What do you do when you have to close your 20-year old Mexican restaurant but want to preserve its legacy? Market the products that were the most popular with your patrons.
For Betty Artes and Ernesto Alvarez, co-founders of Casa Alvarez Foods, this is what they decided to do in 2008: launch two of their award-winning Boulder-based products – a pork green chili plus a vegetarian version. “We knew our market having served various chilis in the restaurant as well as selling them by the gallon to other places,” Betty said. “We felt this was the best exit strategy.”
To successfully launch their new chili products, Betty and Ernesto, along with family members David and Evan Cormane, needed working capital to brand and market their chilis in the competitive ethnic food market landscape.
Betty, a consultant with the Boulder Small Business Development Center (SBDC), met Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) staff and learned about startup financing. She qualified for a CEF loan in 2018 which helped position Casa Alvarez Foods on the RangeMe B2B platform which bridges the gap between buyers and sellers so smaller suppliers can get their products distributed by larger retailers. “As a small business, CEF is that step in between working with banks,” said Betty. “Their flexibility in lending was encouraging.”
Now available in 60 stores across the Front Range of Colorado, Casa Alvarez Foods plans to double its distribution to 120 stores in the coming year, taking their product out-of-state with local Colorado grocery chains such as Natural Grocers, Lucky’s Markets and Whole Foods. Ernesto, who is the research and development arm of the company, plans to debut other products along with new packaging.
In the meantime, deepening demand for their two initial products keeps them busy. “I love growing the business at this pace,” Betty stated. “Mistakes aren’t as big.” As for having resources to help along the way? Betty concluded, “The availability and accessibility of CEF was very key. Working with them was great. We’ll be back for more!”