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Fired Up

A hot recipe and national distribution made sales sizzle for this sauce company.

Vital Stats>> Maya Kaimal and Guy Lawson, 41 and 43, respectively, of Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods

Company>> Woodstock, New York, manufacturer of all-natural, refrigerated Indian simmering sauces

2007 Projected Sales>> About $3 million

Out of Adversity>> Kaimal graduated from college with a degree in fine arts and became a magazine photo editor. However, upon returning from her honeymoon, she was laid off from her magazine job. She says, "It was a moment to choose whether to continue in the career I knew or do something I cared about."

Inspiring Ingredients>> With an American mother and an Indian father, Kaimal decided she wanted to create a business based on the dishes she grew up eating. Her physicist father had a very methodical approach to cooking, so he helped her work out the formulas for the recipes. Today, Maya Kaimal Fine Indian Foods offers five sauces and sells shelf-stable food items such as spices at Williams-Sonoma.

Stay Focused>> Kaimal launched the business with husband Lawson in October 2003, just before going on bed rest in December and then giving birth to twin girls in March 2004. Since then, she's learned to delegate. "It's key to know what you're good at and really focus your time and energy on that," she says. "It's a challenge to let go, but it's important." Today, she lets others handle the operational details so she can focus her efforts on product development.

Grass-Roots Approach>> Signing with a national distributor and getting placement in Whole Foods in 2004 were key elements in helping the company skyrocket from initial sales of $500,000 to last year's $1.8 million. But Kaimal is aware of the hazards of a company growing too fast. "Costco and Williams-Sonoma are two new big accounts," she notes. "But we're trying to make sure we don't rely too much on a few big accounts, and instead build a base of [independent] stores around the country."

Liz Hamburg helps entrepreneurs launch new businesses as the founder and president of Upstart Ventures. She can be heard on WOR radio (710AM in New York) on Launchpad, a weekly segment focusing on entrepreneurs and small business.

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This article was originally published in the May 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Fired Up.

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