Category: Spotlight (page 1 of 3)

Fly SkyHi With CEO Rama Poola

Everyone likes the idea of going on a spontaneous adventure but when flight and costs get in the way, the once great idea turns into just a dream. Seeing all of your “must-see bucket list destinations” just got a lot easier. Rama Poola, CEO of SkyHi is ready to turn your dream  into a reality by making it easy for you to claim seats on flights all over the world for one low monthly price. As a traveler himself, he knows that some of your best adventures are the ones that are done on a whim and he’s ready to help you make the best memories of your life!

Tell us about SkyHi.

SkyHi gives travelers a seamless, on demand way to claim empty seats on commercial airlines for a low monthly subscription fee. Members can see flights leaving within the week, flying to destinations up to 1500 miles from their current location. Flights are one-way and a user can only hold one ticket at a time. SkyHi is creating a new way of thinking about travel by providing freedom and spontaneity for everyone. Our clientele is young professionals with job flexibility and some disposable income. Freelancers, creatives, gap year students, and even early stage startups can benefit from a service like ours. The first time I booked through  SkyHi, the process took 30 seconds from not knowing where I wanted to go, to having a ticket in my email. This is a huge win, since making travel plans usually takes me hours before I book a flight on traditional OTAs (online tour operators).

What experience did you encounter that helped you create SkyHi?

I came up with the idea for SkyHi on a trip back from Berlin. I was at the Tegel airport and met a few backpackers who didn’t have a ticket to anywhere specific, yet. They were waiting for a flight that went under 50 euro, going to any of the cities they had on their travel list. They ended up going to Lisbon, Portugal. I got on my plane back to New York and was frustrated to see that it was fairly empty. The inefficiency bothered me and I thought to myself, if the price was low enough, would those backpackers have flown to New York on a whim? I drew up the business model and software architecture on a few napkins, pitched it to my now co-founder the next day, and quit my job the day after that.

How does SkyHi differ from other flight booking apps?

I have yet to come across a flight booking app that has a good user experience. The apps are cluttered, confusing, and not intuitive for a traveler like me. Myself, as well as pretty much every traveler I talk to, constantly change settings/filters to try to get a ticket that is exactly the right price. It takes too much time and is frustrating. SkyHi is dead simple. See places you can travel to in the upcoming week, pick a flight and claim your seat. Every flight costs the same amount of money. All you are thinking of is where and when you want to fly. Flights are one-way only and last minute, so it really is on demand flight travel.

SkyHi went through rebranding at one point. What were the struggles you encountered during rebranding and how has this helped the brand?  

We had to rebrand in the beginning of the year, and at the time it was the last thing we wanted to do. We were heads down building the app, talking to potential partners, along with a whole slew of unknown questions we were trying to answer. The main struggle we had was how do we look at the brand with a fresh set of eyes. We had been operating under our previous name and had become emotionally attached to it. Once we could let go of that, look at the audience we had created, and start to do branding exercises to determine our brand direction, the rebranding effort became really enjoyable.

If you could start over creating SkyHi, what you would you do differently?

Great question. This question is  a bit hard for me to answer. I’m one of those believers in the universe guiding me along my path. I’ve learned things about the travel industry well into developing SkyHi that could have been useful and saved us time and money. However, if I knew all those things up front, I may have never started SkyHi. I may have become overwhelmed by the hurdles. I’m grateful that we’ve hit hurdles one at a time along the way, allowing us to be thoughtful in how we make forward progress without being overwhelmed. I’d say the one thing that would have helped in hindsight is building deeper relationships with travel industry experts earlier.

What do you find to be most challenging about running a company, specifically in the travel space?

I think the biggest challenge is that the industry is very resistant to change. I see so many inefficiencies, but it’s hard to even begin to improve them. Outdated technology and an unwillingness to shift from old ways of doing things makes the industry stagnant and difficult to innovate in. We’ve run into walls regarding regulations, integration with old technology, and have had conversations that ended with, “we know it’s not ideal, but we’ve been doing it for so long.” As someone who has consistently built innovative products, this was both challenging to my personal psyche as well as challenging to navigate as an innovative startup.

