Posts

Tiny Sprouts Foods

Meet Tina and Kim, two South-Asian moms planting seeds for healthier childhoods with their brand Tiny Sprouts Foods

These days, we understand the importance of nutrition and the impact our foods have on growing children. However, when Tiny Sprouts Foods founders Tina and Kim were growing up, their parents, like many others, did not know that 90% of our brain was developed by age 5, and that every bite we ate in our first few years of life could impact our health as adults.

Tiny Sprouts Foods

Tiny Sprouts Foods co-founder, Kim. (Photo courtesy of Tiny Sprouts Foods.)

It was only after experiencing health issues as young adults that the two friends developed a passion for nutrition. Food turned into their medicine, and seeds like flax, chia and hemp became staples in their diets.

Then, they each became mothers and their children’s nutrient needs were at the top of their minds. They began including seeds into their children’s diets as seeds are the world’s TINIEST superfood, packed full of all the essential nutrients a child needs to develop and thrive. 

During this time, the women began to wonder why there were no seed products designed for children? Seeds are a perfect, easy addition to any meal after all, with their small size, neutral taste, and versatility. They’re also an excellent way to sneak in some extra nutrition for even the pickiest of eaters. 

So Tina and Kim began brainstorming and finally the foundation of Tiny Sprouts Foods ‘sprouted’ and was ironically born on Mother’s Day 2020, at the height of the global pandemic. 

Uniting their passion for children’s nutrition and functional foods, along with their combined 30 years experience in the consumer goods industry, Kim and Tina bravely left their secure corporate jobs to fully commit to their mission of planting the seeds for healthier childhood development through their business venture. 

Tiny Sprouts Foods

Tiny Sprouts Organic Superseed Boosters, which combine wholesome ingredients and contain a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. (Photo courtesy of Tiny Sprouts Foods.)

Today, Tiny Sprouts Foods is a minority-female-founded children’s nutrition company focused on producing easy, nutrient-rich products that offer functional health benefits to the developing child. 

Their top products are their Tiny Sprouts Organic Superseed Boosters, which combine wholesome ingredients and contain a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals while boosting your little one’s nutrition and help them meet their daily health needs. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by TINY SPROUTS (@tinysproutsfoods)

From sprouting to thriving 

While they have overcome hurdles to get to where they are today, starting a small business at the height of the pandemic was not without its challenges. One challenge was the fact that both women lived in different countries. 

Tiny Sprouts Foods

Tiny Sprouts Foods co-founder, Tina. (Photo courtesy of Tiny Sprouts Foods.)

“We are a team of two South Asian moms who reside in different countries; Kim in the USA and Tina in Canada,” they say. 

However, despite the physical distance, they found their vision and passion for the business keeps them together. 

Another struggle that many entrepreneurs, especially those in the food industry understand, was supplying, manufacturing, and sourcing. Kim and Tina encountered many roadblocks, pushing back their original launch date, but quality and food safety was a top priority so they persevered through these hurdles. 

“From product development, ingredient sourcing, manufacturing through to testing of our final products, quality and safety of our boosters will always be our number one priority. With that, however, comes a ton of extra precautions thus adding costs and always more time!” Tina and Kim share. 

“We have had to change co-packers, deal with suppliers sending us incorrect materials, and ingredients not meeting our high-quality standards. All this combined led to a launch date that was severely delayed and time & money wasted. Surely, the thought of giving up came up endlessly, but we pushed through, got to the finish line and are extremely proud of the products we developed.”

Both Kim and Tina were raised by hard working immigrant parents, so they learned firsthand the value of hard work and determination, which they now apply to their daily work at Tiny Sprouts. 

“We saw the daily struggles and sacrifices that our parents endured to provide for our families.  It has made us more resilient and flexible in a world where minority female entrepreneurs still aren’t the norm.”

Tiny Sprouts Foods

“We pushed through, got to the finish line and are extremely proud of the products we developed.” (Photo courtesy of Tiny Sprouts Foods.)

