For the third and final installment in this series, we reached out to small business owner Manuel Mendoza, owner of La Patisserie Cafe, to find out what he considers to be the American Dream, how it resonates with him, and why running a business is so meaningful.
Manta: As a business owner, what does the American Dream mean to you?
Manuel Mendoza: The American dream is when you come to this country with a lot of hope and desire, but you know that you have to work hard to make it. Success comes from determination and perseverance.
Manta: Tell us about the journey to starting your small business.
MM: We're from Columbia. We moved to the United States because I was in the horse business and it started going downhill. My wife, Elsa, had experience in baking and the restaurant business. I always encouraged her to follow her passion. I was very determined when we came here and I told my wife, "We're not going to be working for anybody else." So we decided we had to get creative. We knew we would have to start something that was not already here. I saw the potential in the baking business initially, and then in the coffee business. It's a good combination, coffee and baking, and it's something that we knew. That was when the light came on and we started La Patisserie.
Manta: Why did you choose to change your profession so dramatically from equine sciences to owning a bakery?
MM: In our country, we have a lot of bakeries. So when we came here we found a lack of mom-and-pop bakeries and restaurants. We saw a good opportunity for a new start. In Latin America, we have a lot of influence from Spain. Once we came here we saw that there was not that much Latin food. Everything was more toward the Mexican side. That was where we found our niche. When we started bringing something new to the table, we discovered that people loved it. We now have a good mix of different cultures, from the Mediterranean to South American. It feels great to broaden the palate of the people here because it's completely new for some. And day by day we see our customers become more familiar with the food and come back to the bakery once or twice every week.
Manta: How does working with family contribute to your business?
MM: My wife is the core of the business, the brain and the heart of the business. It's because of her that we are here. My daughter Paula is very creative and my daughter Natalia is always taking care of the books and costs. There's this great love that keeps the family involved. Everybody has sacrificed so much to make the business grow. But the most important thing is that even though we work all the time, we are together 24 hours a day, so we know how to combine the job with marriage and family. We're a happy family.
Every small business owner contributes a vital piece to the American Dream. These passionate leaders love what they do and push themselves to improve every day. Read our interviews with the owners of roll: bicycle shops and Flowerama.