How has working in the music industry at SFX Entertainment and Beatport prepare you for life as a CEO?

At my time and SFX/Beatport, I was thrown into handling situations that felt way out of my depth, but just kept trying my best and really grew a lot from the experience. I got to help integrate two very different technology groups into one cohesive team. I got to help craft a reduction in force strategy that was fair. I got to think of large scale problems in the music industry and think of solutions. I got to be a part of hiring practically every new member of the technology team. Overall, what I really learned was how to properly grow a team of talented people while holding and sharing the overall vision. So, in short, it was the exact preparation I needed to become a CEO.

During your time at Arc90 you led the startup Readability. What hurdles were you able to foresee and avoid due to this experience?

Readability was one of the more difficult products I led. Mainly because I was still so green to having so much responsibility. Readability was a small team with a small budget and a short timeframe to launch. The team was talented and all had strong personalities. At times, I felt that I didn’t have enough to offer and was often indecisive when it came to important decisions. What I learned from that experience was how NOT to be an effective leader. In the products I led after Readability, I was more cognizant of how to effectively motivate team members, how to hire properly, and how to be decisive. I carry all that experience now as the CEO of SkyHi. We have been able to build a team that works well together and have been able to take a product to launch in a notoriously difficult industry in roughly 18 months.

Do you have any mentors or people who have deeply influenced you to become the entrepreneur you are today?

Many of my mentors are family members I’m first generation Indian-American. My parents and immediate family immigrated here with nothing and have all had incredibly successful careers. I’d say the most influential person I have in my life is my older brother. He paved the way for me as a kid, supported my crazy endeavors, believed in me, and instilled me with a positive outlook on life. He’s also been incredibly adventurous with his life direction. He’s currently living in Berlin with his wife and baby daughter while attending wine school in London. Just three years ago he knew very little about wine and now is writing for one of the most prestigious wine publications and being flown to vineyards around Europe. He constantly reminds me that I’m capable and deserving of doing what makes me happy.

If you were going to book a flight using SkyHi today, where would you go and why?

The first place I want to go to is Montreal. The food, architecture, art, and culture really appeals to me. I’m also a bit of a Francophile, so anything that’s French influenced draws me in. As close as it is to NYC, I haven’t been to Montreal since I was a child.

What are some of the main goals you most want to accomplish in your professional career?

Around the same time, I was starting SkyHi, I was exploring the possibility of starting a company to help the tech community in Kenya. Over the past few years, I have been following the tech community there and have really been drawn to how they are solving hyper local problems. I was hoping to start a consulting company to help early stage startups with mentorship, software architecture help, and any other services they would need to get their ideas launched. I traveled out there in January 2016, but ultimately decided that it was not the right time to pursue. At some point in my career, I want to share my expertise to help product creators solve community needs.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I LOVE to dance! My close friends know this, but most people don’t. When I was a lead at Beatport, I decided to take DJ lessons to better understand our user base. I learned then, that I loved DJing and dancing. I now DJ around New York City and go dancing several times a week. The dance floor is one of the few places where I can be truly present.

What key piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to create their first app?

If your gut tells you that you have a good idea, listen to it and start building. You’re never going to have all the answers to determine if it is the right idea or exactly the right time. There were so many things we learned along the way that if we had known up front may have prevented us from ever starting SkyHi. We hit so many walls, but we were resilient and found ways through them. For me, it’s been the growth along the way that has been the most rewarding.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

You’re obviously interested in travel since you’re part of the TWIP community. I’d say, for me, the experiences I’ve had on the countless travels in my life have fundamentally shaped me to be a better human being. I have learned so much from other cultures and people. I’ve seen things that are awe inspiring. I’ve been on spontaneous adventures that have become some of my favorite moments in life. Travel has made me more compassionate, more patient, more adventurous, more understanding, more confident and happier. When I think back on my life so far, it’s all those experiences that fill me with joy. So, keep getting your passport stamped and exploring. You’ll be better for it.

