Amid the worst economic crisis in recent history, the Hispanic business community in Illinois once again found in unity and solidarity the tools to resist, survive, and adapt.
The important role of organizations such as the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) has been evident in helping many businesses look to the future with a new perspective.
Behind every small business, there are people, families, and human beings with dreams, illusions, and fears. We work tirelessly for them.
In these months when the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world forever, at the IHCC we have strengthened our efforts, multiplied our actions and extended to the limit the time dedicated to our members, partners, and clients to reassure to them that they are not alone, we are there with them in this fight.
Nuestra Cocina’s CEO Berenice Tenorio, one of Chicago’s Hispanic companies with the greatest national projection, touched us with a video in which she expresses her sincere gratitude to the IHCC for the help received during these difficult times.
The company signed up, with our guidance, to a PPP loan, which allowed them to provide relief at the time when they needed it most, while also guaranteeing the source of employment for dozens of families.
Its brands “Nuestro Queso” and “Nuestra Cocina” carry in their name the feeling and nostalgia for our roots and the authentic flavor of Mexican gastronomy. With the help they received from the IHCC’s team will allow them to continue that tradition.
Like many entrepreneurs, Berenice sought help from the IHCC, she received guidance and all the support she needed at the right time. We have done our best as a team to ensure that everyone has access to as much guidance and help as possible. We do the same with companies with hundreds of employees or with micro-businesses of one or two employees. Our action is aimed at showing everyone that we are in this together and that we will never leave, said IHCC’s Jaime di Paulo, President & CEO.
The history behind a dream
Nuestra Cocina’s journey began with the Nuestro Queso brand in November 2009 when it launched in the local Chicago market with an extensive line of authentic Mexican cheeses.
In 2017, the company launched other food lines such as yogurts, creams, chorizos, and desserts under the Nuestra Cocina brand.
Production of their foods is cared for and carried out under environment-friendly processes, in addition to its production plants that include quality and safety certifications of an international level.
Due to this and to the “Premium” ingredients they use in their products, Nuestra Cocina and their other brands are leaders in quality.
In 10 years, they’ve achieved a presence in 20 States across the United States, their products are sold in 2,000 supermarkets, and acknowledged for their quality in chains as demanding as Jewel Osco, Mariano’s, Trader Joe’s, Walmart among others. Their products have been recognized for their flavor and have won the most important and prestigious awards in the industry.
Nuestra Cocina’s employees have been key to the company’s success: 50% of its current staff experience the birth of the brand and the other 50% joined in over the years. They have formed a large family and a business culture in which respect and discipline are their core values.
The IHCC asked Berenice Tenorio some questions after receiving her video, explaining the benefits received and about how her history has changed.
How did the Covid-19 crisis affect your company?
It affected in several ways:
1.- It affected the livelihood of our restaurant industry clients, which have been closed.
2.- Our supply chain has been impacted, in addition to the fact that the production capacity has dropped drastically compared to the average levels we had before, due to the adjustments that had to be made to the production lines as to practice social distancing and protect the employees of COVID-19.
3.- We changed our mode of operation overnight. We have implemented rigorous plans and protocols, as a priority, to keep the safety and protection of our employees so that they can continue to be at the forefront.
4.- We have also changed our way of doing business and now everything is done virtually, from a simple meeting to a food show. Fortunately, we are in an era where technological advances have allowed us to find solutions quickly and adapt easily.
How did the new IHCC website help you find the information you needed at that difficult time?
Through their BLOG, I found everything I needed for my company I also learned about the options I had as an entrepreneur.
What role did the IHCC assume in response to your request for help?
The IHCC has been my best ally during the crisis. It was a valuable source of information, with all their businesses programs available, they guided me on what to do to survive, and they allowed me to listen to the experts on different topics through their webinars and they provided me with contacts from other entities that were very helpful.
What recommendations would you give other entrepreneurs as a next step after receiving the PPP?
1. Ensure that the funds are used exclusively on what is allowed.
2. Work closely with your accountants and tax experts to receive advice on how to maximize the amount that could be taken out as a loan to become a support fund.
3. Maintain appropriate documentation to provide evidence of the costs and the amount used from the loan.
4. Seek advice on exploring additional tax benefits as part of The CARES Act.
5. Apply to your bank after 8 weeks to request that the loan it’s turned into a support fund.
How do you see the future of the company and what did you learn from this crisis?
The COVID-19 came to stay; its impact has been so strong that it came to change consumer habits and lifestyles. The future of Nuestra Cocina is adapting to a new era of food consumption and online alternatives to purchasing food.
As a company, we will further strengthen our ability to offer our consumers food that provides them with safety and peace of mind, as well as being healthy.
We also reinforce our social commitment and continue to offer products made under environmentally friendly processes. We must continue to grow but be more conscious of our planet and our community.
The crisis most important lesson has been focusing on what I can control is more productive than stressing about what I cannot control. The COVID-19 has shaken me up and challenged me to reinvent myself.
What positive actions taken by the IHCC would you like to see continue to be implemented once normality is restored?
We hope there will be more webinars covering different areas of the business world.
You Are Not Alone! If you want to send us a video telling how the IHCC helped your business in this hard times, please send it at email@example.com
All videos will be published on our blog and on social media as part of the #NoEstasSolo and #YouAreNotAlone campaign.