Congratulations to our 2020 and 2021 Small Business Growth Success Award Winners!

Today, the NJ SBDC statewide network recognizes and celebrates the 2020 and 2021 Small Business Growth Success Award winners at the annual awards and networking event.

Congratulations to our center’s 2020 and 2021 winners:

  • 2020 Winner: Pallavi Bandi, Owner, Amaravati Indian Cuisine, Hamilton, NJ and Indigrill, Ewing, NJ
  • 2021 Winner: La Cabaña Bakeshop & Restaurant, Owned by Marjorie Rodriguez

Please take a moment to learn more about these incredible local businesses and how the SBDC at TCNJ has assisted them by reading their stories, below.

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2020 SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESS AWARD WINNER: Pallavi Bandi, Owner, Amaravati Indian Cuisine, Hamilton, NJ and Indigrill, Ewing, NJ

Owning and operating your own restaurant certainly can have its own set of challenges. And yet, Pallavi Bandi is the owner and operator of two successful area restaurants: Amaravati Indian Cuisine in Hamilton, NJ, and Indigrill, in Ewing, NJ.

Pallavi’s love for food and cooking began when she was a young girl spending time in her grandmother’s kitchen. Memories of how food always brought her family together, talking and laughing as they prepared the next day’s meal, served as an inspiration for her to finally become an entrepreneur.

Pallavi contacted the SBDC at TCNJ and received one-on-one consulting with our center’s marketing and branding expert consultant, Shakira M. Brown. Pallavi received assistance in developing her marketing and branding strategy for Amaravati Indian Cuisine, as well as new business planning and marketing and branding strategy for opening her second restaurant, Indigrill, in the then brand-new retail space at Ewing’s Campus Town. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Pallavi continued to receive consulting from the SBDC at TCNJ regarding CARES Act funding and other ongoing business continuity support.

Below, Pallavi shares in her own words her experience with the SBDC at TCNJ:

“We would like to start off by thanking the SBDC at TCNJ and Shakira Brown for always being there. The Women CEO mentoring forums helped me immensely as I was new to the world of business and I got to learn so much from all the amazing and successful women around me. We will be ever grateful for the guidance they provided during COVID-19. I am thankful for the immense and unconditional support from my husband who never stopped believing in my dreams and always supported in every way he could. My mom, who always encouraged me and stood by me no matter what, and most importantly, my three beautiful kids, who always tell me Indigrill has the best food!

Taking over a restaurant, remodeling, rebranding, and launching it was the hardest thing we have done in our lives, but also something we will do over and over again.

We were able to open Amaravati Indian Cuisine with the help of my dad, and this is where we showcase our traditional flavors. While pursuing Amaravati, we felt there needed to be a place where traditional flavors meet the modern day. That is how we came up with Indigrill.

I consider Indigrill my fourth child. We had to endure more than two years of labor-pains with Indigrill and then finally in August of 2019, we opened our doors! Indigrill is where tradition meets modern day cuisine. It is a perfect blend of traditional recipes served in a new way. It took us months to come up with the recipes. Each sauce has its own character and personality, and it feels amazing to see people enjoying them.

My love for food started in my grandmother’s kitchen, which was simply an open area in her backyard. Back then, my grandparents lived in a house made with soil and the roof was made with leaves. But to date, I have not seen a home as abundant and as warm as that cozy hut. My grandmother and my aunts sitting around a small wood burning clay stove, prepping, talking, and cooking are some of the best meals of my life.

I remember as a seven or eight-year-old, bringing wood to light the fire in the evenings in my grandmother’s kitchen. The smell of that smoke still lingers around my nose. My aunts would gather around in the evenings and prep for the next day’s meal. The conversations, the laughter and the voices still ring in my ears.

It was amazing how my grandmother would pick up a few herbs and vegetables from her backyard and turn them into a scrumptious meal. That was when I fell in love with food. Food was not just something we ate; it was an emotion. It brought all of us together. It is this love for food that helped me find my love for cooking and eventually led me to opening my own restaurant

It is this love that pushed me to quit my corporate career and become an entrepreneur. And finally, it is this love, that when times got harder, always whispered in my ears ‘just keep cooking.’”

Amaravati Indian Cuisine is located at 116 Flock Road, Hamilton, NJ 08619. For more information, please visit, or call (609) 838-7999.

Indigrill is located at TCNJ Campus Town, 300 Main Blvd, Suite 501, Ewing, NJ 08618. For more information, please visit, or call (609) 570-0036.

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR 2021 SMALL BUSINESS SUCCESS AWARD WINNER: La Cabaña Bakeshop & Restaurant, Owned by Marjorie Rodriguez

Renting a place to open your small business is always a challenge. Agreeing on a fair price with the landlord, negotiating terms, required township licenses, access to financing, and then opening your doors are just a few of the obstacles that entrepreneurs must overcome. But, for Marjorie Rodriguez, a Costa Rican native, these were not an obstacle. She was determined to open her bakery and become an entrepreneur. All she wanted to do was to follow her passion: baking and cooking.

In 2016, Marjorie contacted the SBDC at TCNJ and met Center Director Lilian Mauro. At that time, Marjorie received assistance in reviewing her lease agreement, obtaining permits with the township, and exploring her options for a loan, as well as developing a business plan. After six months, in April of 2017, Marjorie successfully opened La Cabaña Bakeshop & Restaurant.

In 2018, after a year in business, Marjorie was determined to buy the place she was currently renting. She contacted the SBDC at TCNJ again to explore her options to obtain a loan and buy the property. Our center assisted with the loans and applications, however, the loan application was prolonged, and after two attempts, unfortunately, the deals did not go through.

In 2019, after the Pandemic hit, La Cabaña Bakeshop & Restaurant had to close its operations and sadly, the entire staff of eight employees were laid off. Marjorie then revamped her strategy to include contactless transactions and to-go windows to address the COVID-related public health and safety concerns. Thankfully, after five weeks, La Cabaña Bakeshop Restaurant was able to open its doors again.

In 2020, Marjorie revisited the idea of buying the property and once again contacted the SBDC at TCNJ, who assisted by introducing her to several lenders. In July 2021, Marjorie obtained a commercial loan from Customers Bank, and now she owns her property. She is currently in the process of expanding the restaurant to a second level.

“Thanks to the SBDC at TCNJ who helped us from the very beginning. From the moment I had the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, during the process of opening, during the years of challenges, and now during our expansion,” said Marjorie. “I really appreciated all the support from all the consultants at each step. I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

La Cabaña Bakeshop & Restaurant is located at 3 Dayton St., Trenton, NJ 08610.

For more information about the restaurant, visit: or call (609) 989-0179.


Looking to grow your Mercer County small business? SBDC at TCNJ can help!

Since 1981, we have been helping Mercer County businesses just like yours to grow and succeed. Request your no-cost, confidential business counseling session today!