More facts about Rama:
De-Stress Technique: Dancing, running and meditation
Latest Gadget: Native Instruments Traktor F1
Favorite App: Instagram forever
Favorite Travel Brand: Airbnb
Next Vacation Destination: Thailand

Get Your Passport to Adventure With Nicholas Woodhams, Founder of Adventure Pass

Renting sport equipment can be a hassle and expensive. Your only other option would be to bring your own equipment, but who wants to bring a surfboard or a bike on a plane? Nicholas Woodhams, Founder of Adventure Pass, faced that same issue. Luckily, we now have a better option. He set out to create an alternate way that gets you affordable rental equipment without the hassle of lugging it around from place to place, and fits in your back pocket! As Nicholas would say, Adventure Pass is your passport to adventure by providing member-only discounts on gear around the world. As a member of the British army, he’s no stranger to adventure that awaits around every corner and has now made it easily accessible to everyone.

What is Adventure Pass?

An Adventure Pass gets you discounts from 25 -100 percent on sports equipment rental and tuition around the world for an annual fee. You can buy it online or at one of our partner rental shops. Having these discounts at your fingertips helps to turn your travels into adventures.

How is Adventure Pass different from owning or renting sporting equipment?

If you own equipment you and want to travel you will have to pay most airlines to carry it for you. Then you have the hassle of transporting your gear from the airport to your hotel. However, with our passes it’s a lot cheaper to simply forgo those hassles and costs and rent in all the places you are traveling.

Where did the idea of Adventure pass come about?

It was two things really. I toured Iraq and Afghanistan with the  British army and I would be given a large amount of leave. I always took off kitesurfing for 5-6 weeks and was very bored of dragging all my gear around the place but rental costs were prohibitively high for that length of time. Secondly, we’re lucky in the army to be given lots of adventurous training for free. The idea is you push soldiers out of their comfort zone so they understand how to deal with fear. I think this is great for personal development whether you’re a soldier or not. So, I set out to make trying adventurous sports cheaper for everyone not just the wealthy and military. I realized if I could get the buying power of a lot people like me and partner with outward bound charities I would be able to arrange sizable discounts on gear rental.

Adventure Pass is launching in September 2017. Who will be the first travelers that are eligible to get this card?

The first people to receive our club pass, which is our 25 percent discount pass, will be disabled and disadvantaged children in the UK who have completed one of the outward-bound courses that our amazing charity partners run. We have four other cards too. Three sport specific passes (green for mountain biking, blue for watersports & silver for snow sports) they give holders free rental for a year of all the equipment specific to those sports. They are aimed at people who have recently taken up a sport and want to try different gear out. Finally, we have the Premier Pass which gets you free rental of all gear and that’s aimed at the long-term travelers, people taking gap years, sabbaticals, career breaks, etc.

Currently, Adventure Pass is in tech development. What has been the biggest hurdle and how was it overcome?

It’s foolish to build tech before you have customers, I think you have find your customers and work out what they need then try and find tech that can deliver and match it to the information you want to get. So, the biggest hurdle is trying not build something because you’re itching to and you know it’s much easier to sell something that exists.

How does the app and website assist with Adventure Pass?

It’s a great interface, it tells you where your nearest shop is, what other users think of that shop, lets you book your gear in advance and look at your history. Also allows you to review the gear you’ve hired and send that feedback to equipment manufacturers. In the future you’ll get snow reports, wave reports weather reports and maps.

You have also been a Business Development Adviser for Advntur and Co-Founder of KiteShare.org. How has these businesses help prepare you for Adventure Pass?

All those businesses were in the same industry and in their own way were solving the same issue, which is that action sports equipment is expensive to buy, expensive to travel with and expensive to rent. Going through the process of customer acquisition taught me about getting the lowest barrier to entry and about making sure you have a singular, clear message/vision for your customers to get behind.

