Wesley Tashir-Rodriguez, the man behind Los Verracos Foods, received a Kiva Zip loan in May 2013. Los Verracos is a catering company founded by three friends in 2009 and dedicated to “making culturally authentic foods from Latin America and the Caribbean” that frequently involve pork.
More than a year after the loan, Tashir-Rodriguez isn’t exactly where he dreamed he would be. For one, he’s no longer a member of Union Kitchen. He had to slow down and take a step back, realizing the limitations of running his business as it is now—a part-time operation. A government health policy employee by day and caterer by night (and during all his days off), Tashir-Rodriguez still aspires to one day dedicate his professional life full-time to his food business.
For now, he’s grateful to be able to keep the business going and acknowledges that the Kiva Zip loan made a difference. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep the business going past … a month or two without it,” he says.
After moving to DC in 2010, Tashir-Rodriguez began selling his food at the (now defunct) DC Grey Market and quickly developed an enthusiastic following. Even after gaining some recognition and becoming a member of Union Kitchen, he struggled to keep the business afloat on a limited budget and worried about paying the rent at Union Kitchen each month. He still had “no steady stream of income” for the business, noting that even something as simple as bad weather could cost him money in potential food sales at outdoor events. Still, being a member of Union Kitchen “opened up a lot more doors…to develop the business.” So, when Jonas Singer, co-founder of Union Kitchen, told Tashir-Rodriguez about the Kiva Zip loan program, Tashir-Rodriguez seized the opportunity to secure funding for Los Verracos that would enable him to both pay the rent each month and expand his operations.
The Kiva Zip loan appealed to him because it had “no interest and flexible terms.” He also appreciated that Kiva Zip “would work with you as best as possible to meet your needs” and loved the ease of receiving funding via Paypal and being able to repay the loan via Paypal.The $5,000 loan “alleviated some of the pressure of having to scrounge to find resources to pay rent … and grow the business.” With the loan money, Tashir-Rodriguez “was able to pay for graphic design … rebranding of [the] logo, stationery,” as well as other promotional materials, like banners.
However, he soon found that the business was growing too quickly and that he wasn’t able to keep up with demand due to his full-time job. He decided that he could’t afford to leave that job, so he has had to scale back Los Verracos. Today, Los Verracos is still a part of the DC food community and regularly participates in local markets and events. “I was on the path of … hiring staff and really growing the business,” he says. And he would like to be on that path again, one day, in five to ten years. His immediate “desire is to keep catering and hopefully get back into [Union] Kitchen, if possible.” Longer term, the “goal would be to be on a good financial footing to be able to have a successful business that employs people and provides good food, which is the bottom line.”
Video footage of our interview with Los Verracos Foods’ Wesley Tashir-Rodriguez will be available soon on Kiva Zip’s site.