Jefferson Award Winner Founded Move UpBy Allen Martin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) Heena Patel whips up traditional Indian dishes in the kitchen of her newly opened restaurant Besharam. The trendy eatery in San Francisco’s Dogpatch boasts both traditional dishes and some surprises.

“We have broccoli and quinoa salad, cheese paratha,” explained Patel. “Chicken makhani. It’s all delicious.”

The restaurant industry is a tough nut to crack in the City by the Bay and elsewhere. Patel’s business may not ever have gotten off the ground without Nikita Maheshwari. The 29-year-old high tech worker and Berkeley grad is the founder and president of Move Up, a Bay Area non-profit focused on helping underserved woman enter the workforce.

“We have domestic violence victims,” said Maheshwari. “We have widows, we have single moms. We have many females that are just doing everything to keep their families together.”

In just five years the all-female, all-volunteer run organization has helped more than 1000 women like Patel find jobs and start their own businesses. For Maheshwari, it’s also about paying it forward.

“I immigrated to America when I was 7 years old,” said Maheshwari. “And I feel like the last 22 years of my life I have been so fortunate to have such incredible opportunities here. And it is my responsibility to give back.”

Move Up’s clients are referred by other non-profits. They meet with volunteers at workshops, and one-on-one job counseling sessions, covering topics like resumes, business plans, and social media marketing.

“I was so excited, and talked with my friends, ‘Oh I have a website right now,'” explained Marandi. “The workshop they have lifts you up to just continue to do whatever you want to do, gives you more hope and encourage you to do it.”

Maheshwari says she appreciates the social interaction too, but seeing Move Up’s clients get jobs is her biggest goal, and joy.

“When they get a job, that is exactly the mission statement being served,” said Maheshwari. “It’s an incredible feeling, right?”

So for helping underserved woman find employment, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Nikita Maheshwari.