Just like many other immigrants in this country, Luciana Alonso and Diego Cureses arrived in Chicago 14 years ago from Argentina, looking to start new lives. They didn’t know each other in their home country.
Diego wasn’t a stranger in Chicago because he studied English in the city, when he was a teenager. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Diego became a pastry chef. Back in Chicago, he started working in a bakery shortly.
Meanwhile, Luciana moved to Chicago because some of her friends were already living in the Windy City. The process wasn’t easy for Luciana, who was a school teacher in Argentina. It took her some time to adapt to her new life in the U.S.
Fate let these two people cross paths. Soon enough they started a family, and then together they made plans for having their own family pastry business. At first, it was only a dream, since they had never owned a business, and didn’t know anything about how to get started.
In 2012, the couple contacted IHCC and were connected to the Illinois SBDC Director, Silvia Bonilla, who assisted them from scratch. The process wasn’t easy, but based on their idea, Bonilla oriented Luciana and Diego in every step of the way. They admit that her orientation was key to make their dream a reality. “In the Illinois SBDC at IHCC we found a team that had enormous patience and generosity offered us their advice to determine what would work best for our needs”, Luciana says.
They learned to develop a business plan and trained in management to be able to sell their products in a more professional way. The couple also learned how to deal with bureaucracy, especially in the process of obtaining all the licenses needed in the food industry.
First, they started with “BA Pastries,” which only sold their Argentine-style bread and cakes in small “farmers markets”. This one allowed them to measure their abilities and learn a variety of topics, as different as finances or customer service.
In 2014 they partnered with the owner of a food business already established and began selling inside a commercial site in the Chicago Hyde Park neighborhood. Over the years, their sales kept growing, but the relationship with their new partner became more tense. Finally, in 2019, they decided to dissolve the partnership and to take some time off to rethink their business goals.
Beginning the new decade, Luciana came back to IHCC, and Silvia Bonilla received her with open arms. “She remembered us perfectly. She gave us the same incredible personalized service as always. She promised to help us in the same way as she did the first time we met her. Silvia guided us along with this new process, being always very kind and professional. It’s amazing that this assistance is at no cost”, she adds.
Luciana remarked that only after the help received from the Illinois SBDC they were able to take advantage from their past experience, and better understand the challenges that they will face in the future.
The IHCC team’s guidance and business advice make them feel more confident in what they do. Their focus is on maintaining product quality and customer service, two factors that they consider key to success.
“An external consultant sees the entire process with more independence. That’s why we always advocate IHCC’s willingness to help us change and improve”, she concludes.
Luciana and Diego keep dreaming, but this second opportunity finds them more mature as entrepreneurs. With the Illinois SBDC team at the IHCC support, they face the challenge of opening a new business with more focus and less stress. These entrepreneurs have peace of mind knowing they can count on the IHCC anytime they need to.
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