biz chick spotlight series: Tanuja Paruchuri of Food for Thin

Meet Tanuja Paruchuri, Founder of Food For Thin

Frustrated with her diet and weight, Tanuja Paruchuri joined Weight Watchers in 2008. By her first meeting, she was hugely disappointed in the program. “The point of weight loss, for me, was healthiness…not just carb, point, and calorie counting.”

It was at these failed Weight Watchers meetings that Food For Thin was born. Determined to lose weight her way, Tanuja methodically researched nutritionally rich foods. With her newly expanded palate, Tanuja decided to explore with different ingredients and new types of cuisine.

Two years later, Tanuja has gone from a size 10 to a size 0, successfully lost 40 pounds, and adapted to a healthy day-by-day lifestyle that has given her more confidence and energy.  She has also turned her healthy cooking into a growing business and is writing a cookbook, which she hopes to publish by the end of this year.

1. What do you think has been the key to your success so far as a business owner?

I think one of the major keys to my success so far has been the ability to accept failure. For many Type A personalities, such as myself, imperfection tends to cause stress and unrest. Once I started to ask myself, “what’s the worst that could happen,” I realized that really anything that goes wrong in the business is not going to cause my world to crumble.

It’s not going to be the be all end all…I’ll manage. I’ll problem solve. I’ll have lots of failures, but for each of those, I’ll leave stronger and wiser and be closer to succeeding. This was a very difficult skill for me to learn, but once I came to terms with the fact that I was going to fail at something or another in my life, the pressure was off and I was able to work more creatively.

2. When you started, did you need capital? How did you raise money?

Since my business is more of a “just-in-time” concept, I didn’t need a whole lot of initial capital investment. Don’t get me wrong – with all the cooking experiments I do, I end up spending a lot on ingredients. And in terms of buying supplies like food service containers, labels, marketing materials, and small appliances – those expenses were very real.

When I started my business, I didn’t know anything about starting a business. Funny, because I studied business and earned my BBA in marketing. I didn’t know I even needed investors, let along how to get them! Since I didn’t need a lot for my start-up costs, I just funded Food for Thin on my own and continue to do so. I do think that having some capital investment from an outside investor would be nice so I can build a great big test ktichen and have more time to work on my book. However, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If someone lends you money, they will expect returns on that investment. If you are trying to sell a luxury product in a down economy, making money to satisfy your investors can be very difficult and stressful. Since my business is still in its infancy, I am comfortable funding it on my own.

I think it’s important for me to mention that I do hold a “day job” in addition to running my business. I work in operations for a mid-sized software company. This affords me the ability to pay my rent month after month and fund my business while being able to fulfill my passion in life. That said, I still really want my big gourmet test kitchen – so anyone who wants to donate money to my cause, feel free!

3. Has your family played a role in the success of your business? If so, how?

In a word, yes! I have two different families…I have my nuclear family, my mom, dad and sister. Then I have my boyfriend. All play very important, albeit, different roles in my life and subsequently, the success of my business. My parents taught me hard work and gave me my education and didn’t leave me with any debts to pay after college. All that is pivotal in how I manage my business and finances today.

My nuclear family has been incredibly supportive of my venture – emotionally. On a practical level, however, they feel that the risk is too high. I love that my family is risk averse because me being the rebel I am, use that to drive my own risk taking.

On the other end of the spectrum is my boyfriend. He is crazy about risk. He has his own business in the private education industry and he has been very successful. I first learned about failure from him. He told me he tried tons of things and failed before he found something that fit him well. I am middle of the road. I don’t love the idea of risk because of my upbringing, but I have opened up to the idea that failure is okay. I have received lots of encouragement on both sides and I hope to see that continue. Sometimes, there are just days when you don’t feel like doing anything – sheer exhaustion takes over. Those are the days when it’s important to have the support of the people who are important to you. Their energy and emotional guidance is so vital in getting through the tough days.