How was the experience being the British army and how has it made you into the traveler you are today?

With the Army, I traveled a lot and saw parts of the world you simply can’t go to. Some of these places are breathtakingly beautiful with the most wonderful warm hearted people trying to eke out very basic lives. I wish we could all visit them because we would not be so quick to advocate violet action against them. So, I travel now because I think that, as Mark Twain said “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

What are some of the main goals you most want to accomplish in professional career?

The big one is to grow a company that does some good in the world. To get there I’d like to use the leadership skills I gained in the military to grow a strong, happy, inspired team that can execute that goal.

When you are having a stressful day at the office, how do you like to unwind?

If I’m in California, I’ll go surfing. If I’m back in Scotland, I’ll go Kitesurfing or catch a film. I love the escapism of a cinema.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I speak a dialect of Farsi called Dari.

More about Nicholas:

Personal Mantra: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
De-Stress Technique: Imagining myself back on a beach in Egypt with my younger self next to me telling me it’ll be OK.
Latest Gadget: Thin collapsible USB wall plug.
Favorite App: Skyscanner
Favorite Travel Brand: The Adventurists
Next Vacation Destination: Oman

Share a Drink With Founder and CEO of All Beauty Water, Camille Varlet

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We all know how hard drinking eight glasses of water per day can be, especially when you’re traveling. Often times you can be left feeling dehydrated and with major jetlag. Camille Varlet, Founder and CEO of All Beauty Water, set out to create water that not only tastes great, but to encourage people to hydrate while giving your skin essential vitamins and nutrients. With their delicious and unique flavors such as Strawberry Acai and Cucumber Aloe, All Beauty Water won the Gentleman Jack Pitch Distilled Competition in May 2016 and pitched to CNBC’s The Power Pitch this past October. You can purchase All Beauty Water online at Amazon and Jet.com to help you keep hydrated and nourished for your next travel adventure.

How did you come up with the idea of All Beauty Water and who are your ideal consumers?

I got the idea for All Beauty Water when I was in B-school. I noticed my friends were talking about seeing signs of aging. They were only exchanging topical or cosmetic beauty secrets, and their favorite products, yet they were drinking diet soda!  This was a real disconnect for me. I wanted to bring healthy lifestyle into the dialog and change the beauty conversation.

Through research I learned many people are not drinking enough water because they either don’t like the taste or find it boring. Many skin experts continue to talk about how many molecules in skincare products are too large to penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin.  Hydrating and nourishing from within is critical to skin health.

This information was my inspiration: to create a great tasting water with skin benefits, and encourage people to hydrate and nourish their skin from within.

Each bottle of All Beauty Water is a great way of drinking two glasses of water, with eight skin vitamins and seven additional skin nutrients, zero sugar / zero calories and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors or preservatives. Comes in three refreshing flavors.

How has working at L’Oreal and Dennon prepared you for the beauty industry?

Working for relevant companies before launching my own brand made a big difference as it served as an invaluable education into CPG, product development, marketing, sales, promotions, packaging, etc. I would say working for both L’Oreal and Dannon was key preparation for me to launch a beauty food brand as I was able to get both food and beauty category experience before combining the two into one brand. Had I not worked at these companies All Beauty would likely taste and look much different, and I would have made many costly mistakes along the way.  I honestly don’t know if I would have launched All Beauty Water had I not had previous brand management experience in these categories.

How do you decide on Beauty Water’s flavors? Have there been any flavors that didn’t make the cut? Are there any new flavors that we can keep an eye out for?

We did multiple tasting before deciding on these three flavors. Initially we had consumer groups taste five. The top three are what we have in the market today.  You should definitely be on the lookout for more flavors. We are targeting to launch one to two new products for next year.

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What hurdles did you encounter while creating All Beauty Water and how did you find your solutions?

