ‘low hanging fruit’ – evening play time! She loves her evening play time, that’s when she has most fun and there’s a lovely park nearby. Strategy prepared! Planning done!
Day 1 – Very enthusiastically, I took out the pram, some titbits, water, diapers, wipes… Yeah baby! That is how they roll! We set out and reached the park, and for the first time I realized the power of voice that this little person has. So Janu loves dogs, and the excited screams when she saw one pass by made the dog and the owner both run for their life, and Janu thought this was very funny so she added insult to injury by doing the baby-laugh-and-clap routine, which a few others also found hilarious and left the dog owner and me red-faced. Let’s say the road ahead was all downhill, literally and figuratively! Our visit ended with scattered food, wet shirt, dirty shorts and a new found respect for the nanny. But I didn’t give up.
Day 2 – Determined to do better, I got the whole caravan ready for a 60min park visit, the strategy was revised, water play ground identified as a sure-win! Once in the park, J shouted to get down, but as if delaying gratification will give her more happiness I pushed the pram about half a mile to reach the said winning formula, I had in front of me a frustrated baby and a sorry closure notice… Still cheerfully I got her out of the pram, to realize how quick her tiny legs had already become – I was overjoyed to see her run but afraid she might fall and sad that I missed all this till now, all was dim for a bit and a tear slipped. J was tired and wanted her snack, I took out the kiwi fruit and J fussed to eat it herself. Ever wondered what a combination of plastic fork with an unstable hold and thin kiwi slices along with an overwhelmed mommy and an excited baby would mean? A wasted snack and an angry baby, this was the bottom line of the second day.
Finally today, with learnings from the past and wisdom of the elders, no fork and no slippery fruit was taken. An orange and the sand play area with some lovely slides and a few colourful cork walking strips did the trick. Playing with a beautiful golden retriever named ‘Summer’ was the highlight for my supremely dog-loving darling, she saw Summer and kept saying “hi, babow” till the owner let her pet the dog. J was the happiest and I couldn’t have asked for more, when I ask- where does Jana go with mumma? She happily yells back “parrtttt”. For me that happy face is the reflection of success! Cheers to strategizing and planning!