Cooking has been a passion for Fharzana Elankumaran for as long as she can remember. Born and raised in Bangladesh, Fharzana moved to the US she was a teenager and when she went off to University, she majored in chemistry.
She said she wanted to combine her analytical skills from the sciences with her job experiences in marketing as well as her passion for cooking into a business that would help others. Backed by this idea and inspired by her husband, Fharzana started to teach Indian hands-on cooking classes. I Heart Curry is a boutique cooking school based out of the San Francisco Bay area, where Fharzana now lives. As a South Asian woman planning to be a mother someday, she says eating well and cooking healthy is a top priority. We had a chance to talk to her about her business and her journey so far.
What inspired you to start your business?
I have always cared about everyone around me; I take care of people. I also love to cook. Wanting to help others to eat well at home inspired me to start I Heart Curry. I not only teach and inspire others to cook at home, but I teach them how to cook healthy, how to avoid preserved foods that are bad for health, how to be creative in cooking. I teach my guests a better life style, I feel happy that I can make a difference in other lives in a positive manner. I not only teach great recipes, but offer my guests the history behind South Asian culinary development and how eating better food will ultimately lead to a better and longer life. I do a lot of research in safe food practices, I find it interesting, since it feeds my Chemistry side of the mind – I’m always more than happy to share my knowledge with my guests. I find it all the more inspiring that my guests tell me they came in expecting an ordinary cooking class, but they walk away with some great recipes, a full stomach, and a whole lot of knowledge.
Apart from that, I appreciate that I run a startup independently without having to answer to anyone about my actions or decisions.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business?
Reaching my audience.
What is the most satisfying part?
Watching people’s eyes brighten up when they learn something brand new and cook something delicious from scratch that they cooked with their own hands. Their happiness = my satisfaction.
What do you think prevents South Asian moms and women from striking out on their own in business?
Lack of confidence that they can start and carry a business on their own, lack of other Asian women entrepreneurs to look up to. Some of them follow the tradition of being a full-time mom and give up their careers. I believe a network of existing Asian women entrepreneurs would definitely help them to get started, get mentored, and guided in starting their own ventures.
Do you find you compete in your industry with your male counterparts?
It is hard to be an entrepreneur no matter what – male or female. It requires a lot of hard work and determination. I haven’t faced any tight competition between my male counterparts and I so far. Everyone is always very supportive and helpful.
What advice can you offer women like you looking to start their own businesses?
If you have a good idea, start your business like ripping off a bandaid. Don’t wait too long and over-think it. Everything else will work out. Always reach out to others for help.
Follow Fharzana on Twitter @iheartcurrySF
For more info on her cooking classes visit: www.iheartcurry.com