Cooking to Empower
With a profound love for cooking, Yolfer Quintero began working various jobs in the food industry, both in his home country of Venezuela and when he came to the United States. After some time, he began to realize that the environment of working for others was not always ideal. “I saw how people could be overworked and underpaid. I needed to start my own business because I couldn’t keep working like that.” The decision came from a desire to not only empower himself, but others in similar predicaments. “I wanted to encourage those who don’t always have the opportunity to use their voice.” In 2016, Yolfer and his two siblings founded Pabade Bakery, a wholesale pastry company, growing their business one online order at a time, until their popularity enabled them to open a café.
An Unexpected Setback
Yolfer applied for a loan from Accion, which enabled him to purchase coffee equipment and have a financial cushion for the future. The shop quickly filled with customers, and Yolfer began preparing to move from his shared kitchen space into his own facility. However in March 2020, Yolfer faced an unprecedented challenge that cut his plan short as businesses nationwide were ordered to close their doors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. “Our business slowed down by 80% or more. We closed the shop and our wholesale is working at 20% capacity. We usually have 20 wholesale accounts – now we have two.” In addition to struggling to provide for his own livelihood, Yolfer must also figure out how to continue providing for others. “We’re trying to keep our employee and give him as many hours as we can because he has expenses too.”
Practicing Resilience and Lending Support
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, Yolfer and his siblings are learning to adapt, offering promotional items like assorted pastry boxes available for delivery. “The biggest challenge for us now is to continue finding new ways to generate revenue.” The financial cushion from their Accion loan could not have come at a more urgent time. “We’re now using that money to pay the rent and have a salary for us and our employee.”
For Yolfer, the best part of business ownership is connecting with and helping other business owners. Through a local business program, Yolfer has joined a network of entrepreneurs, support that is particularly invaluable during this time. “We’re all in contact and we all try to help each other as much as we can.” Right now, Yolfer is continuing to focus on balancing necessary expenses with the uncertainty ahead. “I know it will be a while for things to resume to the way they were. But one thing that doesn’t stop is the rent.” He also hopes to one day achieve his initial goals. “My hope is that I’m still able to produce in my own kitchen. But I know everything takes time and I’ve learned to be patient.”