Tina and Kim are also motivated to succeed and continue to grow their business and push past challenges when they hear feedback and review of how their products have helped parents and families. 

We hear the relief and happiness in their messages knowing that their babies and children are getting adequate nutrition despite ongoing picky eating habits or other mealtime issues. Mealtime stress is real and feeding children can be deflating and frustrating – knowing that we are making this easier and less stressful for fellow moms is the best reward we can get.” 

Knowing that they are not only helping to improve the health trajectory of the next generation, but are also providing parents with the peace of mind they deserve is a great motivator and the best reward. 

“There is no greater motivation than helping fellow parents do the same for their own children.” 

You might be interested: Black and Latina moms are becoming entrepreneurs now more than ever 

To other minority women entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners, Kim and Tina offer a few words of advice learned from their own journey. 

“The struggle is real,” they say, “but the reward is unreal. There will be some very tough times, but if you truly believe in your idea, stick with it and the reward will come. It’s a journey.  It takes grit and determination to start a new business from scratch. Always keep the end goal in mind, and always remember your mission. This is what truly got us through the hard times.” 

healthy recipes by Latina chefs

5 Healthy recipes by Latina chefs to try this National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where everyone is invited to learn more about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating habits.

This year’s theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” showcases how flavors from cultures around the world are a tasty way to nourish ourselves and appreciate our diversity. 

Embracing the theme, we’re sharing some of our favorite healthy recipes by Latina chefs. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos 

Yvette from @muybuenocooking on Instagram is a proud Latina who is developing and sharing traditional Mexican, Latin-Inspired healthy recipes. Her Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos are bright and flavorful and will make the perfect addition to meal plan this month. The tacos are also vegan and gluten-free, making them the perfect choice for anyone looking to embrace a more plant-based diet. 

Check out the full recipe below.

Vegan Potato Enchiladas

Dora from @dorastable shares a vegan potato enchilada recipe that is out of this world. In this recipe, Dora combines sautéed onion and mushrooms, a guajillo enchilada sauce, tender potatoes and carrots, jalapeños and more to create a delicious and nutritious, balanced meal. 

Check out her how-to video below.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vegan Mexican Recipes (@dorastable)

Mexican-Inspired Roasted Veggies 

Isabel from @isabeleats shares two amazing healthy Latin American inspired recipes. First is her Mexican-Inspired Roasted Veggies. These veggies are tossed in a blend of mouth-watering seasonings and oven-roasted until tender, then topped with a dash of lime juice, some salty cotija cheese, and fresh cilantro. These will make the perfect, tasty side dish to any meal! 

Check out the full recipe below. 

Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger

Another great plant-based recipe by @isabeleats is her Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger. This burger is hearty and flavorful with sweet potatoes, black beans, quinoa and a flavorful mix of seasonings. You’ll be sure to wow family and guests alike with this dish. 

Visit Isabel’s site in the link below for the full recipe.

Roasted Asparagus Spring Salad 

Last but not least is a gorgeous spring salad by Nicole from @presleyspantry. This salad is light, freshing, and packed with tasty and nutritious ingredients. From homemade croutons and dressing to sliced radishes, oranges, Kalamata olives, and of course, roasted asparagus, this salad has it all. Try it as a meal itself or add it as a side to your main course. Maybe even pair it up with one of Isabel’s veggie burgers! 

Check out the full recipe below. 

You might be interested: 5 teas and infusions popular in Latin America to improve sleep, focus, digestion, and more! 

Which of these healthy recipes by Latina chefs is your favorite? And how will you be celebrating a world of flavors?  Let us know down below or on social media!

Try these healthy holiday food recipes by Latina chefs 

Happy holidays! This time of year is all about family, celebrations, and food. Food is central to our Latina celebrations and it’s easy to get carried away with the oh-so-delicious holiday dishes. If you’re looking to have a bit of a healthier holiday, check out these healthy holiday food recipes below from Latina chefs. 

Ensalada de Noche Buena

Ericka Sanchez of @nibblesnfeasts on Instagram shares her Ensalada de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve Salad recipe on her site. This salad is a traditional staple for Mexican families during the holidays. 

