“Most people think all Spanish food is tacos. We get to introduce them to Venezuelan food,” said Dupont, who lives in Dracut. “Our menu is centered around arepas, a cornmeal flatbread cooked on the grill and stuffed with delicious fillings. It is healthy, gluten free, and fresh. Everything is grilled to order.”
After connecting at a Hispanic Week project in Lawrence, the three friends saved and planned for years before launching their own food business in early 2020.
“The dream began more than 10 years ago, and who would have thought that during a pandemic that it would become a reality,” said Valdez, who also lives in Dracut. “On March 17, 2020, we went to LegalZoom and completed the work to establish our business. The next week COVID shut down the world — 2020 was hard. We began building slowly and now we are very busy, booking well in advance.”
“We go everywhere, like superwomen,” said Dupont, who had been a graphic artist in her native Venezuela. “In one week we can be at the conference center in Boston for an event with 400 people, next serving students lunch at Salem State University, and then at a brewery on a Friday night followed by a company-catered event on Saturday.”
Owning a business is not easy for anyone, but more women have the confidence and determination to make it work. Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21 percent to a total of nearly 13 million, according to a report commissioned by American Express. Revenue from women-owned firms rose 21 percent to $1.9 trillion.
Valdez, who graduated from Middlesex Community College and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, had some experience as her father had run a small takeout restaurant in Lawrence.
The three women started their food journey by doing catering jobs for friends and family. With the food truck, they could branch out into the community.
“We love looking at the faces of the people trying our food for the first time,” said Dupont. “In addition to authentic dishes, we create new dishes that unite the American culture with Venezuela.”
Customers only see part of what it takes to run a successful business. In addition to cooking, Antich-Fjeld, who has a degree from Fitchburg State University, handles most of the accounting and business functions.
“January and February are not times for resting,” said Antich-Fjeld, who lives in Lawrence. “While the cold makes it tough to operate an outdoor food truck, it provides time for us to plan for the coming season. There is much to do during the winter. For example, every city and town has its own permit process, and we are booking special occasions from birthday parties and weddings to corporate events months in advance.”
Yet owning their own business allows the women to control the balance of their work and family life.
“The hours are long and the work can be hard, but I get to be my own boss and it feels good.” said Valdez, mother of 2-year-old Sebastian. “Working around my family schedule is important.”
“We first decided to give ourselves Sundays off,” said Dupont. “We now take one weekend a month off to be with our families. It is important to us to be able to have family time.”
Dupont, mother of two daughters Dani, 14, and Sami, 9, is proud to set an example for her children.
“My daughters love what we do,” she said “My 14-year-old does help a little bit and the younger one will help as she gets older. It is important for my daughters to see what is possible for women.”
The Tres Latinas’ entrepreneurial spirit remains strong.
“Our dream was to have our own restaurant, an actual cafe and restaurant,” said Valdez. “That is still our dream and we continue to work towards it.”
Linda Greenstein can be reached at [email protected].