By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Wanda Malhotra was well-established in the international business world before she relocated to Knoxville in 2017 with plans to open her own company that would manufacture and sell vegan certified skincare products made with organic ingredients and sustainable packaging as the initial offering.
In a recent interview, Malhotra, the daughter of a Brazilian mother and Indian father, says she knows all too well that the best laid business plans can fall through due to unexpected issues. “I had an investor lined-up but could not find a suitable warehouse and manufacturing facility.”
Consumer products is a business sector that Malhotra also knows very well, having worked alongside her mother as a Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Surya Brasil for 22 years. The company, which is headquartered in Brazil, is known for its Henna hair color products.
“I was always my mother’s problem solver,” Malhotra told us. She would travel across the world and even landed in New York City for a period when she opened a distribution center for Surya Brasil. Malhotra honed her skills in marketing and sales, before starting her own U.S.-based company focused on health and wellness products and services.
Today, with eyes sparkling as she talks, Malhotra ticked-off a variety of different initiatives that demonstrate her passion and energy as she seeks to find the right partner with whom to launch the business that she first planned to open in Knoxville.
“I’m slow-cooking it,” Malhotra says of the business named Root Journey. For now, there are four products that she sells on the start-up’s webpage, but there are much bigger plans when the timing is right.
“I know the potential; I know it can take-off,” Malhotra says of the business that is focused at the intersection of natural personal care products and living a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. “I want to work with the right partners. I don’t want to do it on my own. I want to be very careful; I’m picky about those with whom I work.”
So, as she personally prepares the products that Root Journey sells, Malhotra is not idle by any stretch of the imagination. She is helping a fellow Brazilian – Rafael Henrique – who moved to Knoxville to launch a start-up named REP(ME). It is a platform for hiring sales professionals, and she is lending her expertise with business and marketing advice a few hours a month.
“I’m in love with Knoxville, it’s a great place to establish and grow a business as well as raise a family” she says. “If I could, I would do more, but I’m too busy to give more of my time,” Malhotra says as she ticks-off a series of projects, starting with renovating a 26-unit apartment complex to be a safe and secure place for seniors and families to live.
“I’m doing it for me,” Malhotra explains of the project in a higher crime, lower income area. She cites her philosophy of “practicing a lot of gratitude” as the driver.
When the Founder of another Knoxville business named Crunchy Mama Box decided to shut it down, Malhotra offered to buy it. Now, the Certified Health Coach and mother of three is taking the company to a new level, offering a highly curated selection of healthy snacks, clean beauty products, eco-friendly home goods, wellness items, handmade jewelry, and accessories.
“I personally review and test all the products you will find on our website,” Malhotra says. “Because of my commitment to better living, I can assure you that every product is selected with your well-being in mind.”
Crunchy Mama Box supports women-owned, small, and sustainable businesses that are motivated by a cause. “We are passionate about giving back, which is why we also donate a portion of our sales to a Cause Partner every month,” Malhotra adds.
With no shortage of energy or passion and a number of irons in the fire, Malhotra has not lost sight of her goal for Root Journey and finding the right partner to take it where she knows it can go.