Lavanya Mahate is a self-described fervent cook – a woman who has zest and passion for Indian cuisine. Born and raised in Southern India, the mother of two immigrated to the U.S. and like so many foreigners who come in search of the American Dream – she faced an important crossroads in her life in 2011.
“Quitting my job to follow my passion was like jumping off the cliff. It was probably the biggest risk I ever took in my life,” says Mahate.
Should she stay at her successful job which provided a steady paycheck or pursue her love of cooking? It’s a tough decision for any beginning entrepreneur. Read the rest of her story in HER Magazine™ which can be found in iTunes.
Starting a new adventure in a distant and unfamiliar land, away from the comforts of her culture, Lavanya set out to make her mark in business – led mostly by her adoration for cuisine and faith that her big idea would someday pay off.
“Women tend to be great networkers, have inherent skills for negotiating, and the ability to multi-task. Women are often good at delegating and budgeting. With the ability to bring so much to the table, women definitely need to have a more coveted place in business,” she says.
Before becoming a woman in business, Lavanya was the Director of the Women’s Business Center at the Salt Lake Chamber in Utah – teaching others how to turn their big idea into big business. Undeniably, she was a successful career woman but she felt that tiny whisper – a call to do more, and discovered her curiosity about Indian cuisine was seared into her memory from childhood.
“Coming from a family of great cooks, I always found food fascinating. I would learn and prepare a number of sweet dishes like semolina pudding and milk fudge.”
She decided to infuse a concept that combined culture and modern fast-food dining. She opened her first ‘Indian Street Food’ restaurant in 2011. Instead of a sit down meal, customers are given the option to eat delectable Indian food on the go.
“The atmosphere is fast, casual with an emphasis on fresh, healthy and flavorful Indian. It is a restaurant where anybody can walk up to the counter and order something simple from the menu board.”
With two successful restaurants on her business resume, Lavanya has some notable advice for the early entrepreneur. While her mantra is ‘love what you do, do what you love’ – she says women face more challenges then men as they navigate the business world.
- Gender Discrimination and Stereotyping: There’s nothing that bothers me more than someone telling me that since I’m a woman, I cannot stand on my feet for a very long time or I can’t carry a heavy load.
- Dual Career-Family Pressures: In the restaurant field, long hours and weekend events make it hard to balance both work and home with young children.
- Lack of Equal Opportunities: Men are taken more seriously in scaling their businesses up and given more opportunities and financial support to grow their businesses than women are.
Women definitely need to have a more coveted place in business and that’s a goal that we all have to collectively work towards by supporting one another.
Her tokens of wisdom in business and life are priceless. She says while women are in the pursuit of achieving more than ever before, they are forgetting about the most important person: themselves.
“I’m someone who places equal importance on work and personal happiness. In my opinion, no one can do it all. Whether it’s a man or a woman, you’re either focusing a majority of your time, energy and resources either at home or in work. So, no one can do it all. In my opinion, that’s OK. Some days I have greater satisfaction at work and other days I would have accomplished more at home. Both are equally important.”