We had the good fortune of connecting with Mithra Narasimhan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mithra, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I am inspired by people who have the hope and spirit to make a positive impact on the world in whatever way they can, small or big. I look up to the people who use their energy to solve problems that they feel strongly about. There is ample reason for outrage in this world as we spend so much time online, consuming news from multiple sources. It is easy to feel hopeless and cynical about the future. Yet, I see people spending their time volunteering, creating, starting businesses, playing an active role in their local community to help each other. This energizes me, and inspires me to look at problems that are close to my heart and spend time working on solutions. This quote by author and speaker Colleen Patrick Goudreau, sums it up best, and are words I live by every day: “Every minute we spend being outraged is a minute we could spend being effective”.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Acajú Cashew Yogurt is a plant-based yogurt company founded in Houston, TX. After switching to a plant-based diet about 5 years ago, I struggled to find a good non-dairy yogurt. I was looking for a creamy and thick plain yogurt, and flavored yogurt that wasn’t overly sweet. Frustrated with the options sold in grocery stores, I created a cashew based yogurt that had a thick and creamy texture, was delicately sweetened and could be incorporated into various recipes like dips, smoothies, and creamy sauces. I’ve heard from customers over and over again, about how they had stopped eating yogurt simply because of the lack of good vegan yogurt options — until they found Acajú. This makes me proud, because I had the same problem, which led me to start Acajú and share it with the world. I’m happy to know that Acajú solves a problem and satisfies a need for consumers. Business-wise, when I first came up with the yogurt recipes, I started selling at Farmer’s markets in Houston and Austin. Before I did that, I had to ensure I had all the right permits and licenses to sell yogurt, and a commercial kitchen to make the product. As I sold products in these markets, I tweaked my recipe based on feedback I received from customers, and came up with yogurt flavors from their suggestions. I then started selling at several local cafes and coffee shops in Houston. Late last year, and starting this year, a number of local grocery stores in Houston started carrying Acajú. Each stage of growth presented its own challenges as I had to learn to scale up Production with new equipment and processes, and create a shelf stable product using only clean ingredients. When you run a business, several obstacles come your way and you are constantly problem solving or figuring out the best way to execute a task. The one takeaway or advice I have for anyone thinking about starting their own business is to NOT GIVE UP. You have to start out to understand how to make your product, scale up production, market your product, learn about your customer needs, and so on. Sometimes, you might just have to change some aspects of your product based on customer feedback, or production challenges. You have to have an open mind, and be nimble to make the necessary changes so your product sells successfully. In order to do all of this, you need to stay in the game and understand the market you are trying to serve, which might take a while for some businesses. Stay in the game! Learn as you go. Be persistent. Keep on chugging along. Do not give up.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There would be a lot of time spent enjoying food for sure. Here are the places I would take my friend: After walking a trail at Menil Park, we would walk to Field of Greens, a vegan restaurant with the healthiest options. Right next door to Field of Greens is one of my favorite places in Houston, The Path of Tea, which is a Japanese-styled tea shop with a selection of over 100 organic teas. After sipping on some tea, I would take my friend to the The Heights. The first stop would be to Kaboom Books, a used bookstore, where we will do some book browsing and relaxing in the gorgeous bookstore patio. Next, we will stop by at EQ Heights for some coffee, and of course, I will treat them to some Acajú available at the shop. Next, I will take them to Cascabel for dinner. Cascabel is a vegan Mexican restaurant. I will highly recommend my friend to try the nacho plate and quesadillas. Then, we will head to Awesome Bites for fabulous vegan ice cream and brownies. This is how we will end the day. I know, I’m such a good friend ;).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Brett Christoffel, Founder of All Yalls Foods Renee and Tommy Sonnen, Founders of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary Tara Fisher-Munoz and Terra Biddelman, Founders of The Wandering Vegan Market Dolly Vyas Ahuja, Speaker and filmmaker