I’ve come to realize that the story of success can be told in many ways, and no two stories are ever going to be the same. Our journeys to where we are in our lives are what define us, what make us who we are. Sure, there are paths that some consider “easier” or “harder”, but no one person’s story is ever going to be only the positives. There are the negatives, the ones that our parents told us “build character”. We are all in this book called life together, but we each tell it in our own way, with our own words.
With $300 to her name, Lorena Cantarovici came to the states without knowing a word of English. Since then, she became the Founder of Maria Empanada with five locations in the Denver area, won 2017 Colorado Small Business Person of the Year, and earned a spot with Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Our next guest has a story for the ages. With $300 to her name, Lorena Cantarovici came to the states without knowing a word of English. And before she ever even touched foot in America, she had what most of us would be fine to call a success story. While living with her mother in her home country of Argentina, she worked full-time while also obtaining her degree in accounting, which led her to her first career in Argentina’s largest private bank, where she quickly shot up the ranks to become the youngest branch manager nationwide. She later moved on to become a bank auditor in Mexico and obtain her master’s degree in Marketing.
Most people would be fine closing their book there, a success story with a happy ending. But Lorena knew she wanted more chapters in her life’s book. Wooed by American movies that tell the rags to riches story we all know, she packed up and ended up in Colorado somewhat by accident, just because she knew someone who lived there. When she woke up to see the mountains, they reminded her of vacations to Cordoba to visit her grandparents, and knew she had found her place, feeling the nostalgia. But, as a storyteller at heart, Lorena was quickly met with the challenge of knowing very little of the country’s language. She loved talking, telling stories. She wanted to tell the story of her home country but wasn’t quite sure how. Taking a job at a Mexican restaurant while studying for the CPA exam, she was thrown in the front of the house as a server, instead of the back where she felt more comfortable with her communications. She rose to this challenge and quickly picked up English at this odd crossroads of culture and language.
But she still yearned for a way to share her story, the girl from Argentina. She got her first opportunity to tell this tale when a caterer at a friend’s party tried her empanadas and immediately placed an order for more. That order turned into several additional orders, and just like that she was buying a commercial oven that could cook faster and higher quantities. But this came with a decision to make as her power grid could only handle the oven or the air conditioning to her house. And as you can guess, that led to a pretty hot summer as Lorena and her family lived without AC for a while. She continued to expand her business into what it is today, with five locations in the Denver area, a trophy that says 2017 Colorado Small Business Person of the Year, and a spot with Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Every empanada is still hand made from the same technique that she learned when she was young, providing an insight into the story of this amazing woman. The restaurant is named after her mother and grandmother, who were two of the first people to get her started on making empanadas. She invokes what she calls Buena Onda, which loosely translates to Good Vibe or Good Wave, but it has taken on a form of its own. It can be a person or a place. It is the backbone to the story of Maria Empanada, and how it runs its business, how they interact with customers, the physical place of work, and how every member of the team should go about their day. At every meeting, this phrase is discussed and constantly defined. Lorena knows that, even if you may not know all the words, you can still tell your story in your own way and people will listen.