Failing Up – Lessons Learned from Failure

Failing Up – Lessons Learned from Failure

Tanya Chakravarty, Executive Director – Community Food Connections and the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market

Written by Shahid Meighan

After serving her country in the military, Tanya Chakravarty knew she had one dream that she wanted to pour her all into: becoming an entrepreneur and owning her own business. 

“I only knew one thing, that at one point I wanted to own my own business. That’s it. The end. I’m gonna own my own business, no idea what it is, no idea what I’m doing. But I am an entrepreneur. And I’m going to do it.”

And Chakravarty did; she eventually opened her own catering company and had a number of food trucks that she owned and operated. However, after a couple of years of achieving her dream, she soon realized that she was failing and that her businesses weren’t sustainable in the long run. Chakravarty said that she felt downhearted after having to close her businesses.

“And at the time, I was really depressed, I was miserable about this concept of not doing the one thing that I really absolutely totally and 100% wanted to do.”

Now, years later, she is grateful that she did fail and has shifted her perspective to appreciating the mistakes that she made in her entrepreneurial journey. 

“And now I look back and I go, Wow! I’m so glad I messed up, I’m so glad I failed, I learned so much. And I will never make those mistakes again. But someday, I will own my own business again. And until that moment happens, I’m going to do everything possible to help every single business owner that wants help, to not make mistakes that I made. To be better and be able to achieve their dreams and be successful at their business.”

This is the beauty of being part of the downtown Phoenix farmers market. I have 90 plus small businesses. And I have small farmers that all work together with me, in order to make this Farmers Market a success.”

Chakravarty channels her experience and past lessons in entrepreneurship into helping local vendors and business owners at the downtown Phoenix Farmers’ Market. As the Executive Director, Chakravarty collaborates and works with over 90 small businesses in achieving their goals and making an impact in the community. Chakravarty is dedicated to mentoring business owners on their own journey and making sure they do not make the same mistakes that she made years ago when she was just starting out as an entrepreneur. Some of the common mistakes Chakravarty said she sees are business owners neglecting to pay themselves while making themselves “indispensable”, which can cause problems in the future should they become ill, for example, and unable to manage the business themselves. 

“When you’re doing your numbers and you’re thinking about where your numbers are, you need to actually pay yourself. And a lot of business owners that I run into, don’t pay themselves. It’s not because they don’t see the value of their work. It’s because they see that this is one cost that they can easily cut. And if they cut down on cost, then they can pass that savings on to their customers. The problem with that thinking is you can never take a day off, you can never take a break.” Chakravarty encouraged entrepreneurs to pay themselves so that they know how much it costs should they be unable to manage the business. 

Next, continuing to take from her own experience and shortcomings, Chakravarty advises vendors at the Farmers’ Market to account for all costs when it comes to operating their businesses, and make sure they leave room to make adjustments. 

“Mistake number two was not accurately accounting all of my costs. I knew my food costs down to the penny and my packaging costs. I knew my brand, everything else. And I didn’t know all my costs. And so I didn’t know how to accurately charge appropriately in order to make that money back.” Chakravarty stressed that knowing all of the costs was important, especially with rising inflation and businesses having a hard time shifting to adjust for the increase in goods and services and general cost of living. Taking the time to account for these changes can help businesses “not just survive, but thrive.”

“How are you able to make your business not just survive, but thrive and build bigger and better?”

Lastly, drawing from her experience in the military, Chakravarty said that business owners should be aware of policies within their communities that can affect their business, and look for opportunities to network and collaborate. 

 “I didn’t really think about how policy can implement or affect small businesses or even our world until I really got into it and started tackling it. So now forward thinking on policy, having a better understanding about the agencies around you, and how you can work together to make this space a wonderful space.“

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