With 16 cookbooks, numerous awards, and a successful cookery school under her belt, it’s fair to say that Monisha Bharadwaj has turned her passion for Indian food into an empire. But for Bharadwaj, founder of Cooking with Monisha, success didn’t happen overnight. From her initial training as a chef in Mumbai to forging her own path as an event entrepreneur in the UK, her journey has been full of interesting lessons.
Although Bharadwaj trained as a chef for three years, open-mindedness has taken her career to some unexpected places. “It’s no longer a world where a chef graduates and goes into the restaurant business,” she explains. As a mother, traditional hospitality roles were off the table, so Bharadwaj had to use her imagination to further her career in food. By always saying “yes” to new opportunities, she eventually found herself writing cookbooks and teaching classes at major cookery schools. After a heart-to-heart with a friend, she realised that starting her own school was the best way to combine her passions for writing, teaching, and Indian cuisine.
Take small steps instead of giant leaps
“Lots and lots of business plans and brainstorming” – this is how Bharadwaj describes the initial steps of her business. By taking a slow and steady approach, she learned important lessons along the way. Any mistakes Bharadwaj made were small enough to come back from, rather than serious enough to risk losing everything. Likewise, she decided early on not to make a huge financial investment. For Bharadwaj, this meant providing basic cutlery and crockery and emphasising substance over style. This careful approach also allowed her to grow and develop her business, based on what customers wanted. “I still don’t use the fanciest cutlery but, along the way, I’ve learned how to make the experience more and more enjoyable for my clients,” she says.
Use existing tools to boost your business
Bharadwaj also avoided pumping money into her website. Although it wasn’t slick by modern standards, her existing website was good enough to advertise her first classes. The only drawback was its lack of payment processing, which she felt was holding her business back. As she explains, “people had to send in money through cheques which became outdated, or make bank transfers which wasn’t very professional.” But rather than investing lots of money in building a proprietary payment platform, Bharadwaj decided to partner with Eventbrite instead. By fully integrating the Eventbrite platform with her website, she’s now able to sell tickets quickly and easily online.
Change with the times
Because of her ability to adapt, COVID-19 didn’t stop Bharadwaj from running her Indian cookery classes. In May 2020, after realising lockdown was there to stay, she and her team decided to run online events. This isn’t something Bharadwaj ever expected to do: “For years, people have asked me, ‘Will you do a Skype class?’ and I say, ‘No, we can’t do a cookery Skype class, that’s not going to work!’ And this year has showed us that it does work. People are happy with the classes, they want to come back over and over again.” By making use of Eventbrite’s global reach, Bharadwaj has been able to bring together people from all over the world. And this year, Bharadwaj has another exciting addition to her revenue stream – selling online classes as Christmas presents. Before deciding on prices for her experiential gifts, Bharadwaj sent out a survey. Since most people said that they would be willing to spend about £40, she priced her cookery class presents at £39. As she explains: “Suddenly people in America can buy our Christmas presents for someone in Japan. It’s exciting that it’s a new format.”
Ask for help when you need it
As Bharadwaj knows from personal experience, it’s essential to have support when you start a business. The idea of becoming a businesswoman was new to the chef: “You can put me in a kitchen and I’ll cook a meal for 100 people with absolutely no problem. But to start a business, what do I need?” Luckily, she had a close network of friends and family who are experts in business, and who could offer her advice. Bharadwaj also reached out to Eventbrite while planning her events. “The few times that I’ve had questions and issues with my own events, the team at Eventbrite has helped me in a matter of minutes to resolve everything,” she says.
Follow your passion
It’s important to teach what you know. Bharadwaj genuinely loves the social interaction that surrounds Indian cuisine and finds it rewarding when she’s able to teach people how to make it. And although she has an impressive background, she never stops learning. “Every single day, I research something about Indian food,” Bharadwaj states. “I don’t want to become complacent about the stuff I do. There are always new ways to tweak things and there are always new ways to make it more enjoyable – both for my clients and for me. Because if I’m having fun, they’ll have fun as well. I keep trying to up the game all the time.”
Are you ready to launch your empire?
By saying yes to new opportunities, asking for help, and using her existing tools and skills, Bharadwaj has built a successful career around her biggest passion – and so can you. As Bharadwaj says: “Be fearless. If I could do it, you can do it.” Along the way, she’s also learned that our platform is more than a means of creating ticketing and advertising, but a true partner. Payment processing, real-time sales reporting, and advice on staffing and logistics are just a few of the ways we help our organisers. Find out how we can help you to run events that you’re passionate about.