Navigating today’s economic environment

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz
Posted 12/1/22

In October 2018, I revved the engine of my food truck - a 1978 VW Combi Bus - and hit the road. While I wasn’t going very far, I knew I had a long journey ahead. I parked my truck on Larimer Street …

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Navigating today’s economic environment

Posted

In October 2018, I revved the engine of my food truck - a 1978 VW Combi Bus - and hit the road. While I wasn’t going very far, I knew I had a long journey ahead. I parked my truck on Larimer Street in Denver, opened up the service window and waited for my first customers.

And just like that, my business was born.

Now a few years later, I have three food concepts across the greater Denver area - Stokes Poke Food Truck, Fresco Fridge Vending Machines and Combi Cafe. But my businesses make up only a small part of who I am - I’m also a Mexican immigrant, a proud member of the LGBTQ community, and a recipient of — and vocal advocate for — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Especially as a person of color, my path to owning these small businesses was far from easy. In 2020, the pandemic resulted in me losing almost 90% of my business, and I nearly had to close my doors.

It was an obvious choice to pivot my business to delivery and, with the support of third-party platforms, I was able to keep my business alive. I’m a strong believer in food delivery because it has proven to help me grow my business and over time, its benefits have been incalculable.

A few months ago, I came across a newsletter from DoorDash that had information about how its Accelerator for Local Restaurants cohort was coming to Denver. The program offers local restaurant owners a $20,000 grant, training and education courses, one-on-one customized business advising and marketing benefits. I applied, and a few weeks later, I was delighted to hear that I was accepted into the program, alongside 19 other Denver-based small business owners.

I’m now nearing the end of the program, and I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities it has opened for me and my businesses. I’ve heard from industry experts, such as Denver’s own James Beard Award Semifinalist Manny Barella, who spoke to our group about balancing creativity and practicality to create a delicious menu that’s both financially and environmentally sustainable. I’ve also been introduced to the program’s nonprofit partners — the Hispanic Restaurant Association of Colorado and Accion Opportunity Fund, a mission-based small business support organization. I’ve even been able to meet other Denver-based business owners, learn from them, and try their food.

The $20,000 grant has also been instrumental in supporting our bottom line. As a business owner of color, I’ve long found it difficult to access capital to boost my business. But now, I finally have the funds to do things like improve my branding and expand my advertising efforts. All of this will help me reach more customers.

It’s humbling to look back at how far I’ve come since I first set out with my food truck. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to grow my businesses, especially through a thorny challenge like the pandemic. I’m grateful to DoorDash for all the ways they’ve been able to support the evolution of my business.

Alejandro Flores-Muñoz is an entrepreneur, mentor and activist in Denver.

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