We should all have access to culturally relevant food, but sometimes there’s a void. A civil engineer by trade, Carolina Abolio started her business because she missed Venezuelan food and wanted to share her culture with the Bay Area.
I’ve been following Miss Arepita on Facebook for a while, but just met Carolina at an Oakland Grown event. We got together for coffee a few weeks ago and had a great conversation about how she learned how to cook, how she tested her business idea and about the “Godmother of Miss Arepita.”
Carolina originally started Miss Arepita because she loved to cook for friends. She said it will always be a mobile business because she wants to bring her food to the people.
She grew up with amazing chefs in her family and learned how to slow down the food to get more flavor. According to Carolina, an arepa is technically a “fast food” because it takes only a minute to serve, but the cooking process is actually quite slow.
Burritos, tacos and even pupusas can easily be found in Oakland, but arepas are different so she wasn’t sure how people would receive them. After coming up with the idea to start a business, she talked to Tina Tamale, who she affectionately calls the “Godmother of Miss Arepita.” They planned and hosted a successful pop-up fundraiser for East Bay College Fund at La Borinqueña and Carolina was able to make connections with more people in the community: “You need a small village to run a small business.” When she realized that people were loving her food, she decided to go for it and start her business.
While Carolina sometimes pops up at events around town, she’s at the Phat Beets Farmers Market every Saturday. She is always growing as a person, and giving back to her community as well. Her life as an entrepreneur changes all the time, so she’s never bored.
If you’re thinking about starting a business
Carolina’s learned a lot through the years and she has some advice for aspiring small business owners:
Adapt to the situation.
She struggled with advertising at first, because the market is small and hidden. It was a challenge to get customers, but her friends invited their friends and eventually her business grew.
Keep striving so the customer gets the same experience on Day 1 and Day 260, without loosing the original intent.
Take small business classes – but not too many.
She recommends taking business classes, but cautions against too much research: “Don’t take so many classes that you don’t start.”
Go and do it.
She says, “Take the risk and do it. Believe in yourself!”
We support an equitable food system, which includes cultural understanding and appreciation for all the ways people gather and celebrate around what they eat and drink. In light of recent news of the book club, Sistahs on the Reading Edge, being criminalized and removed from the Napa Valley Wine Train, OFPC would like to extend a thanks to the vineyards in the region who have created welcoming spaces to gather, celebrate and organize.
To show our gratitude and highlight the businesses whose values are rooted in racial and economic justice, we have joined forces with The Mexican Bus to offer a tour of Black and Latino owned vineyards! Join us for a magical ride on our Wine Soul Train. Meet business leaders defining our food culture. Learn about agricultural practices, labor issues, and economic leadership to create a just food system.
What: The Wine Soul Train Tour
When: September 26th 2015, 10AM-6PM
Where: Napa and Sonoma Valley Vineyards
Cost: $100 per seat (includes lunch and wine tastings)
What to Expect:
We will begin and end our tour at the corner of 9th Street and Washington Street in Oakland, in front of Miss Ollie’s. From there we will begin our tour at 10AM sharp. We head north to visit various vineyards for wine tasting and discussion. We will enjoy our lunch against a panoramic backdrop. We will have the opportunity to taste and purchase wines, as well as meet business leaders in the wine country who are paving the way for black and brown ownership of vineyards and wineries. We expect to return to Oakland at 6PM.
Council Director, Esperanza Pallana, will be following up with day of logistics when you purchase your ticket. If you have further questions, feel free to contact her at epallana at oaklandfood dot org.
This event is sponsored by:
OFPC has been working in partnership with the city of Oakland since 2011 to expand regions of operation for mobile food vendors, to reduce costs, and to streamline the permitting process. To support this process, the city of Oakland is … read more
All meetings are the 3rd Thursday!
9/17/2015: 5:00PM-7:00PM: 1000 Broadway Blvd, 5th fl, Rm B.
10/15/2015: 5:00PM-7:00PM: 1000 Broadway Blvd, 5th fl, Rm B.
No Meetings November or December
In the past year, the Oakland Food Policy Council celebrated our fifth anniversary and several significant accomplishments. Our wins are wins for all the people of Oakland and we look forward to another year of working with our community to … read more