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In less than eight years, Lorena Cantarovici has gone from a recent immigrant struggling with finances to a small business owner with $3.5 million in funding.
Cantarovici, a native of Buenos Aires, founded Maria Empanada in Denver, in 2010, after impressing catering customers with her food. Empanadas, her specialty, are a favorite snack in Argentina, consisting of baked or fried pockets of dough filled with everything from egg, potato and chorizo to spicy beef or ham and mozzarella.
She first sold empanadas from her garage, then moved to a small space in the Mile High City. Today, Maria Empanada has three locations, but another is already on the way after a Series A funding round from the Colorado Impact Fund, a venture capital firm that supports local Colorado companies.
“Lorena Cantarovici is emblematic of the type of entrepreneur CIF supports,” said Grace Oliva of the Colorado Impact Fund. “We have been incredibly impressed by Lorena’s ability to develop an on-trend, differentiated and highly scalable craft-casual concept.”
Maria Empanada satisfies the cravings of Hispanic customers seeking familiar flavors and non-Hispanic customers looking for something new. In a review in the local Denver publication Westword, Laura Shunk called the brand’s empanadas “pockets of Argentine bliss.”
What’s next for Maria Empanada? With funding and accolades piling up — Cantarovici was named Colorado’s Small Business Person of the Year in 2017 — expect to find the brand’s delectable pastries in even more locales.
Contact Marcella Veneziale at [email protected]