My lemonade one-year experience as a startup entrepreneur

My lemonade one-year experience as a startup entrepreneur


Shriya Khanna

Shriya Khanna

161 week ago — 10 min read

I was married to Unilever for almost a decade before entering the world of entrepreneurship. Becoming an entrepreneur was not a dream but a zeal that came out of my passion. I had read many stories about startups, and it always motivated me to see so many ideas that were brought to reality by enthusiastic minds.

Last year, I planted my idea and visualised it into a huge lemon tree bearing fruits and enjoyed by everyone. The idea was ‘MyKhaana’ that came during lockdown times when just like many people who stayed away from family, I saw myself into a needy situation of home cooked food especially when work from home was becoming the new normal. As time passed, I enjoyed every bit of cooking and my work life balance changed to work life blend.

Many of the startup founders would agree that conceptualising an idea is such a crucial step that it requires you to be fully convinced before you execute and sell the idea to the market. It is fun as well when early on you think of the essentials like brand name, website logo design, colour, style etc and then craft it into reality focusing on minute details.

My experience of the past one year speaks of my journey as a startup and taking pride in my startup when people notice you and your brand. My learning had only started and alongside my co-founder Satej, I started living my dream of having ‘something of my own’ which is today ‘MyKhaana’ that I live for. On a lighter note, do so see resemblance in Khaana and Khanna? Haha, it was in my name always. Found my purpose in life. 

Putting advice to practice

When you’re thinking about starting a company, any advice you can get from someone who’s been there before is like gold. But as time goes on, one realises that some of those tips are better—and more applicable to your business—than others. As my first learning that came from my co-founder who said, ‘you need to unlearn and relearn’ it made me reflect upon my decade old experience of corporate and how I grew in all these years and why it made sense what he said.

As a founder when you are building your product, you do everything, literally. So, I rolled up my sleeves and started to gather resources by putting them in place one by one. Long nights, hours and hours of conversations discussing plan of action – branding – research - logistics - packaging – finances etc made me feel excited every single day. Pandemic continued, I felt blessed to have the liberty of working from the comfort of home in a focused manner and set my routine each day chalking activities I wanted to complete. Ironically, while I was setting up a food business, I skipped my lunch / dinner or even ate late at times. Living by yourself is peaceful as well as stressful when it comes to managing everything especially when you want to do it perfectly – be it cooking for yourself or making a bed, making your notes or washing utensils at the end of the day. For me, this had become quite a routine and my second learning came from my independence. It taught me how to balance my living and made me even more strong. Never giving up and self-motivation can only come from oneself. May be this is what sets the ‘founders’ mindset. Starting a company is not a 100-metre sprint, but a marathon. A great idea doesn’t work if you don’t work hard. If you have the ‘chalta hai’ approach, you are only being dishonest to yourself.

Planning finances in unprecedented times

My family has been my biggest asset and as I planned my finances for the startup fueling, last one year was different. Afterall, money is one of the most important thing in life, and nobody will advise you how to plan that for your startup journey. In the times when everything looked uncertain, I was preparing myself for taking up risks – calculated ones. What were these risks? My job in hand that I knew I would quit one day, my savings that I knew had to be put into my venture, my career that would be a 360 degree change (I was an HR for a decade and I believed that I was only made to do HR corporate jobs). For the longest time in my life, I believed I was made for corporate. Haha! Look where am I today! I was an HR business partner and now a name partner running my own company.


Developing a 'let's find a way' mindeset

The gravity of a designation is realised when you see a full paradigm shift from working for someone else to working for yourself. Let me be honest, it made be even more accountable and responsible for my actions, for you do not have a line manager to support/coach if you fall. There were times when my health became a priority over everything else and I had risked myself into physical pains that came from a bad work routine. I was lucky that my co-founder, also a good friend, was able to see this and helped me overcome health challenges. I still recall my first call to a potential home chef whom I needed to convince to be a part of MyKhaana. The call went unanswered, I tried my luck with few more calls and those who answered, I had my script ready. Having 10-12 people to trust your convictions and be a part of your journey was altogether a big experience and good learning. Surprise is the rock under which a lesson is hidden. Surprise is when your mental model and reality does not match. Just as I thought it would be easy talking to people about being home-chef on our platform, it wasn’t! I had to design the entire programme for it to be luring, believable and myth breaking. Hence, when you face a surprise, it is not time to get upset and curse reality. It is a time to update your mental model and leverage it. This principle has worked for me. ‘Kaise nahi chalega? Let’s find a way’ mindset.


Run-up to launch

When I saw the MyKhaana app ready to go-live and a launch date was finalised by me and my co-founder, I was nervous, excited, overwhelmed and emotional. I told myself ‘This is it!’ Working closely with developers, searching for online tools, putting that extra effort in every bit of planning are all the ingredients that goes into your startup recipe. Vision is usually a narrative bias. It is like looking at a rear-view mirror and connecting the dots retrospectively. No vision has ever come true the way it was initially imagined. Stages of startup funding, how to go about investors, who is the competition, how to prepare the pitch deck, how to network, etc are open-eye learnings and it comes along with your experience. Nothing comes along easy but then what’s the fun if everything is easy?


Know what? A night before the launch I could not sleep. A pilot launch is as crucial as anything else you would do to succeed in business. The first order made me very emotional. App was functioning. There were real people placing orders and enjoying the food delivered. It was unbelievable in the beginning to know what we have created. Pilot was successful and just in couple of months we were ready to roll out the app across Bangalore. My belief in MyKhaana got even more stronger. My self-confidence elevated, and my commitment levels only strengthened like tree roots. But hey, everything seems like a miracle as I look back now. But back then, it looked so challenging and difficult to do. Only you know what you are doing and happiness of seeing it grow is just a testimony to your capability and wisdom.


The journey continues

By the way, I am still perfecting the art of conducting sessions for new home chefs who are not professionals but normal people like your mom or my mom, and while doing so, empathy and gratitude are the traits I have always carried within myself. My close ones know me how pompous and flamboyant I have been and now when they look at me spending times at warehouse, hustling on my two-wheeler doing some jugaad or even finding time for myself to be in touch with them, they understand me. With my two hands, I have been able to add so many hands that provide the same love and care through food as we are pampered at home. One year of Happy Food Technologies has taught me so many things and setting up a business virtually without having the need for anyone to step out of their homes to run the show, makes me super proud of myself. I am glad I took this decision, and it has come along well. I have made good bonds with my home chefs and networked with like-minded founders. I cannot thank God enough for giving me the strength and my parents who supported me in this journey. Regardless to say, it has been a tough and rough year for many of us in some or the other way, but resilience, patience, trust and hopes for better times will all add to your good luck.

This is my journey of one year of planting my lemon plant, watering it, seeing the buds grow into flowers and flowers turning into lemons. What do I do with these lemons? Lemonade.  

I am Shriya Khanna, 31, Co-founder & Director, Happy Food Technologies Pvt Ltd. I have never been a writer but just felt like penning down my thoughts and share this beautiful life experience with all of you. Stay safe, stay strong.


Also read: An unprecedented challenge, also an opportunity for SMEs to do unprecedented things


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Shriya Khanna

Living by the motto - Khushi se Khao, Khushi se Khilao!!