4. What’s your typical day like?

A typical day for me…it’s a mix of routine and uncertainty! It all starts with the night before and when I finally get myself to fall asleep. Depending on how much sleep I get, I either wake up at 6:30a or 7a. If I wake up at 6:30a, I take the time to do a quick 30 minute workout, then I get ready.

By 8a, I’m out the door and on my way to the metro. My commute is about 40 minutes long and I usually arrive at the office (my “day job”) around 8:45a. At lunchtime, I typically log in to the social media world and write some posts, make some comments, etc. I work until around 5:15p or 5:30p and, as I begin my 40 minute commute home, I think about whether or not I need to stop by the grocery store and what I’ll do for dinner, etc.

I usually get to my neighborhood around 6ish and then maybe go to the grocery store and end up home around 6:30p. By this time, I’m pretty exhausted. If I didn’t work out that morning, this is the time I need to fit in a 30 minute workout. After that, I forage for something to eat or I cook something simple (since I live alone, I’m not too worried about cooking fancy meals for myself).

After dinner and a little Netflix, it’s around 8:30p. This is when my day really starts…and this is where I have to be most judicious with my time. Over the next two hours, I either experiment with desserts or new ingredients, work on marketing projects or campaigns, or my social media strategy. This is also the time I use to fill any orders that come in if I can’t wait until the weekend. Around 10:30p, I start cleaning up and getting ready for bed. Usually, by 11:30p, I’m in bed relaxing and I probably fall asleep around midnight. As you can imagine, it’s pretty tiring to tackle everything in two hours on your own.

Things I wish I had:

  • Two extra hours everyday – one for sleep and another for working out/making nicer meals for myself
  • A big test kitchen
  • Someone to do my grocery shopping
  • Someone to clean my house

I don’t so much mind the strategic and experimental aspects of my business – in fact, I love those parts! It’s the day-to-day stuff that becomes tedious and you realize that cleaning and shopping can be very unproductive wastes of time. The only advantage to doing your own shopping the ability to find new ingredients to use…but who am I kidding? You can find all that stuff online these days!

5. How does social media play into your marketing? How much time do you spend?

Social media plays a huge role in my marketing effort right now – mainly because it’s mostly free! I probably spend 5-7 hours a week on social media strategy and application. I try to write at least 3 blog posts per week and then I use my Facebook page, Twitter account, and website to drive people to the blog. I have paid for advertising on Facebook, but have generally found it unproductive other than the ability to drive people to your Fan Page. However, in terms of sales, it hasn’t been great.

I have found that Facebook and Twitter are very productive when it comes to driving people to your actual website – but buying is another story. Feature pieces on blogs and online magazines have been extremely productive in driving sales. I think Facebook and Twitter sometimes grow immune to posts and while folks are interested in the information, they aren’t always ready to actually take the next step and buy.

However, I love when I get feedback about my blog. People email me all the time to let me know they are reading it and that they like it. My goal is to grow my blog by providing great content and hopefully, get lots of loyal readers. Right now, most of my business comes from word of mouth. I think that’s great because it makes each sale personal and you know people are happy with your product/service if they are referring someone else.

6. What advice would you give one of our readers looking to really turn her business idea into a successful one?

I would say go for it! What do you have to lose? Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid in general. There are about a hundred million excuses that you could probably come up with not to start a business. But at the end of the day, everyone craves autonomy and everyone wants to do something meaningful with their lives. Success is an ambiguous word…some people are looking for more money and some people are looking for something more fulfilling. Most people are looking for both.

I think it’s important to think about what makes you happy and what you’re good at, marry those two aspects of your life and begin there. That’s a good way to come up with a business idea. As far as making it successful, there are a number of things you can do and if you have a good product or service, your business will become successful. Think about what you love to do…that will ultimately give you more satisfaction and probably lead you to more success in the long run.

Links

Food for Thin Website: www.FoodforThin.com
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Food-for-Thin/109662439099516
Twitter: @FoodforThin, http://twitter.com/FoodforThin
Food for Thin Blog: http://www.foodforthin.blogspot.com/

Questions or comments? Leave them on the original post! Thanks for reading!