We'd like to introduce you to Vanessa Rios.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My fondest memories are in the kitchen with my grandma. I was barely able to reach the stovetop and grandma said, its time to learn. My grandma was very old school and what I mean by that is she didn’t care too much for modern cooking technology… like microwaves. She was definitely a minimalist, I mean she used a big stone from the beach to tenderize meat lol. My passion for cooking absolutely ignited my curiosity to create a creative twist to our old family recipes. I come from a background of Argentine, Colombian and Italian descent so I grew up on flavors that vary in range. One thing I will say I enjoy the most is to entertain. I love seeing people’s expressions when eating good home-cooked meals and I love taking them on a culinary journey when I combine all the different flavors from my cultural background.
After years of playing around with different recipes and doing countless events, one entree I noticed I always repeated… empanadas. I remember the best feedback I received was from a customer at the farmers market and he said, “It’s a delicious meal in a small fluffy pillow of love.” It melted my heart. I know that with the hustle and bustle of today’s career-driven person, sometimes we don’t get much of a break from a workflow. My empanadas are all fresh and made daily with organic ingredients and easy to eat on the go.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road but I am a big believer that nothing good comes easy. I have had many challenges along the way from trying to figure out branding, writing up a business plan to currently finding a new home for Mami’s Empanadas. One thing I have learned and still learning today is to know and understand that you are not alone in this journey, many people before me have had the same struggles and challenges. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn to be humble. As a Latin American woman, there are many opportunities that I have found through the Latin American Association, Federal grants and so many more I have yet to explore. I would absolutely recommend going to your local city hall and making friends with as many people possible because they will help guide you in the right direction as to what steps you need to take to be successful.
Please tell us about Mami’s Empanadas.
I currently specialize in making a variety of sweet and savory empanadas. I cater to any and all events, small or large that offer American or International full course meals. I am always challenging myself to learn about new cultures and how my food could be more innovative. What I most proud of is that I make your empanadas fresh to order, people love the fact that I fill and fry their empanadas in front of them. What sets me apart from others are definitely my wide range of empanadas, I cater to the meat-eaters, pescatarians, vegans and everything in between. I believe every single person should be able to enjoy good food and not compromise their eating habits.
Do you think there are structural or other barriers impeding the emergence of more female leaders?
I believe the biggest barrier currently is definitely the gender gap in receiving small business loans. Female small business owners are much less likely to get loans and government contracts than their male peers. I won’t allow that to slow me down or get where I need to go. I understand that being a woman, we have to work twice as hard and twice as long to get where we need to be but I am prepared and ready. Supporting other small business owners is a must. Always put a value on your work, your time is your money. The key is to keep a positive mindset, stay goal-driven, laser-focused and always stay consistent.