Three hundred plus businesses call the City of Shaker Heights home, and, beyond this figure, many residents conduct businesses out of their homes. For our month of December spotlight, we sat down with Sahithya Wintrich, owner and founder of Chutni Punch, a spiced condiment line and a home-based business. Offering a tasting of the 3-pack line, Savory Chana, Spicy Peanut, and Super Sesame, we learned about these flavor packed spices through a true experience.
Sahithya comes from a software and biomedical engineering background. When her daughter was born, she left her position within the field and ventured on to create Vyne, an app that is like “Tinder but for events.” With this app, users were enabled to choose events that intrigued them and add it to their calendar. Sahithya recalls: “I collaborated with several entities including the City of Cleveland to create this app. Then, unfortunately, the pandemic hit.” She pivoted to fabricating Ava masks, or filtered cloth masks. These masks turned great success at local pop-ups and markets, and then as the pandemic subsided, she had to get creative, again. This time, she remembered her roots.
Sahithya grew up in Southern India where much of the food was flavored with spiced condiments. As she tried using these same spiced condiments on modern food, she felt it hadn’t matched up she worked to match it up: “I tweaked some family recipes and worked on formulations for 9 months. After that, I tried the feedback method, where I asked people what they liked and what they didn’t like.” Once she found official flavors, she launched her line of spiced condiments at farmers markets and began selling them at local shops as well. In fact, you can find the Chutni Punch line at local Shaker gems like Adun Spice Co. and Nature’s Oasis. She also retails on the west side while maintaining an online presence.
The feedback method Sahithya used now serves as advice to others wanting to start a small business. Emphasizing testing an idea on people in one’s immediate network, Sahithya says to “get all the feedback you can get and then keep making it better. You have to think outside the box and know that every ‘no’ encounter is a ‘yes’ somewhere else.” She also advises networking with other startups in the industry and encourages grabbing coffee with others in the industry when you’ve hit a wall. Indeed, Sahithya’s hard work and acting on this very advice proves the originality of Chutni Punch.
There’s nothing quite on the market like these spiced condiments. The possibilities are endless with all 3 flavors, inviting you to try it on various foods or snacks. You can mix it with your eggs, sprinkle it on your avocado toast, toss some on chicken and veggies; you’ll come to find certain foods were made for these condiments and hopeful for its taste. We’re grateful Sahithya chose to base this business out of her home here in Shaker, and even more grateful that she goes beyond keeping it local.
Everything about Chutni Punch is local. Sahithya uses local ingredients from local farms as often as she can. As a bonus, Chutni Punch contains no preservatives to keep within the mission of keeping the product as pure as possible. The packaging, through Blue Label packaging, is also local and based in Ohio. Her graphic designer, Agnes Studio, is local here to Cleveland and is women-owned. Sahithya takes great care to make sure her community shares in this product.
Apart from ingredients, being environmentally conscious is also championed in Chutni Punch’s creation. The packaging of each spiced condiment is biodegradable. Sahithya explains, “I could go the plastic route to be more cost effective, but being eco-friendly is important to me. The cost is higher yet reasonable.”
Sharing her spiced condiment line here in Shaker is also a priority: “Shaker is a microcosm of the entire world. This city is an asset in that its diverse heritage is something we can share together. It’s almost nostalgic how there’s such a true sense of togetherness, belonging, and community. Everybody’s well-connected.” If this special community wasn’t enough, Sahithya notes other rewards of owning this small business: “The fact that you can turn an idea into a tangible product that people are excited about is very rewarding. It fuels me to know that something I created brings people joy when they use it to flavor all their favorite foods.”
These rewards, however, are not without hard work. Businesses do not exist without consistent work behind them, and this can be especially challenging, especially when you have a family, as Sahithya explains. With her love for all things local, focus on environmental sustainability, and her fascinating ideas in fusing her cultural background with modern food, we’re so happy that Chutni Punch exists. And we’re even happier it’s a true Shaker story!