Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
This month the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis launched its inaugural Mercado de Ideas (Market of Ideas) at CIC St. Louis. The purpose of the program is to support economic development throughout the region through the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce network. The Hispanic Chamber launched the idea at a Business After Hours event, with a call to action for companies to submit their business concepts.
The Chamber was able to raise $210,000 in partner commitments to support businesses that were accepted throughout the program. After reviewing 15 business concepts, four were chosen to present at the Mercado de Ideas to a panel of judges in a Shark Tank-like setting.
The Mercado de Ideas was created “to be a driver of economic development,” said Chamber President and CEO Karlos Ramirez.
Overall, the inaugural Mercado de Ideas was a great first step in the right direction to provide funding for companies and startups through the Hispanic Chamber network. The companies who pitched were well received and enjoyed constructive feedback given by the judges. Although no formal offers were established, this was the first public showcase of Hispanic entrepreneurship in the region, and the investors and companies will continue to have private conversations to determine next action steps.
See the details of the participating companies below:
del Carmen Foods
Originally from Cuba, Estrella Cruz-Curoe moved to Saint Louis in 2007 after having lived in other cities throughout the US, migrating to the United States in the 1960s. During her years raising a family, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking Cuban food. She ran into a big problem, she couldn’t find the right kind of beans to cook – which are a staple in Cuban and various Latin American cuisines.
Estrella started to work on black bean recipes from scratch. After sharing cooking for others, to her surprise, people really liked what she was making. People hadn’t tasted black beans like hers before, and they were instantly a hit.
Del Carmen Foods currently has a loyal customer base and has annual sales over $30,000. Sysco has also made a purchase of 90 cases of black beans. While Estrella would like to remain a small independent company, there is an opportunity to realize the market potential.
Gateway Legacy Preparatory Academy
The Gateway Legacy Preparatory Academy started 10 years ago as a prep school with six elementary school students from the local area. Now, they currently have 300 students enrolled in the preparatory academy.
The problem: According to Academy, the United States is ranked 19th worldwide in high school graduation – as compared to being ranked number one about 40 years ago.
The solution: Providing one-on-one education to students who participate in their program. The Academy includes updated computers labs, ingenuity curriculum and zSpace curriculum.
Originally from Spain, Iñigo Gondra founded The Croquetterie, LLC. By featuring artisanal bites from his homeland including croquettes, tapas and paella, he is creating a marketplace for foods that are not currently offered on a large scale here in the region.
Iñigo is still testing the product-market fit as he participates in a number of farmers markets and uses them as an opportunity to conduct taste tests of his cuisine. He’s at the stage of looking for locations to set up as either a restaurant and/or catering business.
An Arch Grants Recipient who relocated from NYC to Saint Louis, Makers Valley boasts an online subscription-based platform that connects garment artisans with independent label designers.
There are thousands of garment manufacturers who have been in the game for decades, but unfortunately many of them haven’t been able to open up to the rest of the world – except through the big fashion houses. Some of the factories have been closing down, due to powerfully industry players creating a bidding war that cut the smaller artisans out.
Makers Valley creates a win-win opportunity for fashion designers and artisans. Their maker platform enables designer to create direct manufacturing relationships with high-quality artisans in Italy, while simultaneously eliminating huge broker fees and large minimum requirements, associated with working with large factories.
Their business has strong cash flow and while they are looking to scale, they are being patient as they continue to improve their processes and operations.