Vibha Ghorpade’s journey from a foodie to café entrepreneur with YoMama

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Her tandoori chicken steak and paneer cheese are dishes that customers at her Café relish the most. And owner of  YoMama Café at Indira Nagar in Bengaluru, Vidya Ghorpade loves serving up these delicacies. “While these are continental dishes, the unique Indian spices and flavours, make these dishes hugely popular,” she says. She is not just another foodie who opened up a café; she is an ex-Google employee. That’s right, before she became an entrepreneur; she already had a cushy job which meant good income and a great lifestyle. Then, how did the idea of a café came about?

“My whole perspective on working in a corporate environment, even one as women-friendly as Google, underwent a change when I became a mother for the first time. My priorities were more focused on not missing out on my experiences as a first time mother, and I felt that a corporate environment can be limiting to this objective,” explained Ghorpade.

I have focused on less risks, taking it slow and steady and allowing us room as a business to learn and grow.

She added, “At first, when I made an instinctive choice to quit my full time job to become a full time mom, I actually felt the gap of not being intellectually engaged anymore! And it was quite scary. That’s when encouragement from my family especially my husband, guided me into the direction to find out what I am passionate about and how to turn that into a business idea. This was a real eye opener for me, as I realized that a self owned business with flexible options and being a mother can actually go hand in hand.”

Also read: Selina Periampillai is bringing the tastes of Mauritius to London

Go Bananas Waffles

Go Bananas Waffles at Yo Mama

The mother of two then went on to explain why she zeroed down on a café and how technology has helped her in becoming an entrepreneur. “Being a passionate foodie myself, I spent a lot of time exploring different cuisines in different restaurants. This exposure led me to experiences that I really loved and some areas that could be better.”

“Technology and digital media is now taking a forefront in the food industry. Somewhere, I felt that the main agenda which is to serve great, delicious wholesome food needed to be brought back more into focus, while technology remains as an enabler.”

“YoMama, is a culmination of this passion, a lot of research, and focusing on an overall great dining experience,” says Ghorpade matter-of-factly.

But it wasn’t as difficult for her to start her own business as she says her father has been a businessman himself and she was always exposed to the various aspects of her father’s business. “There is no substitute for hard work, motivating good people to work and stay with you, interacting with suppliers, managing finances etc. These are invaluable lessons that I now use every day as well,” Ghorpade lists some lessons she learnt through her father.

I realized that a self owned business with flexible options and being a mother can actually go hand in hand

“I have been so lucky to be exposed business realities, that my expectations have been very grounded. I have watched and learned from him on setting up a successful business with all the challenges from scratch, and this experience has been the best teacher.”

“I have focused on less risks, taking it slow and steady and allowing us room as a business to learn and grow. I always hope that I can work as hard and selflessly as he does.”

But she still believes she could not have been able to start YoMama without her husband’s support. “He’s been there for me every step of the way. He’s my sounding board for great ideas, my food critic, my biggest champion, and he’s great with the kids as well! So I have been really lucky.”

Also read: Dishing out food advice: Roxanne Bamboat, tinytaster.com

Ex-Googler or not, anyone who leaves their job to start something of their own has certain fears and insecurities, but Ghorpade overcame them as she had decided right from the beginning that she would take it all as a learning experience and not burden herself with making it a success which, took a lot of pressure off her and helped her focus on areas of learning.

“You’re supposed to start before you’re ready and before you’re good at it, and that’s how you get ready and that’s how you get good at it,” she quotes Elizabeth Gilbert here.

“Unchartered territories are always intimidating, and it wasn’t easy to move away from the safety net of a corporate job.” She says about her taking the entrepreneurial plunge.  “At YoMama, we focus a lot on innovation by curating new dishes frequently, we use a lot of analytics and data management to help us understand our business better. And, we appreciate the importance of technology as an enabler.”

Starting up YoMama, she faced a few initial challenges. “My biggest concern was spending too much time away from our children. And I definitely had to sacrifice a lot of time away from home in the beginning. However, in hindsight it also drove us to implement better practices, and processes that moved the dependency on me to a more centralized process.”

Yo Mama cafe

Interiors of Yo Mama

You will falter, make mistakes, but most importantly you have to acknowledge when you go wrong and quickly take steps to rectify it.

However, what really worked for Ghorpade was she surrounded her work with positive reinforcements and a lot of encouragement from friends and family. She calls these people, her champions. “We received honest feedback and this really helped us as a business.”

Also read: When three is not a crowd: Sweta, Amritha and Daizy of WhereElse Cafe

This brought us to advice that she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • It’s not enough to be “passionate” to start a business. Do enough research about what it takes to start a business that you’re interested in. Financials, people, profitability, analytics, all of this matters. Be comfortable financially so that you don’t compromise on quality- that is save enough before you start off or look for good investors in your business idea.
  • Network & Learn – bounce off your ideas with others, criticism is a great teacher. Never shy away from asking questions.
  • Always be ready to re-invent yourself and your business – there will be new technology changes, unforeseen developments and changes and being flexible will help you to adapt.

She finishes off by saying, “Our mascot was inspired by the balancing that most women do in their day to day lives while making it look easy. YoMama is my passion, grounded in business realities, and I feel truly blessed to be a part of this journey.”

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