When Carmenza was a child in Colombia, her mother and father made her arepas , a local corn pancake, every morning for breakfast. During the drug war era in Colombia, Carmenza moved to the U.S. in search of economic survival and personal safety. She continued her cultural tradition of making fresh arepas daily for her friends and family in her adopted country. Carmenza states, "Making arepas is important for me, because I am expressing where I come from, my roots."
Carmenza's arepas became so popular that she began to sell them to her friends and members of her community. Carmenza had entrepreneurial ideas and demand for her product, but she lacked the knowledge to formalize her business and enable it to grow. Then, a customer who enjoyed her arepas told her about AnewAmerica's office in San Jose. Carmenza joined AnewAmerica's three-year holistic microenterprise development program, Assets for New Americans: Virtual Business Incubator. She completed AnewAmerica's twenty-five week college certificate program in business planning at the National Hispanic University in San Jose in the spring of 2010.
Throughout the course, Carmenza learned the solid business skills she needed to make her business a success. At the time she stated, "I have learned so much from AnewAmerica. I've learned how to write my business plan, explain my product and articulate its quality and value. I've also learned how to get my business license, obtain necessary food safety and handling permits, rent a space for my business, organize my everyday life and save money. AnewAmerica taught me how to use the internet to do market research and to build my own webpage. My dream is to help create the arepas industry in California, and to expose arepas to other cultures. I will use my profits to pay for my daughters to attend college, and to purchase a home for my family. I will hire employees and give others the opportunity for employment."
After joining AnewAmerica, Carmenza's sales increased 50%. Further, AnewAmerica awarded Carmenza with an AnewAmerica Business Grant, made possible by the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Job Opportunities for Low-income Individuals program, designed to expand businesses and create jobs in low-income areas and for low-income people. Carmenza used the grant to purchase equipment that will enable her make and package her arepas more efficiently.
In alignment with AnewAmerica's emphasis on creating green businesses, Carmenza uses organic corn in her arepas. She is an AnewAmerica Certified Green Business. She states, "My arepas are fresh. I use only all-natural ingredients."