Every step of the way has been a hurdle.  Starting from formulation.  I found a beverage lab that helped us create the formula, but early on they were not sure we could get the great taste without sugar or artificial sweetener. I didn’t want either in the product, so had to really push for this and we did it.  

Second, finding a co-packer to run my product on a production line and would do small minimums without annual guarantees. Through my network, and asking everyone I could, I finally found one.

Third was distribution. I walked into stores locally and got GMs or buyers to give our brand a chance. I didn’t have a distributor when I launched so I had to carry cases of water into the stores myself. Those are glamorous days but it had to be done to gain points of sale, and get to where I could bring on a distributor to take on this part of the business.

Lastly, the financing. Financing is a constant hurdle and we are always working on that. I could go on all day, but I think these are the main challenges.

Who has been your role model and an inspiration to your success?

My father has always been my role model. I know that’s cheesy to say but it’s true! He is a great businessman and an amazing person.

What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far that you are most proud of?

I’m proud of the many things we’ve accomplished so far with All Beauty Water, including starting to work with our first distributors this year and launching in our first chain account across four states.  We won the Gentleman Jack Pitch Distilled Competition in NY earlier this year and are in the finals for the Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream Pitch competition.

Where can someone purchase All Beauty Water?

We are in Shaw’s Grocery Stores across the northeast. Additionally we are sold online: Amazon and Jet.com. You can also find us in limited distribution in NYC in independent natural grocery stores. More locations to come very soon. Check our website for the locations.

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Why would you suggest All Beauty Water the perfect product for traveling?

All Beauty Water is formulated to help hydrate and nourish skin, two very common concerns, and complaints, people have about their skin while traveling. Each bottle of All Beauty Water is two glasses of water, eight skin vitamins and seven additional skin nutrients.

What would someone be surprised to know about you?

I am a very picky eater and I don’t eat cheese though I’m half French, half Italian. I get made fun of a lot for that!

What do you like to do on your downtime when you aren’t running a company?

Friends, working out and the arts keep me sane. I see my friends every week, I work out 4-5 times a week and I try to go to the theater or listen to live music as often as I can. I love to read. I was a literature major in college.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start their own company but don’t know where to start, especially in the food or beauty industry?

Getting prior experience in the industry by working for an established company is very useful. You’ll learn a lot and make fewer mistakes when you launch your own company.  Get feedback on your idea. When you start working on your product/service. Establish a support/advisory group who can help you problem solve, give you advice and help you when you get stuck. Also, make sure you love and truly believe in what you are doing, because it’s a long and bumpy journey.

Is there anything else about All Beauty Water you would like the readers to know?

All Beauty Water is not just for women. Men can drink it as well! I get asked this question a lot.  Men have skin too and should feel free to enjoy All Beauty Water.

More about Camille:

Personal Mantra: Actions speak louder than words.
De-Stress Technique: Working out
Latest Gadget: Not a big gadget person.
Favorite App: Google Maps. I don’t have the best sense of direction.
Next Vacation Destination: Madrid, Spain

Find a Solution to a Common Travel Problem With Loopit’s Founder Vanessa Chan

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As the Founder and Chief Designer at re.design, Vanessa Chan has always been trying to find solutions to life’s problems. Having her Ph.D. from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering, and previously worked as an engineer and consultant, finding these solutions is Vanessa’s specialty. Loopit was no exception. Loopit is the first product from re.design that solves one of Vanessa’s tricky problems; making her earbuds easily accessible and untangled. Vanessa is always on the lookout for new problems she can solve and we cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

What experience did you encounter that helped you create LoopIt?

When I was in the corporate world, I was on the phone 12-14 hours a day.  I was very frustrated before every call because I had to fish around in my handbag for my headphones. Untangling my earbuds was an epic feat. Everywhere I went, I saw people struggling with knotty headphones.  

