Marinating strength: How a Food Critic developed a Taste for Financial Planning

Problems of women entrepreneurs are like pandemics - just when you thought the worst was over, you get hit by the next wave. Then, the next. And the next. Until you are deluged by problems so overwhelming that you may decide life is just not worth it. This is the grim yet inspiring story of Vishakha Bhuta, an interior designer by profession, and a food critic and recipe developer by choice. Also a self-taught photographer and a travel lifestyle blogger and influencer, she owns a brand called 1TeaspoonLove. Vishakha pours her heart out in this free-wheeling chat with HerMoneyTalks.


Vishakha opens up tentatively. “I had moved back to Mumbai after 7 years of living in China with husband and son. After I came here, I had to live with in-laws and fit in. My husband was still in China and moved here only after 2 years.”


She had started her food tasting and recipe creation work. However, family and relatives did not understand her work. They instead thought she was wasting her time and money in eating out. They wanted her to stop her work and look after her son and household. Her husband, who was paying for her expenses, started questioning her on the lack of returns from her business. Perhaps he had his own point of view.


Vishakha had started experiencing the typical problems of women entrepreneurs. She started losing hope and interest. She developed depression and anxiety, and wanted to quit. But her passion for food and travel, and also the love of her fans and followers kept her going. She even worked for lower fees just to keep it going.


What turned things around


A very interesting incident occurred during Vishakha's second year of moving back to India. “One day I found a message from an Australian spice brand that they would want to work with me. It was quite shocking to be honest.”


There were so many like her out there, but the Australian company chose inexperienced Vishakha. But they trusted her and that was a total game changer. She found a lot more about herself, which she was unaware of. She realized that no business gives a huge turnover or profits instantly. It takes time.


One day I found a message from an Australian spice brand that they would want to work with me. It was quite shocking to be honest.


Soon her hard work, sacrifices, and dedication finally paid off. Once that happened, things changed, and situations changed. “People around me started understanding my work better. They became more supportive slowly and finally happy with the returns,” beams Vishakha, recalling those moments.


The pungent aftertaste of societal norms on women and money


Problems of women entrepreneurs do not stop at starting up troubles. While the battle of sexes has dropped quite a bit in recent years, Vishakha feels that doesn’t mean that women have it any easier when trying to start up their own business.


“Women are looked upon as someone to be in the house and not office. She isn't taken seriously! People think she's too emotional or not capable of it. She isn't raised to be a leader,” rues Vishakha.


Finance is yet another factor that puts her dream on hold. In our society, transfer of property is traditionally done to the male child. Women are deprived of access to finances that they have the immediate right to. Due to lack of collateral, they can't apply for loans. Thus, very few women might have properties or assets on their name. Even lack of access to networking and market is an obstacle to women.


Women are looked upon as someone to be in the house and not office. People think she's too emotional or not capable of it.


Starting up a new business is always challenging, no matter how old you are. Vishakha agrees: “I have been planning to rent or buy a work space for myself since a while now but due to lack of funds I'm unable to. Sometimes, savings are used up for personal things. Also, the income isn't stable. So definitely can't think of investing a lot at once in sometime which is not stable. It's easy to borrow money but paying it back with interest isn't.”


Some sage advice from a young, battle-scarred veteran


When it comes to problems of women entrepreneurs, following her dreams is one of them for Vishakha. She feels what they say about 'Do what you love and the money will follow' isn’t really true.


“When I started my career, I started as an interior designer. There was a lot of money in that profession. I would have been earning a lakh per month right now. But currently I'm following my passion and doing what I love. Well, it isn't even half that money right now,” she declares.


However, today she's very clear of what she wants to be in life, and is working towards it. Her advice to all women entrepreneurs looking for inspiration and guidance:


(1) Don't rely on someone else for your financial security. Educate yourself about money management and investing, and set goals.


(2) Be involved in the day-to-day management of your family's finances and talk about money with your spouse. Don't let the fear of losing money, fear of failure, or fear of the unknown stop you from investing.


(3) Don't use money to make yourself feel good. Instead, do things that promote self-respect and creativity. Spend less than you earn - it's the secret to creating wealth.


(4) Get an education. People with college degrees make more money on an average.


(5) Build an emergency fund.


Vishakha concludes: “Our society is filled with some amazing women entrepreneurs and each one has an inspiring story. Build your own story, your own empire, and find your name among those inspirational women. Whatever you do, be different!”