Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gabriela Vasquez, co-founder of El Gato Chocolates, located in Glendale, WI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is an online bean-to-bar chocolate store. We provide chocolates made with organic cacao from Peru to all chocolate lovers. Our customers are mostly people from 35 to 60 years old who enjoy and appreciate a chocolate bar made with over 50% cacao.
Tell us about yourself
I am a Peruvian woman who moved to the US 13 years ago. When I was living in Miami, I wanted to do something that I loved, and that would keep me connected to my culture and country. I was always a chocolate lover, and it would frustrate me not to find a high-quality bar. I missed the smell of cacao when opening a package. So talking to a friend, he mentioned I should start making my own chocolate. I remembered that my hometown grew cacao trees, and my grandma used to harvest and make the whole process from fermenting to molding just for us to drink hot chocolate. So I went back there and started studying all the possibilities and relearning about making chocolate and the industry. And that is what motivates me, be able to provide fair pay to the native agricultures and bring the best fine Peruvian chocolate to the world.
Chocolate has so many benefits for a person. We just need to learn to eat and appreciate it. Cheap "chocolate" destroyed the market for the people who really love cacao, and I want to bring it back. And I do not see another way to show the world the best Peruvian cacao.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment is to have a social mission. I just don't work for myself. I work to serve and bring some value to someone else. And through our business, we are able to help people and social projects. Through our sales, we have donated 10% of our profits to NGOs such as the Alianza Gato Andino and The Peruvian Desert Cat. We also do social projects for Christmas and other holidays in my hometown. And we hope to do it here too.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Trying to expand! For me has been really hard to distribute our brand, but we are trying to work smarter than harder to see results. As an entrepreneur, we make mistakes, but with the experience gained, that becomes less of a reality. And, of course, with expansion comes delegating. We want to do it all, but eventually, we realize that we need to trust people and the process.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Just start.
- Prepare yourself for the ups and downs. It's not easy, but it's worth it.
- Expect to spend more money than planned.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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