[Espinoza-Toro, JPNDC Small Business Services Director] in a previous job and I knew he was now working directly with entrepreneurs at JPNDC. So I reached out to him right away. He read through our business plan and pointed out specific improvements we could make. He’s helped us with our pricing—understanding how much people may be willing to pay for our services, and balancing that with paying ourselves. He helped us make the connection with this kitchen at First Baptist JP, where we prepare meals for catering. And he helped us get financially organized, to set up Quickbooks as an accounting system, and to understand how important it is to be accurate.
A lot of people have ideas for starting a business. What would you say to them about turning an idea into reality?
Cecilia: Our biggest advice would be: just go for it! I read somewhere that if you’re completely satisfied with your first product, you waited too long. Find the right balance between being prepared and being perfect. That way, you’re not waiting forever for the ‘perfect’ time.
You’re new parents, business owners, and Cecilia, you’re a grad student. How do you do it?
Cecilia: It is a lot, but it’s all things we love! And it’s been really helpful to find other Latino vegans, share information and build that community.
Do you see yourselves ever opening a restaurant?
Cecilia: It’s on our five-year plan. After I finish my PhD program! It’s our dream to have a place that’s affordable, where people can come together. Maybe some live music at night, and even a shop where people can grab healthy, affordable food.
Do you share your recipes?
Cecilia: Yes, you can go to our website (https://cocoverdevegan.com/) and see some. We don’t want to withhold information that could be helpful to others. If we can share recipes that are delicious, easy, and true to our roots it seems like a no-brainer. It doesn’t take away our role as caterers, when we do all the work so that people can enjoy their event or party. We put a lot of love in it.
Food is a thread that can weave us together and elicit deep childhood memories. Choosing what to include in your diet is so complicated and based on so many factors—traditions, preferences, beliefs, access, etc. But those choices can have a big impact on health, and the health of our communities is very close to our hearts. High blood pressure and diabetes are too high among Latinos.
Ideally, it would be amazing if the United States could move in a direction where everyone had access to safe, healthy, fresh foods and there would be less emphasis on “convenient” foods with lots of additives and ingredients we can’t even pronounce. Our hope is that food will continue to be something we can all bond over and also something that makes and keeps us healthy.