Four years ago, Adrian Espinoza Garcia moved from Bolivia to Maine with his wife, a New England native. He quickly discovered that empanadas, the savory hand pies that were abundant in Bolivia, were practically impossible to find in Maine. So he began to make his own.
After perfecting his made-from-scratch recipes, Adrian thought he might have the beginnings of a successful business on his hands. He picked out the name Empanada Club and opened a business bank account, but in his own words “I had no idea what I was doing, or where I was going to sell.” An early concept around wholeselling frozen empanadas ran into logistical issues around transporting frozen goods and interest from buyers wasn’t there…yet.
Adrian reached out for business advice and was partnered with CEI’s StartSmart program, which supports immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs. The early meetings with advisor John Scribner, Adrian says, “gave me the confidence to go forward.”
Adrian shifted his sales focus from wholesale to reaching customers directly through sales at farmer’s markets, breweries and events, building up a following for his golden-crusted hand pies and unique salsas. His carrot salsa, a tomato-free topping made of carrots, apple cider vinegar, peppers, and fresh herbs was such a hit that he began to package and sell it alongside the empanadas. He was also able to connect with local natural food stores and co-ops who carried the product on a trial basis. Buyers have since begun to place repeat orders, offering a pathway for future growth.
Adrian dreams of having his own storefront, the next thing on his list to discuss with John, who, he says, “feels more like a partner than an advisor.” In the meantime, Adrian is a part-time member at Food Fork Lab, were he makes his products with equipment he purchased with a CEI loan. When asked if Empanada Club was a full-time or part-time job for him, Adrian laughed and said, “Is there anything other than full time?” Proving, once again, that the entrepreneurial spirit never rests.
LEARN MORE ABOUT EMPANADA CLUB
Instagram: @empanda_club; stores carrying the carrot salsa can be found @carrot_salsa.
LOOKING TO START OR GROW YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
To learn more about how CEI’s StartSmart program can help you start or grow your immigrant-owned business, visit https://www.ceimaine.org/advising/business-counseling-development/startsmart/
For more information on CEI’s loan offerings, including our new Wicked FastTM loans, visit: https://www.ceimaine.org/financing/