Feeling less than inspired while working at a large company, Spoorthi and her good friend Anand Patel decided to launch Hidden Grounds in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as a way to own her own business and stretch her creativity. Six years later the duo now have five locations across New Jersey and a new concept called Simply Chai featuring the chai recipes they grew up with in India.
In addition to holding classes at Hidden Grounds where they teach aspiring coffee shop owners how to open their own cafes, they also donate 10% of their profits to the homeless community. Learn from Spoorthi what sustainability means to her and some lessons she's learned about being an entrepreneur.
Q: Tell us about Hidden Grounds and what makes it unique?
A: We are a specialty coffee shop focused on serving freshly roasted beans and unique chai recipes with an Indian twist. We also believe very much in being sustainable - we compost our grounds locally, we use biodegradable cups, lids, straws and boxes, and we provide a 10% off incentive for customers who bring their own cup as well! Overall we try and make conscious decisions in our business and everyday operations.
For us, running and owning a business is more than just a way to make ends meet - we want to make a difference, whether it is about making conscious decisions with our products, sourcing local and other women-led businesses, or empowering our employees. This is the challenge on how we can take these steps while we run our business.
Q. What does sustainability mean to you and your business?
A. To me it is about making conscious decisions about your daily choices. I always believe the small things count: Using reusable cups, throwing away less waste, reusing and recycling whenever possible. Overall, the environment needs to become more sustainable for it to exist, so making those conscious decisions adds to this end goal.
Owning a business is inherently owning responsibility on a larger scale. For our business, our goal is to make a minimal negative impact on the global and local environment, community, society, or economy. We consciously use biodegradable cups, straws and boxes so we can leave that much less of a footprint on society.
Q. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs interested in launching their own coffee shop or business?
To anybody who wants to open up their own coffee shop or business, I would just say that you are always and will be enough, despite your successes or failures. Whether 500 people purchase a product from you or 5, just know that you will never be defined by the success or failures you experience on this journey. It’s really about recognizing and appreciating that despite the rain, snow or just affordability, even if one person shows up to get your product, you’ve made it!