Kanika Chadda Gupta, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, has spent her entire adult life working in media as a television journalist, editor-in-chief, and digital marketer developing a passion for storytelling and journalism. So when she had kids, it was only natural for her to research and find out as much information as possible about parenting. But to a busy, sleep-deprived mom, reading parenting books seemed daunting, so Kanika turned to podcasts, hoping to learn more about meaningful parenting. Yet, she found they were missing the mark, and that’s when Kanika realized she could use her skills to host a podcast that would inspire other moms like her to tap into their “mom sense.” Each week on That’s Total Mom Sense, Kanika interviews working moms like beauty maven Bobbi Brown and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff on parenting, lifestyle, and wellness. And her efforts have paid off—That’s Total Mom Sense is a top-rated podcast, garnering over a million digital streams last year. We chatted with this Secaucus mom of three to find out why she launched a spinoff podcast for dads, the lowdown on her interview with Bobbi Brown, and the NJ restaurant that makes her feel like she’s on a Greek island. (featured photo credit: Laura Brett Photography)
Please share with us about your family and where you live. I moved to the US from India with my family when I was two years old. My husband, Sunil, and I met at a South Asian bridal photoshoot in New York, where we were photographed as a bride and groom for a magazine and ended up getting married a few years later. We live in Secaucus, a small, close-knit town with a diverse, unique community. We had three kids in 18 months, twins Krish and Suhana (5), followed by our youngest Shrey (3), and when each child was born, our Mayor, Michael Gonelli, came to our home bearing gifts and personally congratulated us. Also, my husband’s parents live close by–it’s a boon to have our kids grow up with grandparents who can pass down our rich cultural traditions and values.
Please tell us about your career background and how it helps you with the podcast. The common denominator in my 17+ year-long career has always been storytelling. When I was growing up, watching broadcast news was a daily ritual in our home, and I was inspired by women like Oprah, Connie Chung, and Lisa Ling—all inquisitive, intelligent, and well-spoken, plus they were women of color like me. Upon earning my Bachelors in International Relations from Boston University and Masters in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Miami, I relocated to India to work for CNN, hosting “E Tonight,” where I interviewed celebrities, reported live from fashion week, covered Slumdog Millionaire’s Oscars win, and met with survivors of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Eventually, I moved back to New York, where I led programming for a leading international television station. Later, I was given the opportunity to work as the Editor-in-Chief of an online retail company, which led me to become an entrepreneur and launch a digital marketing agency. And I still do guest anchoring for NJ-based stations, like MeTV, where I cover local news and events. Through my journalism experience, I understand the art of the interview—what questions to ask, how to put guests at ease, and how to steer the dialogue in a beneficial way to the audience, who are the most important people in the equation. I keep this in mind with every podcast episode I release.
Why did you launch That’s Total Mom Sense and a spinoff, too? After having my three kids within a year and a half, I was sleep-deprived and didn’t have the time or energy to read mountains of parenting books. I wanted to feel prepared for each child-rearing phase, so I began listening to podcasts around the clock and found the parenting space was bereft of an informative, insightful, inclusive, and inspiring show. There are tons of so-called parenting experts who want you to subscribe to their philosophy, but as a journalist, I’m inherently objective and don’t have an agenda. I want my audience to know that even though they can seek advice from others, they must trust themselves at the end of the day. It’s our superpower of intuition which I call “mom sense” and “dad sense.” I believe human connection binds us together, and we can all learn from each other. Hence, I interview public figures to talk about their career success and dive even deeper into who they are, how they tap into their superpower of intuition, and uncover the legacy they strive to pass on to their children. On What Matters Most with Maple, we encourage dads to pull up a seat at the table as I co-host with Michael Perry, founder of Maple and father of two. We discuss issues like infertility, dividing the workload at home, same-sex parenting, and the impact of having involved parents and caretakers.