I’m an avid tinkerer. I like to make jewelry, knit, do woodwork and metalwork, make pottery, sew, knit and bake insane cakes with my girls. Using those creative and tinkering skills, I decided to try to solve this tangled problem I had. My first loopit prototype was just some mechanical clips to prevent knots but didn’t solve the other problem I had which was digging in my handbag looking for my earbuds.  I wished there was something stylish I could wear as a necklace. So I started playing around with decorating my headphones and after multiple prototypes, the chain design for loopit was born. I was inspired by the timeless design of Chanel. I loved how the chain was so versatile and could be worn with any look.

As an MIT trained engineer, I wanted a super simple solution.  As a former partner at McKinsey & Company, I needed to make a solution that was stylish.  As a busy working mom, I needed to make sure it was easy to use.  With these three hats on, loopit was born.  

LoopIt is a product of re.design. What is the idea behind re.design?

We believe that life doesn’t need to be filled with day-to-day frustrations. Our mission is to re.design every day products with a simple twist that will solve everyone’s daily gripes.

Why would LoopIt be the perfect travel accessory?

I designed loopit with the on-the-go traveler in mind. All of our designs are TSA security friendly. You can wear yours as a necklace through airport security and they won’t set off the alarms. That means there’s one less thing to put in the gray bin when you go through security. Also, when you’re sitting in your tight airplane, car or train seat, you don’t need to fumble in your bag or pocket for your headphones. Simply pull and the magnetic clasp will unlock, and you can use your headphones wherever and whenever you want. When it’s time to deplane, simply create the magnetic clasp, drape them around your neck as a necklace and you are ready to go.

Also unlike other products out there, you don’t need to charge them, like Bluetooth headsets. You don’t need to spend a lot of time winding them around something to prevent tangles and you can stylishly wear them as an easily accessible necklace.

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Are there other products TWIPPERS should keep an eye out for from re.design?

I keep a running log of “gripes” and now that re.design has launched, people tell me all about their gripes.  In fact, you can go to our webpage and submit your own gripes. I use this as a source of inspiration. There are quite a few travel gripes in the prototyping phase so be on the lookout for some new products on the horizon.

You volunteer your time with many organizations like Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Free Library of Philadelphia. What do you find to be most rewarding about working with organizations like these?

The Free Library of Philadelphia right now is launching their Business Resource Innovation Center (BRIC), whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses. It’s great to be a part of a program that’s looking to scale and support growth in the Philadelphia community. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy has been a thrill by working with K-12 children on their entrepreneurial endeavours. Children are so open minded and don’t see the traditional barriers adults see, which is very inspiring as an entrepreneur.  In fact, helping SCH launch their Venture Incubator for children and seeing my then eight year old daughter bring her concept to life, convinced me that I could take my ideas to market.  My daughters who are now 7 and 10, are my biggest advisors and part of my reason for taking the entrepreneurial plunge.

How do you feel having your Doctorate in Philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has helped you?

My Ph.D. was focused on inventing a new way to create ceramic nanostructures from polymers. I was an experimentalist who was constantly tinkering and using my hands to engineer the next step in my experiments. This eye to solving physical problems has been at the core of re.design and my “MacGyver” approach (as my husband puts it). Physical problems is something I have become adept to. My children always come to me when something is broken since I can usually engineer a way to fix it.  I also think the test and learn approach experimentalists naturally take is critical for entrepreneurs. In my mind there really isn’t the concept of failure. You try something, you get a result (it may not be the result you expected or hoped for), you learn from it and take the next step. Negative results do not equate to failure and having that mindset is important because entrepreneurs by definition are breaking new ground so you can’t get hung up with negative results.

What has been your greatest achievement and challenge you encountered with Loopit?

My greatest achievement was coming up with an idea, leaving the corporate world and launching my product in less than a year.  This experience has been thrilling knowing that people love my product, especially the sound quality, and customers using them every day.

My greatest challenge has been getting over the “perfectionist” mindset people have when they’re in the corporate world.  We come from a generation of insecure overachievers. We all strive for the perfect SAT, the top colleges, and the prestigious job, so to be comfortable that everything may not be perfect was something I was not focused on in my career.  This was a mental challenge for me to pivot from a  perfectionist mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset.

