Lorena Cantarovici's first tiny storefront in Lakewood took off from being just a bakery to becoming her first run at a restaurant. As she stated in a 2011 Westword article after her opening of Maria Empanada, "I came to Denver from Argentina to have a better life. " She moved to Colorado in 2000, got her master’s degree and a job in the corporate world before giving up the office for the kitchen.
"I wasn't happy working in a corporate environment, and I wanted to do something different, so I started cooking empanadas with my mom and for the Argentinean community in Denver. Before I knew it, people started ordering empanadas from me -- a dozen here, three dozen there, and it just kept growing."
Colorado Enterprise Fund Involvement
In 2014, after approaching several banks to finance a move to a bigger space, a US Bank lender referred Lorena to Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) for a loan which helped her grow from being a small-scale caterer to becoming the owner of an award-winning Zagat-rated restaurant, now recognized as “One of the 12 Hottest Bakeries in the U.S.” Her larger, more central location reflects the warmth and charm of her homeland and own personality, and allows Lorena to share her culture and cuisine with more people.
“Without the help of CEF, we couldn’t have expanded to our larger location with the necessary equipment and personnel to succeed," said Lorena. “Through CEF, Colorado now has hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs, which helps the communities in our state thrive.”
CEF connected Lorena to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses national training program. Now, as a graduate, she continues to explore ways to grow her business and it’s working. “We just signed a lease on a second location. We are investing in new machinery, construction and hiring an additional 10-12 employees within the next few months.”
In 2016, Lorena secured a third location and qualified for a bank loan to finance this expansion. "I couldn't have become bankable without CEF. You all had a hand in helping my business grow.” You can now find Maria Empanada listed as one of the 10 best restaurants on the USA Today 10Best.com website.