Lynne Rowe has always been interested in local food and food production. A former Spanish teacher, she spent time in Mexico, where she witnessed and learned tortilla-making from Michoacan women and factory owners in Oaxaca. She also learned the importance of local ingredients, underscoring the Mexican ethos, “Without corn, there is no country.”
Making tortillas became a reality when Rowe found some used tortilla-making equipment online. With $15,000 in crowd funding from Indiegogo, and a new workspace in Portland, Rowe was more than ready to develop a business plan with the help of Maine Women’s Business Center (WBC) at CEI.
“We worked on financial projections, and Lynne received a loan from Portland Economic Development Corp.,” says Sarah Guerette, Women’s Business Center Director and Business Counselor. “We talked through marketing, packaging, and how and when to approach stores, among other startup topics.”
In Portland, Maine, sourcing corn to make tortillas is a challenge—an extra step in ensuring the authenticity and quality of Pachanga tortillas. CEI’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Program staff members were able to help connect Rowe local corn. As her business gets underway, Tortillería Pachanga will use 50 pounds of corn a day, including heritage flint corn such as Abenaki (Roy’s Calais).
“I really can’t imagine how I could be where I am without the help and support of CEI,” said Rowe. “Helping to think through the daily ins and outs of running a business is an amazing service that CEI provides in addition to being able to connect me to the people and resources I need to be successful.”
The new tortillería, one of only a handful in the Northeast, is poised for growth as restaurants, food trucks, and consumers taste the farm-to-table difference.