Bollygood CEO & Founder Maxine Henderson recently launched a new line of Indian-inspired sparkling beverages after noticing there was a void of Indian beverages available at both the local grocer and Indian grocery stores. After spending the past few years staying at home to raise her kids, she noticed this gap while grocery shopping for her family, which was a sacred weekly ritual for Maxine. Before having kids, Maxine was a successful engineer who wanted to take the opportunity to be there for both the big and little moments in her family’s life. After a nearly 10 year hiatus, Maxine was itching to try her hand in the beverage arena, following her husband’s lead who entered the spirits space a few years before her. Feeling creative and inspired by her upbringing, having spent a significant amount of time with her children, and feeling the unwavering support of her husband, Maxine decided to take a leap of faith and launch Bollygood. Currently Bollygood is available in two delicious flavors: Lemon Ginger Mint & Lime Basil Cumin. Maxine hopes to expand Bollygood and see it in both national and international retailers and shared with us exclusively that she’ll be adding new flavors to her line as well! Check out our full interview below to learn more about Maxine and how her South Asian upbringing, from visits to India to eating traditional home-cooked Indian food inspired her entrepreneurial journey and inspired her to share a piece of her heritage with the world.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell me a little bit about how the South Asian diaspora has affected you and your outlook on life? Can you please also talk about what it was like growing up in a traditional South Indian family in Canada?
Maxine: My own parents’ story is a journey of leaving their homeland and moving to a foreign country, not knowing anyone, so it’s a story of inspiration. They were trying to try to seek a better life. I know my ancestry and other immigrant stories are also a story of perseverance and willpower and strength., I look at them as they’re just inspiring that they were able to do that. My upbringing, we ate Indian food every night, and I had no complaints about it because my mom was an amazing cook. We didn’t know anything different. My parents are from Kerala, and they would speak to us every day in Malayalam. We practiced Bharatanatyam, six years of Indian classical dancing. We spent summers in India pretty much every other summer, maybe even more than that, because my dad was part of a charitable organization that traveled all around Kerala to help those in need from employment to education, and just helping them whatever way he can. We really were engrossed in the heritage and traditions, being with our grandparents and our family members and just being around it constantly and even in Canada, my dad founded the Malayalam Kerala Association. He was one of several families to have founded it, it was small. It started off like twelve families, and it grew into something larger where it became this big organization with Christmas pageants and talent shows. It became our new family away from our family. We had Malayalam class weekly.
The Knockturnal: What are some desi snacks, drinks or just staples that you grew up on?
Maxine: The snacks and drinks that I liked were plantain chips, beef cutlets and chai. We also had this combination of water, sugar, lemon and lime, it has stuck with me for long, which is the basis of my whole drink.
The Knockturnal: Obviously, I see how much you enjoy food and your culture. Would you consider yourself a foodie? Have you always had this passion for food and drinks?
Maxine: Yeah, I’m 100% a foodie. I think it comes back to my roots at home. My mom really spoiled us because she was such a good cook. My husband and I always used to tell her; you need to have your own restaurant. Fortunately, my husband is also a foodie, we just love to explore those new restaurants around our town and then, of course, when we go to other places, different cultures and different foods, we’re always open to explore and that’s part of our love.
The Knockturnal: As an engineer by trade, what inspired you to make that pivot to beverages?
Maxine: My husband has been in the entrepreneurial space for some time, and he’s really been encouraging me too because I had this thought several years ago and he was encouraging me to just go for it. We’re both in the beverage arena, but he’s on the alcoholic side and I’m not. My background is engineering, this whole space is new to me, but at the end of my engineering career, I kind of had an interest on the business side. It’s kind of like a full circle moment coming into this beverage entrepreneurial space. When we got married, I stopped working just to figure out what I wanted to do next. Life happens and it was such an amazing experience and not everybody is able to stay home and raise their kids which I was blessed to be able to do. I saw those big and small moments which I would not trade for anything. When my youngest was 10, I was like OK I think it’s time to just go think about my idea again and went for it. I’m the parent who goes to the grocery stores and I like to like cruise aisles and look for those new brands that speak to me and I also like healthier options to bring home to my family but healthier and tastier, that’s what’s important to me. I grew up eating a lot of Indian food at that time several years ago there was all this Indian food popping up in the grocery aisle and I was excited but then you know the beverages were lacking, there was nothing there, there was no representation and I was like ok well I’m about to fill that gap and then I created Bollygood, an Indian inspired sparkling beverage that will transport your taste buds to India.
The Knockturnal: You touched on this a little earlier, but would you say your husband entering the spirits arena before you launched Bollygood influenced or impact your decision to launch your own beverage line?
Maxine: One hundred percent! He’s my number one fan, supporter, and vice versa for him and he was just like go for it. You got this great idea you know just do it. He definitely had a big influence on me and you know him being in this space ahead of me, he’s helped me to avoid headaches and pain. He’s been like my in-home expert that I can go to, my mentor really.
The Knockturnal: Is it fun getting to work with your partner on something that started out as a passion project then transformed into a full-blown business?
Maxine: Yes! and we’re like this on parenting, we are in sync. I just you know we kind of extended it into the business side and you know it’s been a blessing to be able to work with your husband but early on we had some great advice to really have clear distinct rules and try to have clear roles in but we also trust each other to make those decisions, of course we’re always around just to bounce off ideas and whatever we’re trying to do and move forward but having you know clear roles and making those decisions has been a really good thing for us.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about the inspiration behind the can design?
Maxine: Designing the artwork was fun because you know I took from my own childhood memories and my time spent in India, the dancers on the side are reminiscent of the time I spent in class learning classical Indian dance and I love Bollywood dancers. I have such fond memories of riding elephants and that’s not a normal thing to do it’s such a unique experience to do that in India. The paisley patterns in the prints are reminiscent of my mom and my aunt wearing it on their saris.
The Knockturnal: Are you interested in adding new flavors down the line?
Maxine: Absolutely! Interesting you bring this up because we’re in the process of formulating two more flavors we haven’t narrowed it down but we’re kind figuring out what the flavor is right now.
The Knockturnal: What piece of advice can you offer new entrepreneurs?
Maxine: I just say continue to learn, I’m still learning and growing. You can learn from podcasts, there’s many accelerator programs. You could also try to apply for grants and use the resources that are out there.