Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.
Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
Below is our interview with Josephine Caminos Oría, Founder and President at La Dorita Cooks, LLC:
What does your company do?
Our company is a shared commercial kitchen space and business support incubator program for local start-up and early-stage food makers that aspire to become established, high-growth food enterprises. In the capital-intensive culinary industry, our incubator allows entrepreneurs to mitigate start-up risk and grow their food ventures in a community of like-minded business owners. Our incubator organically developed over the course of three years after first founding La Dorita in 2009 to launch an all-natural dulce de leche product line that is representative of my Argentine heritage to market. We were unable to secure the licensed kitchen space required to establish our specialty-food business, and were determined to fill this void. The incubator resulted from a personal roadblock that threatened to deter our own personal success. Today, in our 8th year of business, we have 26 companies, who like us, run their business out of our commercial kitchen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I'm the President and Founder of La Dorita Cooks. I left my fifteen-year career in healthcare to make dulce de leche. The inherently Argentine ingredient changed the course of my life in my mid-thirties. I had a successful career as CFO of a tri-state medical diagnostic testing company, a loving husband, and four beautiful boys, yet I had a nagging feeling that kept me up most nights. Until one day, I awoke with an innate determination to make dulce de leche; the real dulce de leche my Grandma Dorita made me as a child. Why? Because it was too good not to be shared and it brought me back to being me. Today, my culinary journey continues to surprise me as it organically evolves into different directions-including founding Pittsburgh's first incubator kitchen in 2012. I now enjoy helping other startups avoid the very mistakes I made along my journey.
What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is the fact that we launched an inherently Argentine product that isn't acculturated in our market. While US consumers are intrigued with dulce de leche, they still don't quite understand what it is, how to use it, or how to say it. Many mistake it for caramel. The same goes for buyers at grocery chains who are unsure as to its proper aisle placement. As a pantry staple, there is a great potential to create a new specialty food categories that would finally allot a defined "place" for dulce de leche within the natural spreads category. It also has enormous potential to create a new value-added product for US dairy farmers. Yet, as we look to scale from a small batch company, we are challenged to find co-manufacturers and packers who have the equipment, know-how and capability to produce authentic dulce de leche.
If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I'd say, "What took you so long?" "To take a chance on yourself," I mean. I'd remind myself that the thought of not following my passion would bring me more despair than the thought of failing. And I'd tell myself to turn every "no" I get as motivation to succeed. And to be mindful of the roadblocks, as their solution could forge a new financial trajectory for the business. In 2009, I knew I had to leave my full time job-all signs pointed to it. Yet I wouldn't allow myself to risk my children's livelihood to following my own desires. I started La Dorita shortly after, and for seven subsequent years worked two full-time jobs-in addition to parenting 5 children. But it dawned on me last year that my company couldn't fully flourish until I followed my gut and fully put all of my energy behind it.