By Carly DeFIlippo
Among the many emerging opportunities for food entrepreneurs, few sectors have seen as much growth as the cook-at-home meal delivery market. Beyond such omnipresent brands as Blue Apron, a wide range of creative chefs and business owners are launching specialized products that serve the needs and tastes of a niche market. Case in point: ICE Culinary Arts alum Madhuri Sharma, co-founder of Indian-inspired meal kit service Saffron Fix.
What distinguishes Saffron Fix from other cook-at-home kits, and what is your role at the company?
Saffron Fix delivers all the pre-chopped ingredients and pre-measured spices you need to create delicious Indian meals at home. As a co-founder, my responsibilities range from running the day-to-day operations to planning the expansion and direction of the company as a whole.
On a typical day, I might be involved with recipe development, managing the production of the recipe cards and labels, planning next month’s menu or breaking down our orders into an operational workflow. We are also constantly working on marketing approaches, keeping our vendors competitive and planning our future expansion.
Have you always worked in the culinary industry?
Before enrolling at ICE, I worked as a broadcast content producer at a leading ad agency. What attracted me to the program was the flexibility that ICE offered. Attending classes in the evening allowed me to gain more hands-on culinary experience during the day. While in school, I was able to work as a line cook at a restaurant, assist on culinary photo shoots and intern at Food Network. Being able to do those things simultaneously enhanced my education.
What was your path from graduation to Saffron Fix?
After graduation, I freelanced as a culinary producer and food stylist for a variety of shows and photo shoots. Within six months, I met my current business partner at Saffron Fix, and we began to hone the concept. Just one year after graduating from ICE, we had launched an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign and garnered a fair amount of media attention. Since then, we have grown the business organically and recently started our monthly subscription model.
How did the ICE career services staff support your career transition?
When I walked into the career center at ICE, I knew what I wanted to do: merge my background in media production with my culinary interests and work in food media. They helped me focus on opportunities that would allow me to use my varied skills and connected me with other alumni working in my field of interest.
What are your proudest accomplishments as a career changer?
Looking back, I thought that going to culinary school would be the largest risk I could take, since I had already established myself in a completely different industry. But it was just the stepping-stone to many more exciting risks. Starting a business has been just as challenging as it is has been exhilarating, and I think it took a lot of courage to take that leap. But the first time I heard one of our clients tell us how much they loved our product and how it changed their life, I knew that this was what I was meant to do.
What advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs?
There is no skill you can’t benefit from as an entrepreneur. I have been able to use the knowledge I gained in both my media experience as well as my culinary training. Most people stop themselves from moving forward with a great idea because they feel that they don’t have the skills needed, but you can always build on what you already have. It’s always better to take that leap than to sit back and watch others do it.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I love the startup space—specifically in food tech. I’d like to continue growing Saffron Fix into an international brand, and I would love to foster ideas that bring better food experiences to a wide audience. After all, food and cooking are our way of connecting not only to our soul but also to each other.
Click here to receive free information about ICE’s Culinary Arts program.