Laurier MBA Alumnus Spices Up Entrepreneurship
Many would think working full-time while completing a part-time MBA is enough to have on one plate, however Laurier Alumnus and entrepreneur Mona Prasad decided to spice things up a bit and launch her family business, Gourmantra.
The Gourmantra idea all started when Mona’s mother, Rekha, was trying to teach Mona and her sister, Rachna, how to cook delicious Indian cuisine for themselves. Little did Rekha know the instructions and spice packages she was preparing for her daughters would soon turn into a food brand sold across North America!
Quickly recognizing the demand for their Indian spice packages the Gourmantra journey started by selling the first of their spices at local trade shows and weekend markets. With this underway, Mona started her part-time MBA in 2003 at Laurier Toronto, and immediately immersed herself in the entrepreneurship stream to learn more about new venture creation.
One of the first projects assigned was to create a new venture case for an in-class entrepreneurship competition. With the family business already starting to move forward Mona thought it was a no-brainer to use Gourmantra.
“Using Gourmantra for our case study was a great opportunity to finally get our family business formally down on paper and the business model validated – all while earning a course credit!“ – Mona Prasad.
The best new venture was chosen at the end of term based on whether or not the professor would invest in the company. After weeks of thorough market research, business plan development, and continuing sales, Gourmantra was declared as the sure winner. For Mona this milestone was indicative that Gourmantra had great potential and gave her family the confidence that they were on to something big.
With a full business plan in hand and sales already coming through, Mona decided to enter Gourmantra into the Launchpad 50k startup competition. This was the first year the contest was ever up and running, and with 400+ entrepreneurs pitching their ideas Mona was up against some stiff competition! Nevertheless, Gourmantra made the finals and after pitching the family business to a panel of esteem entrepreneurs and investors, Gourmantra was awarded 3rd place and $15,000!
This first round of funding acted as a catalyst for Gourmantra, and enabled the Prasad family to further develop their business and market their products locally. During this phase the Gourmantra team specifically focused on getting their product into more kitchens are receiving as much feedback as possible.
Market research is an ongoing project that never ends. Always seek to connect with your customers to gather their feedback to develop a product they LOVE.
This focus on attaining customer feedback allowed the Gourmantra team to identify that customers were continuously asking for spices packaged into a single meal kit to simply open and start cooking. This led to the first product pivot for Gourmantra, where they started a whole new meal-kit product line!
With sales now beginning to climb the Gourmantra team knew it was time to start seeking additional investment to scale their business across North America. Using the expertise Mona gained from her Laurier MBA Gourmantra was investment ready and acquired their first round of angel investment.
Measure the return on investment for every dollar you spend.
After you raise funding you realize it’s quite easy to spend it quickly. The funding Gourmantra raised was specifically to help with marketing and PR efforts to continue building the company brand. When it comes to getting your product to market there are many different vehicles you can choose. The best choose where to spend your money is to experiment with various options and measure their performance. Doing this will allow you to make a long-term decision that is evidence based and guaranteed to help you get a return on money spent.
After now running the family business for a number of years, Mona has identified one important take away. If there is no passion, there is no business – that simple. In a new business each team member has their hands on deck – playing everything from the CEO to the janitor. The founding team including investors must have a true passion for the product and the industry you are in. At the end of the day blood-relatives or not, your startup team is like family.
“In any new business you start there are bound to be challenges and barriers to getting it up and off the ground but making sure that the founding team is literally like family will allow you to maintain forward momentum and make it happen.”
Entrepreneurship Community Coordinator