A Search for Tasty Treats Leads to A Sweet business launch
We often associate food with our concept of self-identity.
From being on the center of the table during social gatherings to special recipes being passed down in our families, food is a vehicle for how we communicate our relationships with one another and define both our community and heritage. And thus, when arriving in the San Francisco Bay Area from her home in Aguascalientes, Mexico, Diana Ramirez felt deeply disconnected when she could not find the delicious Mexican Street Snacks she grew up with during her childhood.
"We missed not being able to buy duros preparados, raspados, and marquesitas..." she explains.
In the absence of the food that tied her to her Mexican roots, Diana’s conception of YoYo Treats came forth.
In 2019, she began selling the sweet and savory snacks at pop-up events and markets throughout the Bay Area, including the Mariachi Festival in Hayward and the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Oakland. Her food received tremendous positive feedback from the community: she fondly remembers one particular group of folks from the Yucatan Peninsula, coming up to her booth to share their deep appreciation for her bringing Marquesitas to the Bay Area.
While visiting the Ashland Market & Cafe (AMC), she saw advertising for vendor applications to rent the kiosk spaces and immediately applied. Becoming a vendor at AMC, would allow her the opportunity to be in an established space, while incubating her growth and development as a new business owner. With coming from another country, the on-boarding program through Mandela Partners provided the necessary guidance in navigating regulatory and compliance requirements in formally starting her business. From obtaining permits and licenses through the various county agencies to applying for loans, Mandela Partners supported Diana through the process.
For example, one of the biggest hurdles Diana faced was securing the capital for starting her business. This can be a huge deterrent for many new business owners just starting out with little to no experience because of the high upfront costs. Thankfully she was approved for a loan through KIVA to help cover the expenses of getting permitted through the health department, obtaining her county business license, purchasing equipment and signage, and covering the security deposit for her storefront.
Diana looks forward to growing with her fellow AMC vendors, Bria of Ju’c Fruits and Chef Rene of Thank Que Grill. Each of them are at different stages in their business development, providing the opportunity to learn and mentor each other. Despite the challenges that the last year has brought, she is eager to adapt and grow in the rapidly changing environment.
For Diana, opening her business this year has a special place in her heart. She envisions YoYo Treats to be a welcoming space for folks in our community to experience the delightful flavors and textures of the Mexican Street Snacks that brought her so much joy growing up. It also makes her feel more closely connected to her local community, and even more importantly, gives her the purpose and drive she has been actively seeking.
"It means being me after not knowing what I was doing in this country. I lost my personality when I got here and now with YoYo Treats I feel like I'm Diana again. Now I feel like I am doing something for myself, my family and my community. Seeing the customer smiling at us, it's more than just me, it's the happiness in their faces."