Shobha Patel is the founder of Gharana Foods, a manufacturer of authentic ethnic snacks that focuses on premium, clean label snacks with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. She started Gharana Foods with just one snack – chakri – making it in her kitchen.
As word of mouth spread about the quality and flavor, the business grew as well. 18 years later, Gharana Foods is now a thriving business with a large production facility, and the next generation, led by Shobha’s son, Amit, has entered the business to help scale the operations and help their parents take a step back.
Shobha shared her remarkable story as a woman who never had any aspirations to start a business, but through commitment, determination, and dedication has built a strong premium brand that is sold in ethnic food stores all over the country.
How did Gharana Foods get started?
There were such limited food options when we immigrated to America in the 80s. Communities would always form to help give a sense of home and support however we could. We were selling different types of food to local families and the one small local Indian store. In 2004, my husband was laid off. We started the business as a need to support our family.
Did anyone else in your family ever start a business?
I grew up in a small village and my father owned a small tobacco farm. It was enough to support the family, but wasn’t very big. After I got married, my brothers took over and grew it into a larger successful business that now supports the entire town and the subsequent generations.
Did you ever think about starting a business yourself when you were younger?
Older Indian culture is very male-centric. I remember thinking growing up that I didn’t want to have to rely on someone for money or support. I never thought to myself that I would start a business, but I know I always wanted to be able to do something myself.
What has been your proudest moment since starting the business?
We started the business in a 1,000 sq ft retail space with no expectations in 2004. In 2011, we moved into a 4,000 sq. ft warehouse space. The day we moved in, I couldn’t believe it. It was such a sense of pride to be able to see something that I built grow into something this big. We’re now in over 8,000 sq. ft. and looking to expand again.
What has been the biggest lesson you learned along the way?
I never worked a job before starting the business. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard each stage of the business would be. There are three things I personally learned – keep yourself calm as much as possible when dealing with employees, never panic in the face of challenges, and, most importantly, never give up. There were days I would wake up and just want to stop, but I pushed through by believing in myself and having my faith.
What would you like to be remembered for?
When we came to America, we didn’t have much money, but we survived. Growing up, I wanted to do something. I didn’t know what, but I wanted to accomplish something that I would be able to give to my kids. I’m proud that my son, my daughter, my son-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and, now their kids, are involved and running the business. It’s a dream come true.
This is Women’s History Month, so I’m curious if there has been a woman in your life who’s made a big impact who you want to acknowledge?
Unfortunately, I do not. In my head, I wanted to prove myself and do something in my life. I was blessed to be able to get the chance and be successful.
PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FOOD STYLING BY KAITLIN WAYNE, PROPS STYLING BY JUDITH TREZZA
The Patel family owns and operates Gharana Foods, a premium snack company that manufacturers authentic Indian snack foods from recipes developed by Shobha Patel. The company is widely known for its chakri, a uniquely shaped snack recently featured in the Wall Street Journal. To learn more or purchase snacks, visit gharanafoods.com.