Cooking up Business Growth
Community Fund of North Miami Dade (CFNMD) supports small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities so they grow, succeed and create wealth for their communities. Such is the case of its client MamaArepas.
Milagros Escuela is the owner of MamaArepas, along with her husband, Fidel Lozada. have worked tirelessly to bring Venezuelan Arepas to every dining table in South Florida since 2015. Made out of corn dough, Arepa is a typical food in several Latin American countries that is prepared and served differently in each region, and is very important in the traditional Venezuelan cuisine.
Milagros and Fidel’s journey started at home, making arepas for their family and friends and getting requests for more. As they saw the demand and the business opportunity, they contacted the State of Florida to understand the requirements to operate a fully compliant food manufacturing business. They also set out to properly formulate each of their arepa products (corn, cheese, plantain) to ensure the quality, safety and consistently delivering the great taste their followers expect.
As they grew a steady clientele, they moved the production to a shared commercial kitchen that they rented for six hours every day. Soon,MamaArepas started to sell better at brick and mortar locations like Sedano’s, Broward Meat & Fish Stores, Bravo Supermarket, Price Choice Food Market, Meat Club Stores and other meat stores. After the demand became so high company needed a commercial kitchen of its own to increase its production capacity and be positioned for faster growth.
Growing Joys and Pains
As Milagros and Fidel secured a bigger space of their own in Hialeah, the company’s overhead increased as well, and so the need for capital to initiate their market expansion outside of South Florida and to get equipment that allowed them to produce more arepas in less time with the flexibility to innovate new products.
MamaArepas needed a loan, and that is when Milagros and Fidel learned about the
Community Fund of North Miami Dade (CFNMD) from another non-profit organization helping them expand their market. They applied for funding with CFNMD, and through this process they realized the importance of having all business documentation up to date, as well as being prepared to have the business fully analyzed and understood, in order to be approved for funding.
With the loan proceeds, MamaArepas bought new equipment effectively moving from an artisanal to a more industrialized operation, created two jobs and is expecting the first order from a new distributor in the State of New York. The company has also updated and improved the labels, introduced new products, and implemented a sales strategy to bring the Venezuelan arepa to other communities around the country. Their long-term goal is to export to other countries.
Tips for Cooking Up Your Business Growth
Milagros advises other entrepreneurs starting their business or newly arrived in the United States “to be persistent, to have a clear goal, our goals cannot change in this country, one must be very focused to achieve the desired goal. There will be obstacles for the entrepreneur, but it is not impossible. What you want to achieve, you can if you just move forward with the idea of attaining your goal."
For the entrepreneurs looking for funding for their business, Milagros advises to keep all the documentation up-to-date and organized, so that when they request funding from a lending institution, “they can show that they are doing things correctly and in a clear, honest and transparent way” through their bank statements, company licenses, tax returns, financial records and other documents.
If you want to adapt MamaArepas’ recipe to cook up some business growth for yourself, make sure you have these in your pantry:
A focused goal
Plenty of persistent action to achieve it
A compliant business (licenses, taxes)
Abundant document organization (financials, bank records)
Formulas and procedures to ensure you can replicate and always deliver up to standards
Excess passion for serving your customers
About the CFNMD
Established in January 2002, The Community Fund of North Miami (CFNMD) is a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), providing small businesses and entrepreneurs in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties within South Florida, with the support and resources they need through technical assistance, one on one counseling, and small business loans. As a subsidiary of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation, the CFNMD’s mission is to utilize resources derived from the public and private sectors to assist the poor, distressed and underprivileged through a program of lending and investing in housing, real estate development projects, small/micro businesses and other commercial enterprises.
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