What Was My biggest Challenge?
I get asked this question a lot, especially during any sort of interview or school/college project that I’m requested to be a part of. I’m not sure if there is one right answer and to be honest, I don’t think our business has been around for long enough to even face a humongous challenge. This is not to say it’s been an easy ride, but many times entrepreneurs tend to exaggerate their hardships just to show the world how difficult their life is. Yes, running a business isn’t for everyone. But at the same time, so many different people from varied backgrounds have been successful at entrepreneurship – if they can do it, why can’t you?
Now whenever someone asks me about this “challenge question” for an interview – I cannot give them my philosophical answer. So, I choose a time that really did challenge us either mentally or physically. Today, I’ll give you an example of both.
It was Diwali season of 2018, exactly 2 years ago when we had moved out of home and into our first tiny kitchen. I have the fortune to say “tiny” because we have grown into a larger and more comfortable space now. We were rejoicing after coming back from a meeting with our biggest corporate client. The admin used to give us an order for 300 units at the end of every month. He passed our introduction to their HR and she had assured us that we would get an order for 1100 Diwali boxes from them.
Sample box for the 1100 units order
Here, there is some math involved. Each box had 5 different items and 8-10 pcs of each item. For example, we had 10 butter cookies in each box, which meant we would have to bake 11,000 cookies alone apart from everything else. We only had a kitchen team of 2 people and one tray would fit 80 cookies at a time that would take 20 minutes to bake. We had 10 days left till Diwali and the execution of this order was nearly impossible.
To make matters worse, the HR was not giving us a written confirmation to go ahead. I decided to take a risk and start baking cookies anyway, since they were long shelf-life products and can be made in advance. We made as many cookies as we possibly could and with each passing day, the pressure of a confirmation loomed in our minds. With less than 5 days left to Diwali and the company ignoring our persistent calls, we finally concluded that we are not getting the order. But now, we had 4000 butter cookies on our hands! We just kept them in airtight containers and hoped for the best.
We never ended up getting the big Diwali order but luck was by our side. Halloween was just a week later and WeWork asked us for 300 mousse cups for their celebrations. We powdered all the cookies in a mixer and used them as one of the layers in the mousse cup. If I had not started baking those cookies, maybe this mayhem would have never happened. But I’d still say, go ahead and take those risks. As my father often reminds me, “fortune favors the bold.”
The day after I had this argument, we found a broken tube light in our bathroom – that someone had pushed inside through the exhaust fan. We informed the landlord about this and the tailor told him there are some drunk people who wander around at night. We even found some broken alcohol bottles near our doorstep so we accepted this explanation. A few days later, our electricity was cut off from the main connection in the basement. The tailor blamed this on our large electric consumption because of the oven (which is a gas oven, it doesn’t even run on electricity). A few weeks passed and I found our signboard was upside down. We still did not assume that all of this was his fault. Why would someone go to such lengths to trouble us?
The electric problem became persistent for many months. We would come into the kitchen in the morning and find no electricity, the team would stare at me and I would stare at them. I remember one Valentines day we dispatched 25 orders through the day by using the torches on our phones. I would go back and forth from home just to whip cream. Finally, my dad got an electrician to teach me how to rewire the fuse and when I learnt that, the whole fuse started getting stolen. It was around Diwali of 2019, that I decided enough is enough. We need to move out of this place.
We finally convinced the landlord to install cameras in the basement and near our entrance. He also agreed to put a wired cage around the main electricity boxes so that nobody could tamper with it. We requested him to only give us (not the tailor) access to monitor the camera. One day, I noticed the angle of the camera in the basement had changed, so I clicked on “playback” button to check. That’s when I saw the tailor tampering with the camera to check if it’s really working. He had been behind the continuous harassment the whole time.
Within 6 months, by March of 2020, we had moved into our current kitchen. It’s a beautiful space that has my heart and I visualized our team welcoming a line of customers inside for the launch party. Unfortunately, COVID hit the world and things didn’t turn out as expected. Instead of launching our kitchen, we launched a website and stuck to the delivery-only model. I’d love to welcome all my friends into this kitchen that I’m really proud of but nobody’s been able to see it. We still use the same second-hand furniture because we had to hold off all investments suddenly. However, I don’t expect this to be included as a “challenge” story, I’m going to make this a success story for us to remember through a different blog post.