What are the most rewarding and most challenging things about your job? When I worked in TV, I was accountable to the network regarding call times, show topics, and guest interviews. Podcasting is freedom. Along with the help of my talented team, I have full autonomy to create my schedule and interview guests from my wish list, and there’s no commute since I air my show from my home studio. My job has allowed me to prioritize my family, which is the most important thing to me. Plus, I love that with each conversation I have, I’m learning something new from someone’s life experience and am broadening my perspective. Also, in working with brand partners, I’ve built campaigns through video, audio, and social media, which I find exciting and creatively fulfilling. The most challenging thing is juggling all the balls in the air—spearheading my podcast and talented team, being the Co-CEO of my household, working out, cooking, cleaning, and frequent Costco runs. So many days a week involve early morning starts or burning the midnight oil to get everything done.
- Kanika feels that busy working parents need to know their “non-negotiables” when raising their children. Photo: Laura Brett Photography
You’ve interviewed some noteworthy people throughout your career. Who stands out as a favorite? I’ve interviewed so many phenomenal thought leaders on my show who are clear about their non-negotiables–how they show up for themselves, their career, and their family. Despite their success, they know their involvement in their kids’ lives is invaluable. A favorite interview was with industry titan and makeup maven Bobbi Brown, who is incredibly warm, witty, and curious about what fueled me in life, especially as a fellow mom of three. We bonded over how her daughter-in-law is also Indian American and how the families got together for a memorable wedding celebration. And I learned that she and her husband moved to Montclair so their kids could have a suburban life. She took it upon herself to become the PTA president when her three sons were in grade school. Not only did she revolutionize the beauty industry by serving people of all ages and skin tones, but she’s a certified nutritionist and wellness coach and continues to evolve as an entrepreneur with her latest endeavors, Jones Road Beauty, Evolution_18, 18 Label Studios, and The George.
A benefit of working for yourself is creating your own schedule. Besides taking care of her family and business, Kanika also prioritizes exercise and activity. Photo: Laura Brett Photography
How supportive is your family? My husband is a devoted, hands-on dad, and we have an equal division of labor regarding the household and our responsibilities. When I go on trips for work or to visit my family in Maryland, he happily holds down the fort at home, and since he has a demanding tech job, I’m on when he has to work late or during the weekends. Also, we’re fortunate that we have grandparents close by. They’ll help out after school and when I have speaking engagements, plus they encourage us to go on date nights.
When you have downtime, what is your favorite way to spend it? I’m a trained Kuchipudi Indian classical dancer and love rehearsing old pieces and coming up with new choreography. And, reading is the perfect escape. I’m currently reading Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World by Eve Rodsky and What A Happy Family by Saumya Dave.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? My kids love The Meadow’s School. The directors have a hands-on approach to creating a supportive environment with a curriculum that builds on critical thinking skills and real-world application. And the staff goes out of their way to nurture each child’s interests, encouraging them to find joy in learning. Elia Mediterranean Restaurant is a favorite because the ambiance is reminiscent of Santorini, where my husband and I went for our honeymoon. Orangetheory gives me an effective total-body HIIT workout, ideal for busy moms. I get to row, weight train, and run in an hour, and the coaches help me meet my goals. The Co-Co is a vibrant community with relevant programs for working moms, and since I usually work from home, I enjoy getting away to have meetings there and have even filmed there.
- Kanika’s husband, Sunil, enjoying some Sandy Hook beach time with the kids.
What are some of your favorite things to do in NJ with your family? The Garden State has so many beautiful parks. We particularly enjoy Mill Creek Park and High Point State Park. Crystal Springs Resort is also a favorite because there’s something for everyone there. And American Dream has everything one could want, plus it’s huge, so it’s a great place to get in your steps.
What is your best advice for an NJMOMpreneur just starting? Hone in on your “how”—how can you serve your audience, help them problem-solve, and simplify their lives? How can you educate, entertain, enlighten and engage? You’ll stand out in a saturated market by creating an authentic way to give your people exactly what they need.