10 Questions for Local Food Entrepreneur: Poorvi Patodia
This interview was originally published on Examiner.com.
Poorvi and I met at the Stonyfield Entrepreneurship Institute in March 2011. Her snack food business was just an idea then (as was Food Sol). Now, three years later, I wanted to talk to Poorvi about her food entrepreneurial journey and what Biena has become…
This will be the first of a regular “10 Questions” series profiling local food entrepreneurs…
1. What was the seed for what is now Biena?
Wanting to make something for myself. As a vegetarian, getting protein and fiber is always important and as an Indian, I grew up eating fried chickpeas as a snack. I started to wonder: could I make a healthier version of this?
2. What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
Well, a big one was mental: getting to the moment where I fully committed, where I said, “I’m all in” and told everyone I knew that I was going to do this—and left my job to do this. For every entrepreneur that’s a big deal.
And, more logistically, manufacturing: this snack is very unique, so I couldn’t look in a directory of, say, potato chip manufacturers and just go down the list. There was no recipe, so I had to figure that out too. Doing it in my kitchen is one thing, but how to make tens of thousands of pounds to be commercially viable is another.
3. How do you define success?
Delivering on our mission to make it easier for people to eat healthy. At the end of the day, this means it has to taste really, really good. You do your demos and promotions, but at some point, you have to step back and let the product perform. It’s scary but when you see people come back, that’s incredible.
4. How do you manage failure?
For me it’s through understanding the Why—asking Why five times to get at what’s driving the failure so you can see what it is you need to do differently next time.
5. How do you cope with pressure? (Any secret recipes for taking care of yourself?)
Taking it one day at a time. Or, one minute at a time, literally! My tolerance for what bothers me has gone way up. So many things happen along the way in entrepreneurship. It can be discouraging. But being persistent, working through things—using everything I can to help me get around obstacles—and, yeah, just taking it one day at a time.
6. What are you going to do next?
Take the business to the next level. We’ve had interest from a range of retailers but with any brand, going into it, you have to know that you’re going to do really well in certain formats and not so well in others. The key is becoming smart about your consumer and what drives them, and then delving into those insights to figure out what’s underneath. There’s no shortage of opportunities, but we have to be strategic in growing our distribution to match our consumer. Those we go after, I want to see through.
7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in the past year?
Go for it.
8. Give us your advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs… in 6 words or less.
Do not be afraid to fail.
9. You win the Oscar equivalent for your industry (James Beard, sofi, etc). When you take the stage, who will you thank and for what?
My team. When you’re running a start-up – and I mean a true startup, not a 1,000-person startup – you and your team rely on each other heavily. So it would be a joint win from that standpoint. And I would also thank my personal support team– my family and closest friends.
10. What about Biena most feeds your soul?
The idea of creating something that didn’t exist before.
You can find Biena Chickpeas in stores around the country including Whole Foods, Roche Bros, Mrs. Greens, New Seasons, and Barnes & Noble College Bookstores – including in Babson Bookstore starting in August!