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Who has been the biggest role model for you throughout your career?

I’ve changed a lot in the past 20 years, so different people have inspired me throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint the one person. Of late, my biggest role models are those who publicly talk about their “failures” because I think for the U.S. to thrive, we need to get over this perfectionist mindset. The people that come to mind for me are Chelsea Handler, Meg Whitman, Steve Jobs, James Dyson, and Mark Cuban. These people are honest about having “failed,” how it hurt but ultimately how they picked themselves up to go to the next thing. None of us are perfect and I love how open they are about the trying times they had to overcome.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice that would help you today, what would it be?

Take more risks! I am someone who is risk averse, which at times has slowed me down. I would love to tell myself to not overanalyze things, but as a trained engineer that can be hard to do at times.

Is there anything else that our readers should know about LoopIt?

Through this journey, I’ve found that earphones are very personal purchases and people are very hesitant to buy from an unknown brand. However, as an MIT engineer, I made sure the sound quality was amazing and the feedback we’ve received about the sound quality has been incredible. You also spend 3.5 days of your life untangling headphones, so for just a few dollars you can get this time back with our patent pending magnetic clasping mechanism. I also have designs for men, women and we launched a sport/teen Loopit in September.

For all Twippers, please use promo code TWIP at re.design and you can get 20% off your next order of Loopits!

 

More about Vanessa:

Personal Mantra:  Always find a reason to smile and laugh.
De-Stress Technique: Getting advice from my kids.
Latest Gadget:  Loopit!
Favorite Travel Brand: Re.design
Next Vacation Destination: Scuba Diving – place TBD but open to suggestions!

 

Taste the World with Spice Madam’s Co-founder and Chief Spice Madam Kim Simithraaratchy

Kim Simithraaratchy has co-founded Spice Madam to connect people through good food and the sharing of culture across all borders. By working as a technology consultant, she was able to perfect her skills in problem solving and creating an online presence from day one. From delivering the flavors of the world to your kitchen table to giving back to Cafe Momentum, a Dallas-based restaurant and culinary training facility that transforms the lives of our most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities, Kim has made an impact in people’s lives with her passion for food. With her sights focused on international consumers in the near future, Spice Madam plans on expanding her reach so other cultures to get a deeper understanding of other countries around the world through their palate.

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Tell us about Spice Madam.

Spice Madam is a privately-held, global lifestyle brand dedicated to bringing people together through food. We believe cooking and sharing meals is the most powerful platform for communication, connection and community. Spice Madam curates subscription spice kits featuring a different country’s cuisine every month, conveniently delivered to member’s doorsteps on a monthly basis nationwide.  Each kit includes the featured country’s key spices, recipes, cultural information and a music playlist with representative music from that country. My friend Meghana Moya, a fellow foodie and world traveler, and I co-founded Spice Madam over dinner where Meghana brought up the idea for the subscription spice business model. I loved it immediately and came up with the name Spice Madam that night.  Spice Madam’s target market is anyone who likes to cook, travel and explore other cultures.

How has working as a Computer Engineer and Technology Consultant prepared you for your role with Spice Madam?

At the end of the day, my work as a technology consultant was about helping companies solve difficult problems. Having worked across many client industries, I am very confident in facing any new problems with an analytical and solution-oriented mindset no matter the context.  As an online business, establishing a presence on the Web is critical.  I was able to quickly set up a site capable of taking orders and conveying our value proposition.  As our needs outgrew our initial hosting platform, I migrated our site to another platform to streamline payment processing and maintenance. My 13 years of technology experience allowed us to get moving quickly without worrying about hiring the right person to help us.

What has be the biggest hurdle transitioning from the technology space to the food industry?

