Sara and Partha left their jobs as IT professionals to pursue their dream of bringing great Indian food to fellow Americans.
About Flavor Temptations
Flavor Temptations is a Wisconsin based, woman-owned minority-owned small business founded by Sara Parthasarathy and Partha Sabniviss. As immigrants from India, their mission is to bring energy and joy to kitchens across the globe through exciting aromas, new flavors and the quality ingredients of our cultural cooking. Their organic spice combo kits and curry sauces teach customers how to easily cook up traditional delicious Indian recipes from scratch.
About Sara and Partha
Sara and Partha are IT professionals that worked and lived in India for the first half of their lives before immigrating to the United States to help with Y2K. After working in various leadership roles in corporate America, they quit their day jobs to pursue their dream of fulfilling Sara’s father’s vision and bringing great Indian food to fellow Americans. They currently live in Madison, Wisconsin – close to the Flavor Temptations’ offices.
BRIEFLY TALK ABOUT YOUR CAREER PATHS. HOW DID YOU END UP IN WISCONSIN? WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU STARTED FLAVOR TEMPTATIONS?
We were both working as IT professionals in India. On Christmas Day 1993, we, along with our 9-year-old son, landed in Pittsburgh to help companies update their computer systems in preparation for Y2K. Immigrating to the United States was a huge culture (and weather) shock for us. All that we had was our lifetime possessions stuffed into six suitcases, $3,000 in our pockets and stars in our eyes! We moved from 70-degree weather to negative temperatures without appropriate winter gear or any idea how to dress for winter. Furthermore, we didn’t have any friends in the city, just some family living in other states.
A year later, Partha’s contract brought him to work at a state project in Madison. We enrolled our son into a local middle school and decided to settle here. We got acclimated to the cold winters and learned to drive in the snow. Both of us continued working at our Madison-area corporate jobs. Shortly after our move to Wisconsin, our daughter was born here and later graduated from college in the state.
When our son left home for college, he wanted to cook Indian food and not just depend on frozen pizzas! I gave him a spice box with all the necessary spices and asked him to add a bit of each spice while cooking. He really struggled to figure out the right flavor profile and returned home to have me cook for him! That’s when I decided to ‘teach him to fish.’ I realized that to build the correct flavor profile, he needed to know the appropriate measures of spices and how to add them in the right order. We decided to arm him with spices and my mom’s traditional recipes, and that’s how Flavor Temptations spice kits were born!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT BEING WISCONSIN RESIDENTS? WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT OPERATING YOUR BUSINESS OUT OF WISCONSIN?
Beyond our great schools and health care facilities, Wisconsin has a great history that we love to explore. Last year we went to Door County and had a wonderful time visiting the museum and learning about our state. We want to continue learning more about the state after we retire. We are huge Packers fans too! And we love cheese!
Operating a business in Wisconsin has been very fulfilling. Our community appreciates and encourages everyone to ‘buy local.’ Doing business out of Wisconsin puts us in a position to be accepted across the Midwest, especially in states like Minnesota and Illinois. Wisconsin has some great mentorship programs for small businesses that we have been able to benefit from.
WHAT ABOUT WISCONSIN HAS KEPT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY IN THE STATE?
Weather-wise, we really love the changing seasons. The Madison community is so vibrant, diverse and welcoming. We have made numerous friends in the community. Our children went to local schools, colleges and then found jobs at local businesses. We have toyed with the idea of moving to another state, but ultimately, all roads have led to Madison.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH WEDC?
During COVID-19, we were awarded WEDC grants. These grants really helped us manage cash flow in 2020 and 2021 and grow into the business we are today.
WHAT WAS THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC LIKE FOR YOUR BUSINESS? HOW DID YOU PIVOT AND WAS IT SUCCESSFUL?
Our products come in two sizes – smaller consumer-sized versions and larger food service versions. Our consumer-sized version was sold in grocery stores throughout the Midwest. We were working with two distributors and had our products in more than 70 grocery stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We were very busy educating customers about our products through in-store demos and taste tests.
Our food service version was sold to hot bars and educational institutions. These products were served in more than 50 school districts across the country, and we were working more to bring new flavors to their menus.
The pandemic changed all of this. Our grocery store demos stopped and sales dropped drastically. In food service, school closings had a negative impact on sales. Food service teams were struggling to figure out how to handle the situation. We decided to pivot to online sales and put a focus on selling our consumer-sized products on Amazon. Fortunately for us, our revenue from online sales almost made up for the loss in grocery store and food service sales!
Post COVID-19, our strategy has shifted. We have decided to pull out of out-of-state grocery stores and distributors and focus primarily on online platforms. We have beefed up our website and have listed our products on other national online platforms like Walmart, Faire, etc. With schools reopening, we are beginning to see a renewed interest in our products and are re-establishing earlier relationships.
WHAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST ABOUT THE WISCONSIN BUSINESS CLIMATE GOING FORWARD?
We are very excited to see the many initiatives the state has taken to encourage new businesses. Creating the ambassador team is an example of the importance WEDC has placed on promoting Wisconsin as a place that is open for business. There are so many opportunities for business training, mentoring and funding to help Wisconsin businesses grow.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO SEE IMPROVE IN THE WISCONSIN BUSINESS CLIMATE GOING FORWARD?
We hope to see more resources and suppliers geared to serving small businesses. We purchase sauce jars, boxes, labels and packaging from Wisconsin based companies, and Wisconsin based co-packers manufacture our sauce products.