Hello Earthlings! I’m your top interplanetary journalist Spiffy, reporting from Planet Earth about entrepreneurs chiseling away at inequalities. Today I’m incredibly excited to meet Akruti Babaria, a mompreneur, storyteller, dancing queen, and founder of Kulture Khazana.
Spiffy: Wow, Akruti, it’s cold here in Buffalo, New York! What are you doing way up here? And how did you become an entrepreneur?
Akruti: I know, Spiffy! Here, have some chai. So, my parents – Dipak and Minaxi – and I immigrated to the United States from India when I was 16 years old. Through the difficult transition years, my culture provided the roots and wings to grow and make this place my home. After my son, Ayaan, turned one in 2018, I found my purpose – to share Indian cultural stories.
Spiffy: Oh wow! So how do you share these stories and what kind of impact does it have?
Akruti: In 2020, we are in a seemingly more divided world than ever. By bringing culture to the playroom in the form of books and puzzles, I am giving children the tools they need to understand their own culture, share it with others, and build empathy to bring us closer together. It’s not always easy, but when I hear parents tell me that their children request my stories about Indian culture before bed or as a treat, and that they share these stories with their friends and family, I am even more motivated to accomplish my mission.
Spiffy: I’d love to hear some of your stories! So, how does your work contribute to a more equitable world?
Akruti: Across the globe, the struggle about immigrants and their place in society continues. Since the dawn of civilization, humans have loved stories. Stories are the bridge between cultures. They help us create a sense of belonging and help us welcome people or ideas that are different. As an immigrant, the culture that I brought with me and the culture that I am creating here is what makes me belong. I want to help children feel like they belong, they can openly share each other’s culture, and they can develop empathy.
Spiffy: Oh, I understand! Being a newbie isn’t easy. I hear you have something new that you are offering. Can you tell me about it?
Akruti: Sure, Spiffy! In November, we launched the first-ever rangoli mandala floor puzzle. It creates an interactive opportunity for children to experience culture and share it with family and friends. This puzzle helps children learn about the ancient Indian art form of rangoli and the meditative practice of creating mandalas. The puzzle is a fun way to build empathy and grow the tools families need to confront the collective anxiety in the world – and do all of it through play.
Spiffy: Have you ever experienced failure and what did you do about it?
Akruti: The pandemic upended everything – including my business model. If failure means losing over 50% of my revenue because I couldn’t do in-person cultural workshops, then I definitely experienced failure! When this happened, I went back to my mission and had to change my approach. I learned the power of the pivot and stuck with my commitment to the families that I serve. My online story videos and the rangoli mandala puzzle are a result of this pivot, and they have helped me connect in a more impactful way with children.
Kulture Khazana’s pivot: the rangoli mandala floor puzzle. (Photo courtesy of Akruti Babaria)
Spiffy: I’m sure your son has taught you a lot! Have you learned any lessons from him lately?
Akruti: How did you know, Spiffy! My son has taught me how perceptive children can be and how they understand big, complex concepts like empathy. He sees me working, packing orders, filming story videos, and leading online workshops — sometimes I’m a cranky mom. The other day, he was fighting with his friend who wanted to throw the puzzle and told him, “My mommy worked very hard to make this. You cannot destroy my mommy’s hard work.” Until then, I had no idea he knew I worked, let alone worked hard, and could even feel proud of me.
Spiffy: Your son, your parents, this sounds like a family affair!
Akruti: It is! You know, owning and running a business is a challenge in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. When you believe in your mission, and that it will change the world, challenges are nothing. My parents have been my angels and help by watching my son for a few hours every day while I squeeze seven hours of work into three hours. My husband helps pack orders on the weekends. It has truly become a family business and there is nothing more rewarding than our family’s work bringing together other families.
Akruti Babaria is an immigrant mompreneur and founder of Kulture Khazana. A trained Indian classical dancer with a Bachelor of Arts in Indian classical dance, Akruti wants to bring cultural stories to playrooms, through Kulture Khazana.