I’ve been involved in the food industry for a long time as an avid consumer, but also in running a cooking blog and producing cooking videos in my spare time. The biggest change in moving over from the technology space has been that I now get to dedicate all of my time to something I am very passionate about. The hardest part is moving from being a part of a company with an established structure and process to owning and directing a brand-new enterprise from the ground up. Through it all, I am continuing to learn and grow in all new directions, and that is the best part of it for me!

What is your proudest accomplishment since the launch of Spice Madam?

Meghana and I came up with the concept for a Travel Spice Kit while on a plane as we returned from a spice research trip in New Orleans and were able to turn it around to launch in five days. We feel pretty proud of that ability to be innovative and nimble as a business!

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What was the biggest obstacle while creating Spice Madam and how did you overcome this hurdle?

The biggest obstacle we faced in launching Spice Madam was making the time to get all the necessary elements of the business organized while holding very demanding full-time jobs. When we agreed to pursue Spice Madam together as business partners, we committed to meeting once a week to dedicate time to plan the launch.  Our drive to stay the course enabled us to successfully launch Spice Madam one year after we began our weekly meetings.

What are the benefits of working with your business partner Meghana?

As business partners, we are very aligned in our vision of Spice Madam’s mission and core values.  This has made the decision-making process very easy since everything we do must support our shared vision for Spice Madam or we just don’t do it.  We complement each other very well as one of Meghana’s strengths is her experience working in marketing, finance, and operations at a private equity backed consumer products company and in technology at a leading Fortune 500 company.   We both recognize that it’s always great to have two perspectives on an issue and through open communication we arrive at solutions together that abide by our brand’s mission and values.  We feed off each other’s energy and passion for what we do and our team’s results benefit from our combined ideas and perspectives.

When a customer receives their box, what would they expect inside?

Each box contains 3-5 spices and 4-6 recipes from the featured destination. You also get a playlist of music from there to set the mood while you are cooking, as well as fun travel tips and cultural facts to give you some context around the food you’ll be cooking and enjoying at the dinner table.

How do you choose which spices you are going to have in your box?

Each month, we go through a process of research on the cuisine of the featured destination. We also bring in our own firsthand experiences from worldwide travel and our international network to ensure we are getting to the heart of the culture. We select recipes and then decide which spices to feature in our curated spice kit.  We test all the recipes in the Spice Madam test kitchen to ensure they are doable in the average home kitchen, and we also devise substitutions for members to prepare gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan versions of our recipes to suit their lifestyles.

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What are your favorite spices, recipes and why?

Ginger is one of my favorite spices because I love the spiciness and flavor it adds to so many dishes. In addition, it has lots of anti-inflammatory properties that make it really healthy and healing for you.

A favorite ginger recipe would be Vietnamese caramelized pork, where tender pork chunks are braised in a sweet and savory ginger, coconut juice sauce. It’s the comfort food of my childhood!

What is one of your most favorite customer reactions to receiving their box and making the recipes?

One customer shared that he gets together with his dad to cook every month with Spice Madam Spice Kits. I love that we can help bring people together through food.

What is one thing about spices that most people do not know?

Spices have many healthy properties and have been used in eastern medicine for various purposes. In recent years, science and western medicine have started proving what has been known in practices such as Ayurveda for over two millennia.

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Where would you like to see Spice Madam in the next five years?

We are working for Spice Madam to be recognized as the easiest way to bring global cuisine to homes worldwide and for bringing people together through food. We have gotten requests for Spice Madam from Brazil and Italy, among other countries, and are working to ship internationally within the next three to five years.  

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

One of the core values of Spice Madam is to give back to the community. A portion of the proceeds of each box is donated to a nonprofit that supports children and education. Currently, we donate to Cafe Momentum, an organization that provides life skills training and mentorship for at risk teens in a gourmet restaurant kitchen setting. They’re doing amazing work!

Use the code TWIP20 for 20% off your first box!

More facts about Kim:

Personal Mantra: “Let’s Go!”
De-Stress Technique: Dancing and Yoga
Latest Gadget: Travel Spice Kit
Favorite App: Slack
Next Vacation Destination: New York and Bali

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