As the Diwali season gets underway, all my protestations of ‘NO SUGAR’ have gone by the way side. There are sweet sugary treats offered at every stop for the Indian high holidays. LadyDrinks member Anita Ajmera showed up with a box full of Bengali sweets last week at the LadyDrinks Small Business Diwali Bazaar. She is this week’s featured member spotlight.
What is the history behind giving sweets at Diwali?
Diwali is probably the most well known of Indian holidays. Hindus, Jains and Sikhs celebrate it in the fall. In the religious context, it celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In the agricultural context, it’s a celebration of the seasonal harvest. To celebrate the season’s bounty, people buy and exchange sweets. Many people visit friends and family and take sweets with them as gifts. Some will send cards to loved ones who they cannot celebrate with in person and often attach a box of sweets.
You specialize in Bengali sweets. How are they different from sweets we see in any other store? What ingredients make them different?
Sweets from Bengal are legendary because its denizens are known for their sweet tooth! Sandesh is made of milk, paneer, almonds, pistachios, saffron, and cardamom. Rasgulla is made of homemade cottage cheese, rose water and saffron. Mishti doi is made of cream, yogurt, and sugar. The cream is boiled down, the sugar is caramelized, and the yogurt promotes the culture’s growth.
We make sweets only on-order. We work to ensure our products are fresh, low on sugar and preservative free by incorporating fresh fruit and natural flavors.
How did you found Madhuram Sweets?
I used to make desserts for my house parties. At one party in particular, a guest, taken by the taste and the presentation, asked me why I didn’t start my own desserts business. I said, “You must be kidding.” The following week, I was toting my sweets to a friend’s party as a gift. This time, we were at a restaurant. The restaurant owner started ordering from me weekly. Word of mouth got out and soon I was taking regular orders for sweet boxes for gifting purposes.
With folks on keto diets and vegan diets, how are you rising to the changing consumer demands during this busy sweets season?
Most of our desserts are gluten free. For this season, we have introduced few desserts that are vegan and sugar free.
What advice would you offer other women entrepreneurs?
My big idea to start a sweets store started with “You must be kidding?” And people still challenge me today. I welcome that challenge. I believe in my customers and I believe in myself.
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