If you have an inclination, there’s a woman who always has that extra drive. Today’s women entrepreneurs are successful not just at managing their homes but also the boardrooms.
Chef Priya Jham, CEO, Founder & Owner – Kitchens By Priya Jham, has no formal training in cooking or Business Management. But it’s her sheer grit, dare-to-do spirit and winning streak that has made her a success. Her business venture has been up-and-kicking for the last 24 years, her achievements have surpassed her own expectations.
Here in a free-wheeling chat, Priya Jham talks about her trip to making it big…and believe me she surely will inspire you to do something in life.
Tell us about yourself and your background
Well, I have been brought up in a middle-class family where values and ethics played an instrumental part of my upbringing. As a kid, I used to always be trying out different variations of rice dishes. I used to long for moments when my mom used to be out of the house so I could try out my culinary skills. There were times when trying to get the perfect round chapatti didn’t happen and I used to throw it in the dustbin. My journey with cooking started at a young age and my skills blossomed with practice which are helping me today. I was too inquisitive about seeking answers related to cooking from my mom and family friends.
Tell us about the company you have set up – when did you set it up, what products or services do you provide, what is your target market?
I actually got into the food business in 1990. I was married with two kids and balancing the family and the business was a juggling art. I started with training school kids in Basic Cooking Skills workshops. That was something which could be balanced since these sessions were during school holidays or weekdays.
Kitchens by Priya Jham flourished with cooking and catering orders from corporate and MNC’s who had tasted some of my creations. Besides catering, I also supply designer chocolates for corporate houses, wedding functions and elite gatherings. Also I have dabbled as a Consultant for new restaurants who want to conjure up some fancy dishes for their outlets. My company has been the official dessert providers for leading clubs in South Mumbai for many years.
Why did you set up the company? / What drove you to become an Entrepreneur?
Well, I feel every woman should wake up and decide to do something more than just a housewife. The response I got from my catering prompted to make it an official and commercial set-up. The growth in business with a brand name like Kitchens by Priya Jham has a solid impact when big multi-nationals approach you.
Honestly it is a great adrenalin rush as a woman to run her own business along with the household duties. It is the penultimate kick to see your business grow, especially when you are doing something which you like. More than being an Entrepreneur, I feel like a Queen of the Kitchen. The joy of enjoying your cooked meals on your client’s faces is the sole factor that pushes me to forge into newer avenues.
Managing the home and your business venture is like a see-saw ride. There are moments when you fall and then get revitalized to boomerang with great gusto. Your
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
I may not be a technically trained Chef who is well-versed with the skilled techniques and competencies in the art of cooking. But with practice, innovativeness and the zeal to excel have helped me overcome all challenges. There’s nothing impossible that a woman can’t do or achieve. A woman is equipped with the strong skill of balancing everything since we think and act from the heart.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Achievements have been many, it’s just the magnitude differs. What have been milestones in my life are serving an elaborate meal for 1500 diners for the Tata’s group and an exotic spread for the Bank of America staff. Those were experiences that fuel extra energy into a woman entrepreneur like me which scream, “YES, I HAVE DONE IT!’
Other success tales have been when 2 of my cooking class kids managed to get a breakthrough to the third round of the MasterChef Junior auditions.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
On the cooking front, I have two inspirations who I have fine-tuned my cooking skills from. One is Sharda Pargal, an expert at cooking who opened my eyes to the bizarre dynamics of cooking. The other is
Asha Khatau, who nurtured me to further brilliance to forge ahead from where I started. Of course, my husband Vijay Jham and my children (Amit and Pranay) have stood by me always. They are my critics and also sounding boards. Without their fortified support, I wouldn’t have been able to give in the extra effort to my venture.
When you want to start something, you may just be a small shrimp in the ocean which is swarming with sharks. Don’t lose hope.
How do you balance your work life and home life?
Managing the home and your business venture is like a see-saw ride. There are moments when you fall and then get revitalized to boomerang with great gusto. Your time management skills, extended family support and balancing the act without toppling your family life is an art I have mastered over the last 24 years.
What advice do you have for women starting out on their own?
If you have a dream, go ahead and give it a shot. There will be hurdles, but don’t let your spirit die. Try it once at least and learn from your mistakes. Live your life not like a housewife, but be an entrepreneur to prove that you are a woman of substance.
Can you recommend any organisations or networking groups that have particularly helped you on your journey?
When you want to start something, you may just be a small shrimp in the ocean which is swarming with sharks. Don’t lose hope. Start your venture with your close family and friends. Do something innovative. Your efforts will be rewarded sooner or later. And most importantly…never say DIE.
If you could ask for one thing to help propel your business what would it be?
In today’s competitive world, it gets difficult to don many hats at the same time. Cooking is a creative art and I feel some effective marketing could enhance my existing business revenues.
What does the future hold for you?
The future is bright, the sky is the limit. Plans are to take cooking to an ultimate ‘educational’ level. Yes, I have been working on my own cook book too. There is so much to do with little time on hand. But being a woman, you have that robotic drive to successfully manage it all and fulfill your dreams.
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