Make your happiness a priority. Again, as women, we tend to put everyone above ourselves. And we shrink into just doing for others. A few months after I became single, my friend invited me to Chicago for a few days. I had my son stay with a friend and I went on a trip that was just for me and my happiness.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Radhika Murari.
Radhika started her career with an IT start-up and ran numerous businesses with a focus on profitability & employee success. Radhika recently started OmMade Peanut Butter (www.OmMadePB.com). She uses locally-sourced Virginia peanuts to make ten flavors of artisanal, vegan, gluten-free peanut butter. Radhika holds leadership positions in non-profit organizations in her community with a focus on social activism.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Like many strong women, I choose not to be a victim of what happened to me as a child. The 30-second version of my childhood is that I lived in India with relatives until I came to the US to join my parents (I was 3 or 4?). Something happened between my parents and I went back to India to live in New Delhi with my parents in a joint family situation, including with all the relatives with whom I had lived when I was a baby. God only knows what happened then, but my family situation changed again and my mom, my older brother, and I went to live with my maternal grandparents. I lost virtually all contact with my father. At 18, I got into medical school and went to Mumbai to attend medical school. In Mumbai, I re-connected with my father, left medical school, and came back to the US when I was 19.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I knew I wanted to start an India-inspired food business, but I had not decided exactly what it would be. In the midst of this, the 2016 election happened. As a reaction to the outcome of that election, a few friends and I decided to host a fundraiser for the ACLU on January 20, 2017. On the day of the fundraiser, an acquaintance who was visiting from California was helping me. When she mentioned that she was peckish, I gave her some of my homemade peanut butter with apple slices. As soon as she put my homemade peanut butter in her mouth, her eyes lit up! She said it was the creamiest, tastiest pb she had ever eaten. And she said, “You should sell this peanut butter! You are sitting on a goldmine!”
And that is how OmMade Peanut Butter was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The most interesting story since I started is how I hit upon my best-selling flavor. A friend of mine, Scottie Phillips, has a chocolate sauce company, Willie Byrd out of Richmond, Va. She gave me all the advice I needed to get my business off the ground, from telling me which jars worked best to where to get my peanut butter tested for food safety and shelf life.
Anyway, Scottie kept telling me to make coconut peanut butter, but I kept resisting. Finally, (just to get her off my back!) I went to the local organic store, got some organic, unsweetened coconut and made up a recipe. Now Coconut Bliss is my best-selling flavor and I owe it all to Scottie and her incessant pushing! Women rock!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In my quest to make an ultra-healthy product, I made the mistake of making zero-sugar peanut butter. No matter how I spun it, no one wanted to eat actually eat it. I learned my lesson and started adding a minimal amount of organic cane sugar. Sales sky-rocketed once I tweaked the recipes!
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
My favorite quote is actually from Winston Churchill, who said, “Success is the ability to move from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
The key to being an entrepreneur is to keep hustling, have lots of irons in the fire, and move swiftly on from ideas that don’t work.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
OmMade Peanut Butter just got a joint grant from the state of Virginia and Fairfax County. To fulfill our part of the grant agreement, I am raising money to buy a space in a local shopping plaza. One of my aims is to find a production facility + storefront, so that we can expand into vegan, gluten-free offerings using OmMade Peanut Butter.
I also want the use the storefront as a pop-up space for other small businesses that need exposure to customers.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
I remember constantly telling my ex that talking to him was like trying to pin jello to a wall; I could never have a conversation with him that made any sense. Our conversations would devolve into me being told that what he said was not what he meant; that I shouldn’t read his texts/emails literally, I should understand his intent, even if was the opposite of what he wrote; that I didn’t understand basic English and was not smart enough to remember what he had said.
All this happened before our nation’s understanding of the term gaslighting. I truly believed I was either stupid or crazy because I could not understand or follow even simple communications with my then-husband.
Then, in 2017, we hosted a 17-year old Norwegian exchange student, call him Lars. One day, Lars was sitting on the kitchen island eating. My then-husband and I were also in the kitchen. I don’t remember what I asked my then-husband, but he lied. The lie was so blatant, that Lars guffawed, choked on his food, and spit it out on the plate. In that instant, I realized that my then-husband had been gaslighting me for years and that I was neither crazy nor stupid. I looked at my then-husband and I could see in his eyes that he knew I was on to him and his lies would no longer fly. It was the beginning of the end of my commitment to my marriage.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
I think the most common mistake is made during one’s marriage. I have realized that, like a business, we have to consider the time and effort we put into a marriage as a sunk cost. Every hobby doesn’t need to turn into a business, every business does not need to go on forever, and every marriage doesn’t need to last until we are dead.
