It seems like we’ve heard it all about the war on plastic—from switching our shopping bags, our water bottles, and even our straws. So why haven’t we discussed the issue of plastic in the kitchens of parents of young children? The novelty cartoon character plates and colorful plastic bowls that are supposed to help make meal time easier are actually hurting the environment and our health.
We had a chance to interview the local founder of Ahimsa and board-certified pediatrician, Manasa Mantravadi, about the revolutionary brand of stainless steel dinnerware for children that she created with her own kids in mind.
The name Ahimsa comes from an ancient Sanskrit term which means “avoiding harm” and “universal love” and the idea for the brand came, in part, from Mantravadi’s Indian heritage. In India, stainless steel dishes have been used for generations and when her grandchildren were born, Mantravadi’s mother was on a mission to replace the plasticwear so commonly used in America. That, coupled with a 2018 American Society of Pediatrics report about how families can limit their children’s exposure to chemicals, spurred the doctor into action.
For parents who want to understand the benefits of using stainless steel over glass in their homes, what would you say is the best reason to use stainless steel dinnerware?
Gravity. Children like to test it–and gravity seems to always win. Stainless steel can withstand being dropped without breaking like glass. It also keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. Have you ever tried a glass of cold water from a stainless steel cup? It’s amazing.
How do you infuse educational moments with your own children about why you chose to create this line?
We have always strived to create an environment at home that promotes curiosity, creativity, and self-directed exploration for our children. So, when the idea of Ahimsa was born, the children naturally jumped in to try to understand the why, what, and how of all that I was doing. The infusion of educational moments comes easily when you spark a child’s curiosity!
Kids soak in more than we give them credit for. We routinely engage in conversations about healthy food choices and ways to show our love and respect for the earth in our daily life. It’s as if they were like “Oh yeah–we get it. Ahimsa makes total sense to us, mom.”
“If by sharing something from my roots in India helps to create a movement in this country—to excite kids to eat healthy food from a safe, non-toxic product while decreasing the footprint of plastic on our planet—I will feel that this crazy journey was all worth it.”
As a woman in science and now in business what has been your greatest challenge in becoming an entrepreneur?
Medicine and start-ups are so different. In a room full of doctors, I seem to be a risk-taker. In a room full of entrepreneurs, I am the one with the life jacket, inner tube, and whistle around my neck. I’ve read a great deal to educate myself. I chuckled reading the term “minimal viable product,” as it is a common phrase in the entrepreneurial world – get it out there, test the market, and refine. No problem! Can you imagine that happening in medicine? “Mr. Smith, we will try this minimal viable product during your surgery. We will test it and based on the results of your operation, refine it so it’s better for the next guy.”
I’m used to a world where years of research, significant scientific evidence, and tightly regulated clinical trials lead to something new. The willingness to take risk and general pace of the two worlds is just different. I had to find the right balance personally in order to start a company.
Ahimsa is a perfect mix of your love for children, your background in medicine, and the roots of your Indian heritage. When did you realize you had created something unique that encompassed your passions?
Honestly, I felt from the beginning this could be revolutionary as I was shocked by how much plastic was in the kitchen. However, the response from our first customers to seeing, touching, and using our products has been unreal. My biggest moment of pride was when we started receiving photos and reviews of children using our products. The pure excitement and eagerness from kids to eat and drink immediately after opening the box was such a humbling experience.
If by sharing something from my roots in India helps to create a movement in this country—to excite kids to eat healthy food from a safe, non-toxic product while decreasing the footprint of plastic on our planet—I will feel that this crazy journey was all worth it.
Check out the entire Ahimsa line at ahimsahome.com.
Lenie Tsakonas is a freelance writer in Indianapolis who is passionate about local female founders that lead mission-driven companies that do good.