Small Business Expands with Cuban Flavors and SBA Community Advantage Loan
Wherever you turn these days, it seems a food truck is within view or just around the corner. They’ve become popular, inexpensive alternatives to formal restaurants, offering authentic grub from all over the world.
For many food truck owners, dispensing favorable fare from a kitchen on wheels is the extent of their entrepreneurial ambition. Not so for Liliam Morin and Miquelin Herrera. For this couple from Cuba, a food truck was just a stepping stone to something bigger.
Liliam and Miquelin launched their small business journey in 2019, just five years after establishing a home in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We missed the native flavors of Cuba,” said Liliam who, with Miquelin, began to experiment with different spices, peppers and other ingredients in their home kitchen, in search of the nostalgic tastes created by Miquelin’s grandmother, Lola.
Cuban Cuisine on Wheels
Once they had dialed in the desired flavors, the couple bought a food truck and took their delicious offerings on the road – everything from signature Cuban sandwiches to sweet plantains. Responding to some clever street marketing, the Fort Worth community began to flock to Lolas Cuban Food as a welcome culinary change from Tex-Mex barbeque, which saturates the Texas landscape.
It was challenging at first to make ends meet, Liliam admitted. She would help Miquelin in the food truck late into the evening, then drive to the elementary school where she taught first grade. She would arrive very early with the cafeteria workers, find an empty table and grab a few winks before greeting her students. Miquelin, when he wasn’t grilling Cuban sandwiches, taught Zumba classes on the side.
Just as the food truck sales started to climb, the Covid pandemic dropped into the country’s lap. But a seeming curse proved a blessing as customers, concerned about indoor spaces, turned their backs on traditional restaurants in favor of outside venues. Lola’s grew, and with healthier profits, Liliam and Miquelin turned their attention to realizing their next dream – opening a stand-alone Lolas Cuban Food Restaurant and Bar.
Expansion Becomes Possible with SBA Financing
Knowing they would need start-up funds to pay for rent, equipment, inventory and employee wages, Liliam attended a free Small Business Administration workshop during Small Business Week in Ft. Worth. She learned about the Community Advantage loan (SBA 7a), which would allow her to access up to $150,000 in working capital. After researching different options for lending partners, Liliam got in touch with Nina Braden, a loan officer at CDC Small Business Financing, a nonprofit Certified Development Company (CDC) and part of the Momentus Capital branded family of organizations, dedicated to ensuring equitable access to capital.
“As a customer, I already knew about Lolas great food and was aware they had few competitors, which would be a key factor in expanding,” said Nina. “So I picked up the phone and reached out to Liliam.”
Nina guided Liliam through the loan application process while Liliam and Miquelin scoped out high-traffic-flow locations for their new restaurant.
“Nina was so kind, explaining things to me and accommodating my schedule,” said Liliam. “And others at CDC even spoke Spanish, which was so helpful.”
Dream Becomes Reality with New Restaurant
Fortune continued to shine on Liliam and Miquelin when they secured a move-in-ready space in Cityview Centre, one of the more popular malls in Fort Worth. Their SBA loan was approved shortly thereafter.
“Everything came together at the right time,” Liliam said. “It was destiny for us.”
Lolas Cuban Food Restaurant and Bar opened its doors in spring 2023 and is now attracting new patrons to a family-friendly, flavorful, dine-in experience. Liliam and Miquelin feature live music and karaoke as well as a full bar to complement the savory Cuban food.
“We’re so thankful to Nina and CDC,” Liliam said. “They knew we were hard workers. They believed in us and it’s paying off for everyone.”