Guadalupe is living the American dream: “No one believed me, they all said I was crazy.”
This the first of our stories in our series spotlighting U.S. businesses in celebration of Independence Day.
Story by Diana Silva, Kiva marketing intern. Photos by Brandon Smith.
“After years of working for someone else, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of bringing the food of my childhood to my new home.”
You can tell Guadalupe is a passionate woman from the moment you place your order at El Pipila. She is constantly moving around assembling the plates, but keeping an eye on everything that’s going on, making sure everyone receives the best service.
Her passion comes in part from her journey to the United States, and as she discusses it Guadalupe’s eyes fill with tears. Her daughter, Brenda, does most of the talking, to help her mother through it. Sixteen years ago Guadalupe decided to leave Guanajuato, a state in central Mexico, and join her relatives in the U.S. She had to make the hard decision to leave her daughters behind with her mother. Upon arriving in the U.S., Guadalupe worked tirelessly for a whole year to be able to move her daughters to the U.S.
She spent the next 12 years working from 10 am to 10 pm, Monday through Saturday. No breaks, no days off, no holidays. Guadalupe sacrificed herself for her daughters — she knew going back to Mexico wasn’t an option if they were to have a better future. Brenda remembers with sorrow the days her mother had to receive injections on her feet because of the pain of standing up all day for 6 days in a row.
Guadalupe realized she couldn’t keep going like this, and asked for a day off. Her former boss said no. That was the last straw, and Guadalupe quit her job.
This is where the story of El Pipila begins. For the first 2 months, all the money they received went back into the business. The money she saved was spent on equipment. Guadalupe asked her daughter, Brenda, to quit her job and join her.
“No one believed me, they all said I was crazy,” explains Guadalupe. “Now, they joined me in the craziness!”
“Now I’m crazy too!” says Brenda, and then explains that she struggled with the decision to leave her job — she had bills, car payments, things she wanted to buy. One week after her mom asked her she quit her job, and they have since worked together to bring El Pipila to life.
Guadalupe joined Kiva Trustee La Cocina and started a catering business, working as hard as she did before — but this time she was building something she owned. They were on a strict budget, 1 month they survived on $500. For everything.
“We would buy 1 bagel, 1 donut and 1 coffee — to share. Now, we can each afford a bagel!” jokes Brenda. Brenda was the first employee to receive a check. They since hired Guadalupe’s daughter Alejandra, their first non-family employee Maria, cousins, uncles and 2 part-time cooks to help with the catering — overall, El Pipila currently supports 9 people. The hardships were worth it, Guadalupe says. “I’m happy, but I’ll have my dream when I have a restaurant.”
Since those early days, El Pipila has grown tremendously, and Guadalupe can now rest on the weekends and put her feet up (her weekdays still start around 6am).
Their $10,000 Kiva loan helped with equipment and the first month of rent at The Hall, a shared food venue for independent businesses in San Francisco. Brenda remembers how desperate that period felt. “We were asked to open a stall the next month. We didn’t have the cash to build out.”
They received their Kiva loan just in time to write their first rent check and were able to pay everything they owed.
They now own a commercial van to make their deliveries and purchase ingredients, and their business is going better than planned. “Soy famosa!” says Guadalupe, mentioning how people recognize her pictures on the streets of San Francisco since she was featured in a set of Kiva ads celebrating local businesses. Her relatives and patrons send her pictures of the ads to this day.
“We feel so lucky that you are willing to invest that money on a dream that [my mother] had and that I helped it succeed,” Brenda said. “ [Kiva] has done so much for us that we don’t know how to pay them back!”
Well, not to worry Brenda, watching another American dream take root and grow is payment enough.
To help other U.S. small business owners, like Guadalupe, get closer to their next American dream, go to kiva.org and make an impactful loan!