I reached out to a California Mom Bloggers Facebook group asking if any bloggers in San Francisco wanted to come to a local tech event and was delighted when Sofia Keck (SK) responded enthusiastically yes. Even though the tech event started at 10pm, she attended to help support a fellow blogger which I appreciated! I was thrilled to also learn about her bilingual blog American Vida, which shares her food, amateur photography, the latest technology and essays on family and culture. I especially noticed Sofia’s delicious looking food posts, so when she said she was opening up a restaurant – I was not surprised. Her new restaurant is called Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs and the location is 3224 ½ 22nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. To learn about her new business and her entrepreneurship tips, I decided to interview her. So here it is!
1. What inspired you to start your own business?
SK: “I got laid off during my maternity leave in 2009 while working for a tech startup company. I was very disappointed with “the system.” The economic crisis was evident, however it was hard for me to understand how employees could be so disposable. I was holding my 2 week-old baby girl when I got the call and it was devastating. Since that moment I promised myself that I would never put myself in a situation where no matter how hard I worked I could be gone the next day. I was happy that I got to stay home with my baby. I started a consulting business from home and I have been a business owner ever since.”
2. Why did you start a food business?
SK: “I love food, I cook and blog about food. My restaurant is Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs, which are street hot dogs from Guatemala, my country of origin. Shucos are a staple food item in Guatemala and internationally known by foodies and travelers and you used to be able to find them only in Guatemala. One day we were walking on the street with my husband and I told him I was craving a Guatemalan hot dog and that I wished they would have them here in San Francisco, my husband then said to me “well, why don’t you sell them”? So now I do.”
3. Tell us more about your restaurant.
SK: “Los Shucos Latin Hot Dogs is located in the heart of the Mission district in San Francisco, California. We sell Guatemalan hot dogs, called Shucos and other Latin-inspired creations. Our flavors are unique, we make our own bread, we serve hand made chorizo and imported sauces. Hot dogs will NEVER be the same! Check out the story at www.LosShucos.com and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/losshucos.”
2. What advice would you give to other moms wanting to start their own food business? Sofia Keck responded with these tips:
- “Remember it is not only about the food: Make great food but keep in mind that marketing, location, great customer service, a strong business plan and financial resources are all part of the equation.”
- “Ask for help: You will need help at home, more if you have children. You will also need help in your business, so get a mentor or advisor. I shadowed a couple of chefs to learn from them. I had lunch and coffee with other restaurant owners. I still ask questions to line cooks, to high end chefs, to other business people and to investors. I ask for help. You can also go to your local small business administration (SBA) or an organization that helps you start your own business. They will teach you how to apply for a loan, how to write a business plan, and other important aspects of your business that you may not have considered.”
- “Love what you are cooking: Make sure you really love what you are cooking, because it’s one thing to cook it once a week for dinner with your grateful and loving family. It’s another thing to cook hundreds per day for an audience that demands a high quality product every time. For example, I am not a vegetarian, so it took me a while to find a vegetarian option for my hot dogs. I wanted to find a vegetarian hot dog that I would love no matter what it was made of. I could never sell something that I wouldn’t eat myself.”
- “Don’t feel guilty: It’s ok if you can’t cook homemade meals for the family every night, whether because you are at the restaurant or just because you tired of cooking the whole day. It’s ok to take a break and do nothing for a change. By taking a break you are doing something for yourself. It’s also ok to immerse yourself in your business and forget about the rest of the world for a while. It’s ok to follow your dreams.“
- “Keep going: Like most great food ideas, the idea for my business came from hunger. There will be many challenges but you have to keep going, because if you really want it you will not be satisfied until you get it done. Opening your own food business is really hard work. But as a mom you already know what hard work is all about, so you can do it. “
3. Besides food, what other interests do you have?
SK: “I love kids. I have two of my own, an 11 yr old son and a 5 yr old daughter. I love pets, I have 3 dogs. I love spending time with my husband, I’m passionate about Guatemala, technology, meeting new people, social media, being involved in the community, attending conferences of all sorts, reading, coffee and tea which are technically not food but drinks”
Check out Los Shucos – Latin Hot Dogs in San Francisco.. I know just looking at the pictures on the website are making me hungry!
Photo credits: Lonny Ivan Meyer or lonnymeyerphotography.com