Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.
Lavanya Mahate had the “perfect job.” She was working as the director of the Women’s Business Center at the Salt Lake Chamber in Utah, putting her background in marketing and communications to good use, while getting to know her community better.
But something inside kept whispering that her passions lie elsewhere.
“It was that feeling of I need to do this,” she said. “I’ve done this; now what’s next?”
Over the course of several months, she gave in to that whisper. And that courage to leap into the unknown of a new career, to follow a passion she’s had since childhood, has since then propelled her through opening several successful businesses, including Saffron Valley, Dhanya Spices & Groceries and Biscotts near Salt Lake City, with more in the works.
“Every step of the way I get a lot of opportunities. Some I take; some I don’t,” Mahate said. “The ones that I feel very passionate about I take, and they lead me to the next thing.”
Mahate’s passion is sharing her love of Indian cuisine and the exciting spices that go into it.
“I wanted to bring diverse kinds of foods from India to the area,” she said. “Indian food is so much more than naan and curry.”
One of her fondest memories from childhood in Southern India is everyone sitting around the table, enjoying food.
When she was six years old, she would sneak into the kitchen and make fudge with sugar and ghee. “I remember all my brothers and sisters and friends enjoying it and appreciating me.”
And when she decided to jump into a career in Indian food, she started with the basic ingredients — the spices. She sold spice blends under the name East India Pantry at a local farmers market in 2010.