Meet Amber Rao, a Hoboken resident who makes and sells gluten-free Kaju Katli and delivers it to the Hoboken and Jersey City area. Also known as cashew fudge, this sweet is very popular within the Indian community. What’s different about Amber’s fudge is that it is homemade — as most Kaju Katli comes frozen from India. We had the chance to talk with Amber about her growing small business and how it started after having her son a few years back. Read on to learn more about Amber Rao and the delicious Indian cashew fudge she makes from her Mile Square home.
The Hoboken Girl: Where are you originally from if not from Hoboken + why did you choose to move here?
Amber Rao: I’m originally from Bucks County, PA. I lived lived in NYC for many years before moving to Hoboken 6 years ago for more space when my son was six months.
HG: What about Hoboken made you want to invest in the area by opening your business here?
AR: Since Hoboken (and Jersey City) have such large Indian populations, it only made sense to try selling my fresh Kaju Katli in the area.
HG: What is your favorite aspect about living + working in Hoboken?
AR: I love Hoboken because it has such a strong community — locals love to support local businesses and moms love to support moms.
HG: What inspired you to get into the fudge-making business? What were your first experiences with it?
AR: Kaju Katli is an Indian sweet, which translates to cashew fudge. My husband is from Bangalore, India, and brought home a box of Kaju Katli from an Indian supermarket and made my very picky son try it. My son does not like chocolate, cookies, cake, etc. but loved this. I asked my mother-in-law for a recipe, but she didn’t have one because it’s easier to buy fresh in India. However, she sent me a recipe that looked good to her. I tried it and my son and husband loved it. After perfecting the recipe and receiving rave reviews from family and friends, I decided to sell it on the “Indian Mommies of Hoboken” Facebook group in January 2022.
HG: Tell us about your business.
AR: I make Kaju Katli (cashew) and Badam Katli (almond). Both are gluten-free. I have also made them vegan by substituting ghee with coconut oil. If you order by Wednesday, I will deliver for free within Hoboken and $2 for Jersey City by Friday.
HG: What would you say makes your business special?
AR: It’s fresh. It’s a labor of love so most people prefer to buy than make. While you can certainly buy a box from an Indian grocery store, it’s most likely frozen from India. There’s no comparison.
HG: Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
AR: My son.
HG: Are there any other business owners/leaders that you look up to?
AR: I absolutely admire Michal Prevor of Babka Bailout, who started making babka from her home during the pandemic and now has a bakery in Jersey City and sells her products in many local businesses.
HG: What are your goals for this year?
AR: My goal for this year was to get the word out, which was challenging. But then people were looking for Diwali sweets/gifts and I kept being recommended by my customers. I sold out after receiving 50 orders in 48 hours and making 600 pieces of Kaju Katli. I would have had more orders, but I shut down my order form.
HG: What does a typical day look like for you?
AR: I make the Kaju Katli based on orders and deliver it while my son is at school.
HG: What has been the highlight in your career/life so far?
AR: I left my 15-year marketing career when I had my son. Getting to spend so much time with him has been the highlight of my life.
HG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
AR: Go for it! (I’m still starting this business and need advice as well).