In her post, Ericka describes the origins of the salad, which is named after the Poinsettia (Noche Buena), and also means Christmas Eve in Spanish. “It resembles the beauty and colorful plant that we are so fond of every holiday season. Arranged in a circle, similar to a flower and accented by bright crimson pomegranate arils, like jewels on a wreath, this delicious salad is sweet, savory and crunchy for all to enjoy,” says Ericka. 

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ericka Sanchez (@nibblesnfeasts)

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail 

Yvette from @muybuenocooking on Instagram is a proud Latina who is developing and sharing traditional Mexican, Latin-Inspired healthy recipes. Her Mexican style shrimp cocktail is a personal holiday favorite and will be sure to shake up your own holiday meal. See the full recipe here.

 

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie 

Who said being healthy means skipping dessert? With this Vegan Sweet Potato Pie by @dorastable, you won’t have to say no to the sweet treats. Rich and creamy and full of seasonal spices, this pie is the perfect addition to any holiday meal. The full recipe for this delicious healthy holiday food recipe can be found on Dora’s site here

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vegan Mexican Recipes (@dorastable)

You might be interested: 5 Latina inspired Thanksgiving recipes to try this year

Buñuelos de Viento

Another healthy holiday sweet treat recipe from @dorastable are these crispy snowflake-shaped fritters covered in cinnamon sugar. Buñuelos de Viento are a traditional Mexican holiday treat with Spanish and Arab origins. Dora writes in her blog post about the recipe, “In Mexico, buñuelos were adapted to the flat tortilla shape (buñuelos de rodilla) or the snowflake shape (buñuelos de viento) made with a rosette mold.” 

These treats are easy to make and great for large holiday gatherings. See the full recipe here

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vegan Mexican Recipes (@dorastable)

vegan diet

Latinas shift to vegan diet, improving focus and productivity at work

It’s no secret that what we eat impacts how we perform. The types of food we consume contributes to our mood, energy levels, and productivity. As part of World Vegan Month this November, we are diving into the benefits of a vegan diet. 

In general, plant-based eating can improve one’s health, it’s typically more affordable, and much more eco-friendly. In fact, a vegan diet uses much fewer resources, requiring five times less water than producing animal-based foods. 

For the Latinx population specifically, it has been found that diet-related health issues common within the community can be reduced through plant-based eating. 

Latinx and Hispanic individuals are more prone to health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Statistically, Latinos are also more likely to suffer from heart disease

Transitioning to a vegan diet, or simply incorporating more plant-based meals into one’s existing diet, can significantly help to reduce these health risks. Affordability also makes veganism an attractive alternative, especially for middle- to lower- income communities. 

“It’s much more cost-effective to prepare plant-based dishes using rice, beans, and vegetables than it is to feed one’s family using animal products,” said holistic nutritionist and bilingual foodie writer, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, in an article with VegNews

Currently, about 3 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are vegetarian or vegan, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. This number is close to the national average for adults: 3.5 percent for females and 3.2 percent for males. 

In fact, for many Mexican-Americans, a vegan diet is not far off from what their ancestors once ate in pre-Columbian times, according to NPR. Many traditional dishes by indigenous natives were plant-based. The meats we think of today as traditional to Latinx dishes–beef, bork, chicken, lamb–were brought over by the Spaniards. 

Boosting your productivity at work through plant-based eating 

In a study conducted by City Pantry on healthy eating habits, experts weighed in on how foods affect our levels of productivity and focus. 

According Dr Uma Naidoo – board-certified psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and nutrition specialist – reducing inflammation is key to keeping energy and productivity levels up during the workday. 

“Low-grade inflammation flips off a metabolic switch in the chemical pathway that produces energy,” she said. “When inflammation is present in the body, less energy is available to the brain, so it’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods to ensure workers wake up in a good mood and stay energized and focused through the entire morning.”

Foods to avoid are those high in artificial sweeteners, added and refined sugars, trans fats, and processed meats and cheeses. 

