Artesana: When ‘Business as Usual’ Equals Family Values
Marielos Davila or Maria as she’s better known, said it was as if “something from the universe” led her to get the help she needed to launch her artisanal sausage business. Knowing she was trying to start a business, her sobrino (nephew) sent her a picture of an advertisement he saw for Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s Paso a Paso (Simple Steps) class. It was exactly what she needed to take her family’s Salvadoran business to market in the United States.
The family business began when Grandma Evita, Maria’s mother-in-law, started making her now famous sausages in 1962. The business was born from her desire to work from home and be with her children. She sold her Sausages to local customers in Cojutepeque, a Salvadoran town also known as “Chorizo Town”. When her brand became a hallmark, her entrepreneurial grandson started selling her sausages to local grocers. Maria’s business goals, like Grandma Evita’s, were closely tied to the well-being of her family.
Maria and her husband Roberto moved their family to the United States to raise their children in a better environment, provide them with greater opportunities, and to carve out their niche in the Bay Area foodie economy. They now employ their daughter in marketing and their son in catering special events and creating recipes for customers. Launching Artesana Sausages in the US, however, she found to be much more challenging than operating in El Salvador.
“They call my kitchen a ‘plant!’’ Maria said, laughing about the plant number she had to acquire for commercial production. This is just one of the many hurdles she has to undertake to operate legally in the US. She sells her products at farmers markets and wants to expand her reach, but can’t yet sell to grocers until she gets another federal permit.
“Resistencia,” or perseverance, she says is a key ingredient to business success. Focusing on her dreams and goals carries her through the challenges.
One of the key challenges is to change Bay Area Foodies’ perception of chorizo, which is one of Artesana’s cornerstone products. In the US it is often sold as a low-quality product, but contrary to local convention, Artesana uses the finest and most simple ingredients—premium cuts of pork and spices: no fillers, binders, sugars, MSG or soy. Maria and her family are probably the most qualified candidates to elevate chorizo from corner-market to farm-to-table status.
Though many are skeptical before trying Artesana´s chorizo, Maria reports that 99% of the time, they say “wow!” the moment they do.