Business Success: No More Plain Plaintains
Who: Geetha Jayaraman
Businesses: Grab 'Em Snacks & The Spoon & Sprout Cafe
Location: Hillsborough, New Jersey
Number of employees: 1 (and hoping for more)
Handling a small business is never easy -- now imagine managing two simultaneously. This is the life Geetha Javaraman has carved out for herself, thanks to her love for cooking and her ability to create tasty (and at times spicy) plantain chips.
Based in Hillsborough, New Jersey, the mother of two runs a wholesale retailer, Grab 'Em Snacks, as well as a local vegetarian café that specializes in made-to-order dishes with a Malaysian flair.
We spoke with Jayaraman about her role as entrepreneur, her business success, and how she’s starting to use social media to create a social media marketing plan.
How do you handle two small businesses?
I'm still doing a lot of the cooking. As far as recruiting, I just hired someone to help with the our social media marketing plan. It's more challenging for me to do the social media marketing strategy.
I recently hired a girl because I really needed the help. Her strength has been in the marketing area. She's researching social media platforms like MeetUp groups that are vegetarians and getting the word out there. We're growing, but it's all through word of mouth. This aspect of the business has been challenging for me.
The common thread with the two businesses appears to be healthy eating. How important is that aspect to you?
It's absolutely important. That's the way I've been cooking at home and I carry that into my food as well. All the spices are organic in the chips. Everything is made from scratch. Quality in the food is important to me. I try to get as much produce from farmer's markets [as possible]. I really don't keep anything pre-prepared because I'm not sure when someone will pick up an item.
You mentioned you hired someone recently. What qualities did she have that made her fit?
For one she is a vegetarian, so she already understood the kind of food we were producing. Also, she has a willingness to do whatever she needs to do, including social media, both online and offline. With our small business marketing strategy, she's created fliers offering 10 percent off and has gotten in touch with a celiac group and we're doing a picnic at one of the woman's house who's in a support group.
What about your next candidate. Who is your ideal next hire?
Ideally I want hire an employee who enjoys cooking who I can train to cook some of the dishes. Right now, I'm very tied down and have to be here for x number of hours. If someone can be trained on the salad dishes and the grilled vegetables, I can work on the main dishes.
Right now, I don't have the money. First, I need to drive more traffic into the café, which will help me raise enough finances to hire more.
Have you managed people before?
I've never really managed employees in my workplace. A lot of the jobs I did, it was in finance. I worked in the corporate world for 17 years and I don't want to go back to that life. This is so much more gratifying and satisfying.
I used to dread Sundays. But now, I never set my alarm anymore. I'm up, work till 11:30 or midnight…it's time I enjoy being at the café and it's the creativity with the new dishes.
How do you manage your employees, and would you recommend hiring family or friends?
I have one employee, but I've managed my husband for many years.
What do you mean by that?
When he was unemployed, he was helping out. But being married to him, it's hard because he doesn't look at you as the boss. It's a very tough situation. I had to make it clear: At home we're married. At work, I'm the boss because I know the product better.
How do you manage relatives differently?
You have to set ground rules. You have to make sure you have delegated the work and to make sure each worker has a different responsibility. My husband would do sales and we came to an agreement. He would handle that and I wouldn't interfere.