Plant-based foods are associated with lower levels of inflammation, which means incorporating more vegan options into your diet can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. 

You might be interested: 10 Snacks to boost productivity and get you through the work day

There is no one way to approach veganism and many often transition into the diet slowly. Others may choose to only eat plant-based on certain days, such as the Instagram account Meatless Mondays, which encourages people to swap out meat at least one day a week and provides a variety of fun and fresh meatless meals to try.

To start incorporating some vegan meal choices into your diet to boost your productivity, Dr. Naidoo recommends focusing on foods with natural fats such as nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil.

 “Fat is a key component for mental health. Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat and in order to perform at its best, it requires a constant supply of omega-3-fatty acids,” Dr. Naidoo explained.

As busy women and entrepreneurs, staying focused and energized is so important. If you’re feeling low on energy, it might be time to reevaluate your food choices and shake things up! And what better month to try out plant-based eating than World Vegan Month? 

Latinas in Business Intern Fe-Licitty Branch contributed to this article. 

Innovating a classic: COCINA 54 introduces frozen, gluten-free empanadas

Looking for tasty, gluten-free empanadas made from scratch with fresh vegetables, antibiotic free meats, and ready in minutes? Look no more! COCINA 54 has you covered with their exclusive line of delicious frozen empanadas. 

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

Introducing frozen, gluten-free empanadas

With a push for better-for-you products in recent years that also satisfy consumers’ need for convenience without sacrificing taste and quality, Cecilia Panichelli saw an opening in the market for her empanadas. 

Born and raised in Argentina, Cecilia moved to the US in 2000 to attend an exchange program at the University of Texas. She then spent 15 years working in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, working for companies such as Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, and later Nestle. 

For years her American friends would tell her how much they LOVED her empanadas. They just couldn’t get enough! Recognizing the demand for empanadas amongst Americans, Cecilia and her husband finally decided to start their own business, launching COCINA 54 in 2017. 

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

“I had an extensive background in the CPG industry and my husband has always been an entrepreneur,” says Cecilia. “I did my research and found that consumers wanted products that were gluten-free, baked, and used fresh vegetables, but they also wanted grab & go items that fit their busy lifestyle. And finally they were craving BOLD international flavors. We know empanadas are super popular in Latin America for these same reasons so I felt it was the right time to launch them in the U.S.” 

So COCINA 54 began as a micro-business. Cecilia and her husband would make empanadas over the weekend and then deliver them to a few local stores in Austin, Texas, while they continued their day jobs. Consumers instantly fell in love with their empanadas, just as their friends had. In April of 2018 they moved from selling locally to selling in 150 stores all over Texas, launching 5 savory flavors from Traditional Beef to Bacon, Egg, & Cheese. 

Now their products can also be ordered online via their shop, reaching more mouths than ever before!  

The 20 year journey behind “overnight” success

Cecilia’s story may seem like she was an overnight success, but her journey began more than 20 years ago, back in Argentina when she was just a high school student dreaming big. 

Cecilia Panichelli, Co-founder of COCINA 54 (Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli)

“Education, to me, is one of the most valuable tools that enables a person to follow their dreams,” says Cecilia.

Growing up in Argentina, Cecilia dreamed of attending the University of San Andres, the most prestigious private school in Argentina– also the most expensive. 

“I always lived a good middle class life, with working parents and food on the table. We even got to go on vacations. But this school, it was out of my family’s financial possibilities.” 

The realities of her family’s financial situation however did not deter her from her dream. Cecilia had set her mind to it, so somehow it would happen. She decided she would apply for a scholarship. And she decided she would get it. And she did! 

Attending San Andres was crucial to Cecilia’s journey toward her career and professional success. It opened new doors of possibility, showed Cecilia a different world of opportunities, and gave her the tools to face the next challenges of her life.

“It was the first time I would be moved out of my comfort zone,” she says. “What I didn’t realize is that this was just the beginning.” 

She quickly learned that growing a career or business as a Latina was not easy, especially when it came to securing capital. 

