Caitlin Burke Discusses Micro Mercantes
Caitlin Burke is Program Coordinator for Micro Mercantes, a Latino culinary business incubator. The incubator is a part of Hacienda CDC, a nonprofit that serves the local Latino community in a variety of capacities, from homeownership support to affordable housing to programs for families. She was kind enough to talk to us recently about Micro Mercantes and how the program works.
Impact Entrepreneurs: How would you describe the Micro Mercantes program in a single tweet?
Caitlin Burke: A unique culinary incubator for Latino entrepreneurs as they transition from the informal to the formal economy.
What do you see as the biggest barriers for Latino culinary entrepreneurs in Portland?
I will give an example — Graciela, the owner of a business in our incubator, is an excellent cook. She is also hardworking and creative. However, as she expands her business she faces challenges similar to other small businesses, from understanding how to track her expenses to creating professional marketing materials. Additionally, being a new immigrant to the US, she also needs help with English, cultural differences and accessing resources.
How does Micro Mercantes support Latino culinary entrepreneurs?
While in the incubator, businesses can access one-on-one technical assistance, trainings including an 11-week business foundations course, an affordable commissary kitchen, and can apply for a matched savings fund, catering opportunities and farmers market booths.
Do you have a client story that exemplifies the goals of the program?
From Puebla, Mexico, Graciela Montiel came to us with a vision of her business and her ability to work hard. After completing our business foundations course, she completed a draft of her business plan, applied to the program and began accessing our one-on-one technical assistance. Under her business name, Montiel’s Cocina, she has worked hard to fulfill catering orders referred to her and has operated in two farmers markets. Her work in our incubator is gaining recognition. She was featured on Univision and in the Oregonian and was asked to facilitate a cooking demonstration for Catlin Gabel students. In the future, she will take classes the incubator coordinates with community partners, from the Multnomah County Health Department to Portland Community College, in order to continue to develop her business plan.
What was it about Micro Mercantes that motivated you to join the program?
We recognize the skills and hard work of the entrepreneurs in our incubator — what they bring to the table. The incubator is focused on empowering entrepreneurs through formalization and expansion and, eventually, leaving our services. As well, the incubator is developing its own business plan and is aiming to become financially self-sufficient.
How does Micro Mercantes fit into the larger family of Hacienda CDC programs?
Hacienda CDC’s goal is to build a vibrant community through youth and family support, homeownership support and community economic development. As an initiative of Hacienda CDC’s Community Economic Development department, we believe that part of building a vibrant community is empowering entrepreneurial and hardworking business owners who would like to transition from the informal to the formal economy with the tools and skills they need. In turn, they will be able to create jobs and other opportunities for their families and communities.
What’s next for Micro Mercantes?
Micro Mercantes is offering its affordable commercial kitchen for rent, will be expanding its ability to cater events and the farmers markets our businesses sell at, and will be offering, thanks to partners, a more comprehensive training schedule for our businesses.
What’s the single, best thing someone reading this could do to support Micro Mercantes?
Spread the word about our program and cater your next event from us! Please visit www.micromercantes.com or call me at 503-961-6420 for more information.