According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. What’s more, Utah has been credited as the most pro-small business state in America, thanks to our state’s pro-business initiatives and support systems. Each month, the Salt Lake Chamber will highlight a small business in Utah to emphasize its importance in our economy and encourage local support.

One of the easiest ways to celebrate Women’s History Month is to support women-owned small businesses. Saffron Valley, a restaurant serving Indian cuisine to the Salt Lake Valley, is the perfect place to start.

“Women-owned businesses, especially small businesses, bring a variety of skill sets and emotional intelligence to being in business,” explained Lavanya Mahate, founder and owner of Saffron Valley. “Oftentimes that’s overlooked because historically they’ve been sidelined as ‘hobby businesses.’ But all women-owned businesses are powerful, and they’re changing the business world.”

Mahate is a first-generation Indian American immigrant and also the first female entrepreneur on either side of her family. Her culinary journey has taken her across India, so when she moved to Utah, she knew she wanted to share her culture with her new community.

“I was working for the Women’s Business Center of Utah, helping others start their own businesses and loving every minute of it, but I wanted to further my own passions,” Mahate said. “I started a line of spice blends for the Farmer’s Market, which was very successful, so the next year I started my first Saffron Valley restaurant in South Jordan.”

After her first location opened in 2011, Mahate experienced continued success, over time leading to more storefronts and more opportunities to give back to the community. Now, more than a decade later, Saffron Valley boasts five locations across Utah and the beginning of one of Mahate’s biggest projects yet: RISE Culinary Institute.

“RISE Culinary Institute will allow free culinary training to refugees, which will be an amazing resource not only to the restaurant industry but also to the refugee community,” said Mahate. “We’re teaching refugees skills in the culinary arts, and we’re helping the restaurant industry across Utah, both of which are things I’m deeply passionate about.”

The program is expected to launch in August, and will equip four cohorts of 12 people per year with the skills they need to succeed. Mahate is grateful for her small business for giving her the opportunity to pay it forward. 

“I’ve gained a greater understanding of myself, and I’ve learned how my strengths and values allow me to show up for my community,” Mahate said. “The greatest success of any small business is when we are able to create a better life for our families and employees, and then give back.”

Having spent several years at the Salt Lake Chamber with the Women’s Business Center of Utah, Mahate advises any small business, or anyone thinking about starting one, to get involved and learn what opportunities are available to them. 

“The Chamber does it all for all businesses, whether you’re starting, growing, or just trying to get involved in policy,” Mahate said. “We are so lucky to have them as a resource.”

Saffron Valley’s mission is to provide authentic, made-from-scratch Indian food using fresh ingredients and exotic flavors that educate and excite the palate. They also strive to give back to the community via culinary training and strengthen the local economy with career opportunities. Click here to support their small business.