“As a Latina, and a barely 5-foot-tall woman, I found that it’s difficult to obtain access to capital, to get people to listen,” says Cecilia. “To this day, COCINA 54 is a self-funded business which limits the speed on which you grow as a business.” 

The market is ready for COCINA 54, with more and more people looking for healthier alternatives and becoming more aware of what they put in their bodies–now more than ever is the time for healthy, tasty, gluten-free empanadas. 

gluten-free empanadas

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

And yet, even with a ready market, passionate and experience team, and an innovative product investors are still few and far between. 

“I continue to see investors write checks to other start-ups with none of the assets we bring to the table,” says Cecilia, reflecting on the struggles of accessing capital as a Latina business owner. “I do believe society is changing, but we still have a long way to go to truly have equal rights as women and as Hispanic businesses.”

You might be interested: Grammy-award winning Cherry Martinez offers free commercials to minority-owned businesses

Connecting with customers through gluten-free empanadas during Covid-19

Ironically, though, Cecilia notes that it is often because of the lack of funding for minority businesses, that Latinas are more likely to be set up to run profitable businesses. 

“Uncertainty is part of our Latino heritage. When I worked in Latin America, we would have to make a plan A, B, and C depending on inflation, devaluation. We are very used to turmoil and not knowing what comes next.” 

This always planning for the unknown has its perks. Latinas are always prepared and ready to think of quick solutions to keep the business afloat and thriving.

This mentality has been especially crucial during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Before Covid-19, COCINA 54 were not selling online. Now they’re reaching new customers all over the country, and getting to connect with their customers in new and unexpected ways. 

“We started to have a huge influx of online orders which allows you to connect with the end consumer directly, so we started getting messages from customers that we have never heard before,” says Cecilia, remembering one of her favorite customer messages.  

gluten-free empanadas“It was from a customer that loves our gluten-free empanadas and decided to send them to her white American grandma who was feeling a little down and having trouble preparing her food during quarantine. A week later, we received a note from her 90 year old grandmother saying: ‘These empanadas are so delicious! THANK YOU! I will spread the word to friends and book club ladies! These were my first empanadas and I will look forward to many others.‘” 

How funny and heartwarming! 

You might be interested:  Empanada Fork seals the deal with new products by Latina entrepreneur Hipatia Lopez

Think about what you can do better to improve your life 

For other minority women who are thinking of starting their own business or would like to achieve success in their profession or career, Cecilia’s advice is to reflect on where you are and whatever you are doing today, and think about what you can do better. How can you improve your situation? What actions will get you closer to your goals? 

Maybe it’s attending a prestigious school, or maybe it’s connecting with successful entrepreneurs in your field. Learn from your experiences, learn from others and find mentors, listen to them and ask them what you need. 

“If you are planning to get into the CPG world, you will need capital. You can’t quit your job today, you need a plan,” Cecilia advises. “How can you afford that dream? If your plan is to grow your career, I would say speak up more, ask for that additional project, for that raise. Make yourself visible. Be bold. And know that it is not overnight success. My journey started more than 20 years ago when I earned my scholarship.” 

Fast-forward 20 years, and she is changing the game for healthy, international frozen foods with her innovative better-for-you empanadas. 

If you would like to get a taste of COCINA 54’s tasty variety of healthy, ready to go, gluten-free empanadas, don’t hesitate to place your order today.  

You might be interested: Fashion shows must go on says Fashion Designers of Latin America Albania Rosario

Latina entrepreneur achieves American Dream growing healthy food

Cindy Cruz Agropek founder and CEO in Puerto Rico

Cindy Cruz Agropek founder and CEO in Puerto Rico

Cindy Cruz Torres is the CEO of Agropek LLC, a small agricultural business dedicated to the cultivation, harvest, and sale of healthy food. Cindy, one of AccessLatina Accelerator finalists, has proven once again that hard work, perseverance and dedication can overcome any obstacle and bring success. However, the road to success for Cindy was anything but easy.

According to the Brookings Institution, nearly 13 percent of the US population is foreign born accounting for nearly 40 million individuals. Immigrants coming to the USA are allured by the American Dream, the belief that if they work hard and play by the rules, they can achieve success.

