Who will be interested in buying our products? What about the packaging and deliveries? If it doesn’t work out, what will people say? These are some of the questions that people worry about before starting their business. At times these fears outweigh the potential that resides within them.
And Mercy Jose from Kottayam, Kerala was no different.
“When my daughter Sruthy first told me about the business plan, I didn’t have any faith in it at all. I thought – aren’t we from a small village? Who would buy our products?” the 54-year-old tells me.
But, Jose’s daughter had all the answers to her questions.
Sruthy’s unshakeable belief in her mother and her determination to have the world enjoy her mom’s exemplary culinary skills led her to launch ‘Farm To Table’ – an upcoming brand in the field of online food business offering organic, and locally sourced products made at home.
Among the many items in the brochure – the brand offers hazelnut-choco spread, almond choco spread, mango jam, pineapple jam, Peanut Butter, Apple Banana jam, Passion Fruit jam, and their pièce de résistance – Passionfruit syrup.
In just one year, the mother-daughter duo has doubled their profits and are earning upto Rs 20k from their kitchen!
So how did it all begin?
While pursuing her Master’s in Social Work at Kristu Jayanthi College, Bengaluru, Sruthy (24) was also working as a food blogger and frequented restaurants to review their food.
“I loved food blogging. But another part of me always wanted to start something of my own. This motivated me to have conversations with the owners of these restaurants on how they started the restaurant, the expenses, and so on. I would jot down these things but I never really told my family about this dream of mine,” explains Sruthy.
On the other hand, Mercy Jose, who was married at the age of 19 and had spent her life taking care of her three children, never really had the chance of fulfilling her dreams of studying further and making a name for herself.
“Amma has always been a very passionate cook. She often sent me these delicious homemade jams and spreads while I was away in Bengaluru. My friends and I devoured them in a week! And then we would be back to craving for more in no time,” Sruthy laughs.
So on returning home after completing her studies, Sruthy decided to combine her mother’s dream with her plan and presented the idea of an online home business to her.
Sruthy’s ‘Farm To Table’ concept was to encourage healthy living and promote completely organic, chemical-and-preservative-free food.
“I wanted customers to instantly be reminded of fresh products and the name Farm to Table conveyed the idea of organic food. My mother was super scared at first. She asked me how we would handle financial and technical aspects, but I had figured all of that out,” shares the determined young entrepreneur.
Once she had her mom – the Chef de Cuisine of the brand – onboard, she reached out to other women entrepreneurs through social media for guidance and also started sourcing raw materials for the products from the farmers in her locality. She mainly spoke to bakers who sold their goods online – something quite common in the Kottayam. They advised her about the importance of having an online presence and encouraged her to spread the word through her friends. They also provided contacts for packaging.
“I even designed the labels on my own and sourced the jars from a wholesale company I knew. Slowly, I saw my mother realising the potential of the idea and she began giving her own inputs. This was a very special moment for me because I was able to revive my mother’s passion and rekindle her spirit for cooking,” says Sruthy.
Creating a Base for Their Online Food Business
By mid-May 2019, a few weeks after the duo had started the venture, they came across an advertisement calling vendors for the Kottayam Flea Market. Sruthy saw this as the perfect opportunity to get the word out about the business and got a stall space.
“This was my first investment in business marketing, which was around Rs. 8,000. This included the stall rent and the rest of the expenses including the raw materials and the packaging. We made completely organic chocolate spreads, passion fruit jam, peanut butter, fruit syrups and many other goodies in time for the exhibition,” recalls Sruthy.
To the duo’s surprise, in a span of the two days of the exhibition, all their products were sold out and they had made double the amount they had invested, close to Rs.16,000!
“This was the turning point for the business. A lot of people who had purchased our products started contacting us and soon word spread. We then started taking online orders through our social media handles and the orders just kept on pouring in,” explains a visibly-excited Sruthy.
Soon after the exhibition, ‘Farm To Table’ was also featured in publications like Malayala Manorama’s ‘Karshakashree’ because of its unique recipes and organic products.
Learning to Handle the Business Side of Things
Once the orders rose, Sruthy began thinking of upscaling the operations. Her search for a wholesale company for packaging products ended in Malappuram where she placed a bulk order for cardboard boxes and glass jars. She also made a list of courier services she can tie-up with for deliveries.
Typically, the busy duo lists down all their orders and the addresses of the clients and work out the logistics during the weekdays. The cooking and packaging are done during the weekends so that the orders can be sent out in bulk.
One of their regular customers, Sandra Mathew says, “I ordered the cashew butter from ‘Farm To Table’ and let me tell you, my child loved it. It’s completely organic with no added colour, preservatives making safe for babies. The best part was that they’ve used jaggery instead of sugar making it all the more special.”
Keeping true to their principle of serving all-organic goodies, Jose only uses natural preservatives like sugar and vinegar and advises customers to refrigerate the product on opening and consume within a month.
“Our best selling product is the passion fruit syrup. So it’s basically 250ml of passion fruit concentrate which can then be mixed with water to make great juice. This has received a lot of good reviews because it’s natural and is a ‘quick-serve’ juice for guests,” Sruthy says.
How Do They Feel after the Successful Launch of their Brand?
“I feel really happy that we were able to support a lot of farmers in our locality and people also started becoming a lot more aware of the chemicals we find in our food,” says Jose.
Today, ‘Farm To Table’ ships its products to metropolitan cities across India including Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi with products ranging from Rs. 150 onwards. The venture receives more than 200 orders every month which earns them upto Rs. 20,000!
“If you ask me what the most important lesson I learnt from ‘Farm To Table’ is – I would have to say that, it’s the courage to not care about what people think. If you’ve set your mind to something, other people’s opinions should never come in the way,” Sruthy concludes.
If you wish to place orders for delicious and organic jams and spreads from ‘Farm To Table’ and support them during this lockdown period, you can contact: 9072967338
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)