Portrait of an Immigrant Business

Juan and Elsa Escobedo started The Clever Cupcakes in Coquitlam five years ago. A former accountant, Juan keeps a close eye on the numbers as well as the flavour, batter and customer service. He participated in ISSofBC’s and RBC’s 2014 Immigrant Entrepreneur Exhibition (IEE) in Vancouver. Juan’s shared experience is inspirational to other newcomers; they can achieve success, too.

index21Elsa prepares vanilla icing for a batch of cupcakes. She sifts the icing sugar before adding it to the industrial mixer to the right. Her shift is almost done; today was her turn to start at 5 a.m. and prepare the batter for the cupcakes. Some days, one batch is enough while other days, the couple makes as many as three batches. This mom of three works hard to balance family and business.

index3Juan worked for most of his adult life in accounting. Now he is a baker, an inventor with a patent, a customer service clerk and entrepreneur. He says he was ready for a change, but sometimes he misses his accounting-office life along with the suit and tie. On the other hand, he biked to work on this particular day. As newcomers search for professional jobs, they should also be open to the possibilities of entrepreneurialism.

4The shop near Coquitlam Centre has a playful feeling, perhaps influenced by the Escobedo’s experience having three children. The lettering and decorations come from Elsa, who is a graphic designer. The shop hosts birthday parties as well, so the space needs to be child-friendly. The cupcake couple are planning to franchise in the future. The Escobedo’s have been creative in developing their business to be bigger and better. They are not just waiting for people to come in their door: they are thinking proactively about moving their business into the community through parties, school lunches and special events.

5There are plenty of bakeries selling sweet treats, but The Clever Cupcakes attracts a particular niche market. The Escobedo’s invented their own recipe after learning that their youngest child had nut allergies. They wanted a cupcake that could be eaten by health-conscious consumers and particularly people with allergies. They use natural ingredients and 50 percent less sugar compared to an average cupcake. Juan says cupcakes remind him of the playfulness of childhood.

During Immigrant Entrepreneur Exhibitions like the one coming up on Wednesday, May 27 in Bonsor Recreational Centre in Burnaby, participants are asked to consider what differentiates their business idea from similar offerings in the market. The question is worthwhile whether it’s for job search or business start-up: what can you bring to the table that is unique?

6The Escobedo’s arrived in Canada in 1997 when their daughter, Monty, was just under a year old. They came expecting to work and contribute to the country and the economy. Now that they have been operating their shop, they are also employing staff and providing work opportunities for additional people.

If you are a new, established, or potential business owner, join us at the IEE. This free event runs from 6:00 to 8:00 on Wednesday evening, May 27 at Bonsor Recreational Centre in Burnaby. It’s a great chance to network with other newcomers who have business interests. Register online for this event at www.rbc.com/bcevents.  If you have any questions, please email carmen.ryujin@rbc.com.

Gwen PawlikowskiAbout the Author:
Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.

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