This belief universally resonates in many people like Cindy Cruz. Even though there is no guarantee that they will achieve success, Cindy stands at the top of the heap revealing that the American Dream is still alive and well.

So how did it all start?

According to Cruz, she was not a business-minded person and like many nationals from Puerto Rico, had little money working for someone else. However, the economic crisis in 2010 led to her being laid off.

“At the time I was pregnant with my first child. Living with my parents gave the time to ponder about my future,” she recalls, and soon the first seeds of a business venture evolved in her mother-in-law’s backyard.

She glanced over the landscape and thought that perhaps she should venture into the agriculture business. Locally, there was a serious shortage of quality foods; however, Cindy had no acumen in business, had never taken any economic classes and knew of no one in business.

“I did not even know what being an entrepreneur meant and had no idea how to start a business,” she shared with LIBizus.

Facing the challenges to achieve healthy food

Agropek workers healthy food

Cindy with Agropek workers in beautiful Puerto Rico

Although she had attended the University of Puerto Rico in Ponce and obtained degrees in accounting and forensic psychology, Cindy faced a major obstacle, lack of capital investment.

Everyone she spoke to asked about prior experience in agriculture and her business plan, none of which she had.

But most importantly, her biggest challenge was lack of confidence, great insecurity and the fear of failing. “I did not have a lot of savings and it would destroy many lives if I lost everything in a foolish business venture,” she affirmed.

She did not know what the toll of a new business venture would have on her lifestyle and pregnancy. Would she be able to cope as a mother, wife, daughter and business woman all at the same time?

Preparing for the future takes time and investment

Cindy then spent the next few months reading about her potential future business in agriculture. She spoke to many people, read the local laws, invested in workshops and seminars. She spoke to other business people and her family.

“The conclusion was that if I did not try I would never know,” she recalls. She was keenly aware that the path to any business was fraught with difficulty because the economy was poor and unpredictable.

In 2010, she finally launched Agropek on a small scale offering non-processed foods. However, her competitive edge was that her products were distinguished by quality and freshness. Then in 2015 Agropek added new products as processed (value-added products).

Within a few months, her customers started to make positive comments about the high nutritional value and durability of the healthy food. Over the next few years, her business started to expand.

By 2015, she had enlisted several other Latino business women to help start other stores in Puerto Rico. Today, Agropek is a profitable business that has created jobs for Latinos and Americans as well.

Looking back at the past five years, Cindy points out that her success was largely due to her ability to function as a leader who was able to multitask.

“I knew that failure was not an option and had prepared well for the business, despite having no background in the corporate world,” she shares.

Reaping what you sow

Value-added products are natural with no preservatives

Value-added products are natural with no preservatives

Today, she continually faces challenges but is not afraid to tackle them. “Success,” she says, “ also builds confidence.”

Even though she initially aimed her business at Latinos, the overwhelming popularity of her products has attracted people of all races and cultures. She strongly feels there is a need for more Latino women to enter the business world because there are opportunities for those who work hard.

“Latino women have always had the ‘work-hard’ spirit , one virtue which is difficult to find. For Latinas who want to venture into business, I encourage them to create good work ethics and develop strong social bonds. There will be disappointments and failures along the way, but the path for those who persist is marked with success,” Cindy said.

As to why Agropek has succeeded when there are so many other similar businesses, Cindy believes her foods are focused on “Healthy and Responsible Eating.”

What makes a good entrepreneur? “A successful entrepreneur should have the following qualities: passion, vision and perseverance. My favorite quote, which she abides by in daily life is, ‘Make a habit of helping others, or at least to do no harm’,” she shared.

As our politicians continue to debate the economic benefits of Hispanic immigrants, they should constantly be reminded that many profitable American companies were developed by individuals born outside continental USA such as Cindy.

Foreign born individuals are more likely to start a business than someone born in the USA. Businesses like one that Cindy Cruz operates also employ many Americans. Her success epitomizes that even today, one can achieve the American Dream.