2013 Awardee: Geetha Jayaraman, Owner, Grab ‘em Snacks and Spoon & Sprout Café
Geetha Jayaraman came to New Jersey from Malaysia in 1988. At her home in Basking Ridge, Geetha often made plantain chips, which are a delicacy and popular Malaysian snack, for her family and friends.
In 2006, she turned her passion into a venture to market her delicious and healthy creations to the salty snack industry. The whole family was involved in the flavor creation and it took many attempts before the right balance of spices was achieved.
With growing demand, Geetha looked for a dedicated space to manufacture the chips. She found a commercial space that came with a retail front, and to meet the township requirements, she decided to open a vegetarian cafe. Although this was not the main focus, through word of mouth, the cafe started to grow.
From frying the chips to developing the menu, Geetha’s young sons Varun and Naveen were extremely involved from the very beginning. While still in high school, they assisted with business start up and planning, helped create the different flavor profiles, and attended festivals and tasting to pitch the product.
Now at Georgetown University and NYU law, Geetha’s sons come home every summer and help out in the restaurant. This business has survived and grown only with the faith and support of the whole family.
They are even involved in advocacy for the business together. Varun recently attended a conference in DC with his mom, and last month, Naveen wrote an op-ed about banking reform and the lack of financial assistance and loans to small businesses. Though the business has faced hurdles, Geetha has inspired and instilled a tireless sense of the entrepreneurial spirit in her sons. In fact, Varun started a company of his own while in college at Georgetown.
This award is sponsored by: