When Giving Beyond the Box launched its newest release, Hope Strikes Back, we knew it was something special. Professor Sandra Enos cultivated a way to celebrate smaller, minority-owned businesses who deserved to be recognized for their amazing products and services. These businesses were so stellar that we had to dish more about how amazing they were!
One of our favorite partners is cooking up some of the most delectable chimichurri you can imagine. Mesa Fresca is family owned and operated, reminding us all how a good meal can bring everyone together!
How did your business concept come to be? Was it a lifelong goal or a newer passion?
Natalie: Mesa Fresca, the fresh table, is an expression of our family’s love of spending quality time sharing the table with new and old friends over a great meal. Growing up, all were welcome at our table. Sunday’s in particular were for “asados” aka cookouts/BBQ, an Argentine culture. As we grew up and moved to different cities for career opportunities, entertaining in our own households became a staple. The number one requested recipe in our homes was Chimichurri, a typical Argentine sauce and marinade consisting of parsley, garlic, lemon, oil and vinegar. It’s worth noting that even though the sauce is an Argentine staple, every household adds their own flare & combination of ingredients. At the urging of family and friends, we started making our mom’s recipe of this classic.
I made it for friends and colleagues at a very grassroots level initially. When Alan moved back to the States from dancing in the Croatian ballet, we decided to move forward with conceptualizing and building a purpose driven brand.
Were your loved ones supportive of your endeavor?
Nathalie: Yes, very much so. We are very fortunate. Throughout our lives, whenever we’ve expressed a dream or desire our parents have been our number one advocates. They are the first to encourage us. My mom taught us growing up that “con el no se cuenta.” That means you can count on no; therefore, there is nothing lost in trying. If it doesn’t work out you are where you started and if it does you’re off on an adventure.
What were some of your challenges in your first few months of business? What do you wish you knew when you started?
Natalie: It’s a blessing to not know what you don’t know. I feel like if you had the full picture it would be easy to be overwhelmed and wonder, how am I going to get all of that accomplished? For our five year anniversary (July 5, 2020) we recently shared about our first production day on our Instagram @MesaFresca. It was one thing to create a recipe in the kitchen for dinner guests and another to scale the recipe. Our mom’s way of cooking is very much from the heart, the recipe is part of her and so capturing her heart and the essence in a jar and getting an exact recipe was a journey. It was a fun exploration undertaken with love and now we have the magic for generations and the world to enjoy.
This is Alan and I five years ago, July 5, 2015 at Hope & Main. We snapped these pictures of one another and were so excited to get started. We included the story of our first production in the folder. It was definitely the start of an adventure. We also held a fun giveaway to celebrate.
What were some major accomplishments your business has achieved?
Natalie: I love this question! We are guilty of having our foot on the gas and at times not stopping to celebrate. This was a great opportunity to reflect, thanks for this question. We are getting better at taking a momentary pause to celebrate the wins. I’m learning in life it’s a balance of having gratitude for the past, embracing the present and looking forward to the future.
Overall, we are proud to be doing this together, that’s a huge win. It’s brought us closer as siblings and we balance one another. Our strengths and even ways of thinking are different, which is funny because we grew up in the same house. It ends up being complementary and has ultimately led us to five years in business which is no easy feat.
The biggest achievement in my eyes is staying true to our values while growing. Those values include connection to the people and communities we serve, sourcing quality ingredients and producing in a sustainable way from our packaging (we use recyclable glass jars) to the production in the kitchen with our partners at Hope & Main.
2020 has been unexpected in many ways (I’m sure we all agree). We consider the opportunity to pivot and partner with Hope & Main to support their initiative, Nourish Our Neighbors in response to the food access crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic an important milestone. In July, we participated in curating a menu serving a Mesa Fresca meal to the community.
Through our social media pages we crowdsourced Hope Notes from across the nation and encouraged our Mesa Fresca family to donate and order meals. Together we served 300 members of the Rhode Island community. Hope & Main has since provided more than 15,000 meals collectively. We encourage the community to join us in supporting this initiative and making sure those impacted by the pandemic have a nourishing meal. To learn more & make a difference, click here!
What is your favorite part of your job?
Nathalie: Creating, it is neat to imagine and bring an idea to life. When we first started Mesa Fresca, we were very intentional about having a purpose and wanting to serve. We want to facilitate connection with others with food that nourishes you and your soul.
Alan: I have a twofold answer:
- My favorite part is watching/ experiencing the growth of the business. It’s always exciting to look back and see where you came from.
- My favorite part of the actual day-to-day is participating in trade shows and events. It’s always inspiring to have new people try Mesa Fresca and experience their excitement and reaction. Sharing our family recipe with more people is awesome!
Nathalie: Oh yes! I love demos. I always get that butterfly feeling when we are inviting someone to taste the recipes we’ve created with so much love. I also enjoy when our friends and family share our table, it makes me happy that they are enjoying Mesa Fresca and sharing. It’s a generous gift.
What is so important about supporting smaller, local, minority-owned businesses?
Natalie: The world is full of sabor, or “flavor” as they say in Spanish. Diversity enriches us and adds to our culinary palette and also to our mental palette, opening up our mind and world views. Supporting minority-owned businesses (in the food space and beyond) creates a more holistic, representative world where we are each seen and leads to more creativity, innovation and opportunity. Small businesses often have a vision of the future and are more nimble and agile in making decisions and taking action. On that same token they have smaller budgets.
If you share their values & vision, it’s important to support them, to help them grow so that the world you wish to see manifest moves into alignment. We are fortunate to live in a time where we can shop on values. There are options across industries. Each purchase is an opportunity to shape the world we want to see and using our dollars (to make a ) choice fully, is a privilege we can exercise when we support small, local, minority owned businesses to achieve a more equitable future.
The kitchen is the number one hangout in our home and it’s no coincidence that’s where mom can be found, along with fun, food and dancing.
Can you recall an impactful story that shaped your business, the way you operate, your leadership style, etc.?
Natalie: Learning for me comes through micro-moments. It’s not always this BIG firework, light bulb spark, though those moments are great. Throughout my life, I’ve been just as impacted by great leaders and teachers that have crossed my path, as by the challenging ones. I learned what I liked and didn’t like. Ultimately, for me it comes to working from a place of joy and allowing others to be seen and heard in the process.
Treat people the way you wish to be treated. It is a very basic lesson but I’ve learned that to have knowledge and a value is different than acting on it, integrity is key. Leading for me is when what you think, do and say are in alignment with one another.
What advice would you give future entrepreneurs?
Natalie: Take calculated risks. For instance, it’s a myth that you should quit your job on day one of starting a venture. Build a steady foundation and grow in a healthy manner. Assess at milestones on the journey the next right action. There are stages towards growth and you want to do it in a healthy way without creating unnecessary hardship, there will naturally be challenges along the way but you don’t have to be your obstacle. You’re going to work a lot so hold tight to your why. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride!
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Photo Credit: Levi Adgate of @Sawgrass_Photography