To avoid this mistake, we need to constantly evaluate if we are happy and if there is any point in putting more time and effort into the marriage.
As for mistakes after marriage. In most divorces, there are 2 parties: the one who initiates the divorce and the one who fights it. If you are in the former category, I think the most common mistake after getting divorced is to apologize for your happiness. In many cases, getting out of a bad marriage is like getting out of an abusive situation. Be happy and own your happiness; you deserve every iota of happiness you can get!
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
I think the one positive is that you get to rediscover who you are. I got engaged at 25 and married at 26. My ex is a very traditional Indian man. Like many traditional Indian men, he just wants to be comfortable; he doesn’t experiment with simple things like food, let alone life.
In direct contrast to this, I am happiest when I am outside my comfort zone, doing — or failing at — things I never dreamt possible. However I let my interests, my ambition, and my personality shrink into the background in order to avoid conflict and outright fights.
Once I decided to get divorced, I no longer cared that what I wanted made my then-husband uncomfortable.
Here is a very simple example. One day, Lars was helping me cook and found my sushi mat in a drawer. Before I was married, I used to make sushi rolls, but my ex was a McDonald’s man and didn’t venture beyond that. Nonetheless, I had dragged this sushi mat around for 20 years without getting a chance to use it. Then Lars discovered the mat and found out that that I could make all kinds of sushi rolls and nigri. We went to the Asian store, got the ingredients for sushi rolls/nigri, and had ourselves a feast!
So, I think the HUGE post-divorce positive is remembering who you were before marriage and realizing you can build on that, rather than suppressing it.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
I don’t think anyone needs to “get back out there.” We all have a village behind us and we know that the people who love us will find us a good fit when the time is right. I do not think this needs to be or should be forced. Like they say in the last line of the movie, Kama Sutra, make your heart as open as the sky.
What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?
The thing that changes most through a divorce is one’s finances. Unless you are MacKenzie Scott, your standard of living will go down and you have to be able to adapt to your new financial reality. Having less money and financial freedom is the price of freedom and not an insurmountable one.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Be yourself
This advice is especially important for women, and even more so for ambitious women. At the first holiday party I went to post-divorce, someone asked me what I wanted from my business. Without missing a beat, I said that I wanted it to give me an annual income of XYZ. During my marriage, I would never have expressed my ambition in public.
2. Remember what makes you, you
I got my scuba certification in college, but after marriage, I went diving a total of two times. As soon as I was single, I got re-certified and went to visit my friends in Florida for a dive trip.
3. Make your happiness a priority
Again, as women, we tend to put everyone above ourselves. And we shrink into just doing for others. A few months after I became single, my friend invited me to Chicago for a few days. I had my son stay with a friend and I went on a trip that was just for me and my happiness.
4. Say “YES!!!”
When we get out of long-term relationships, we don’t really know what the new version of ourselves is capable of. So, say “yes” to everything — go on random dates, go camping in a desert, learn how to ATV in Moab; just say YES!!!
5. Spend time in Nature
Mother Nature is a great teacher. Spend time with her. I hike on a regular basis, but after getting divorced, I wanted to kayak more. I posted something on FB about buying a kayak and within minutes a friend offered me her old one. I have added kayaking to my way of spending time in Nature.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
Pay attention to the little parts of your life that you have got back. For instance, being able to use the whole bed and waking up and sleeping when you want. Or allowing yourself personal care, like getting pedicures and buying People magazine, even if those are a “waste of money.”
Then move on to the big things you are getting back, like being able to host out-of-town friends and having giant dance parties! The more you focus on what you are getting back, the happier you will be.
That said, expect there to be a grieving period for the loss of the life you thought you were building with your spouse. You have to acknowledge that. Don’t rush it, don’t feel bad about it, and allow it to happen.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
“How I built this” is the podcast I listen to most. While this is not a relationship podcast, it works for me because thinking about my business and my future gives me the inspiration and energy I need to move on.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My movement is simple: One a Day.
By this I mean, every single day do one thing for someone else. Do it without telling anyone about it, do it without looking for anything in return, and do it without being asked. Just one act of kindness will open our hearts and minds to what others need. This is the revolution that will change the world.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would like to have a meal (and a drink!) with Kamala Harris. She is an ambitious, untraditional, Indian-American woman like me, who grew up in a white-male-dominated industry. Like me, she was undoubtedly sidelined, belittled, and harassed for her outspokenness and her ambition. I want to get some insight on her personal journey and the ways she has overcome challenges in her life and career.
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!