Startup Spotlight: Carmen & Lola features the tastes of Spain

 

Carmen & Lola

Headquarters: Miami

Concept: Carmen & Lola imports and distributes Spanish gourmet food from boutique producers in Spain. The company caters events and sells products online via its website and Amazon.com, and sells to many local restaurants and hotels like Epicure Market, Casa Juancho, Barceloneta, Xixon, the St. Regis Hotel and Lowes Hotel.

Story: After he launched Carmen & Lola in Madrid, David Gutiérrez began exporting to Europe and realized there was a huge demand for Spanish products in the United States. With his father, José, “we opened in Miami three years ago because there were a great number of people who knew the products, but there simply weren’t enough products in the market to meet the demand,” said David Gutiérrez. “Our focus is on the smaller Spanish suppliers. They are producing some of best products Spain to offer.” He named the business after his grandmothers: “Carmen and Lola were two women who lived through a time when life revolved around the kitchen. ...We were fortunate enough to enjoy the magic that they made with their hands.”

Launched: 2009 in Spain; 2010 in Miami

Management team: David Gutiérrez; José Gutiérrez

No. of employees: 5

Financing: Self-funded with $500,000; seeking additional funding of $250,000 to $300,000.

Recent milestones reached: Opened a retail store at 7640 NW 25th St., Suite 114, in Doral this month, with a wide selection of Spanish ham, cheese, preserves and more -- and soon traditional Spanish Christmas desserts. Ranked the No. 1 Serrano ham sellers on Amazon. Carmen & Lola sales ranked in top 25 percent of all ranked Amazon sellers last Christmas. Received the Amazon Top Seller Award. Catered important community events including Viva Florida 500, which celebrated the 500 year anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s arrival.

Biggest startup challenge: “We started with zero. We didn’t have any contacts in Miami. We basically started knocking on doors and showing our products to chefs and owners of restaurants in the city,” said David Gutiérrez. “Now we sell to more than 100 local restaurants and hotels and now through the website (carmenandlola.com) and Amazon we can reach customers all over the country. This week we sent Serrano hams to Nebraska and Montana. That’s the most amazing thing for us to see.”

Next steps: Open new markets in the Caribbean and in Central and South America, enhance catering services, expand Internet and store sales.

Strategy for next steps: Attending the 17th Americas Food and Beverage Show on Monday and Tuesday in Miami Beach. Enhancing the website to encourage more sales, and introducing products like turrón, polvorones and mantecados to meet customer demand. “Our new store will boost our visibility in Miami and support our promotional efforts aimed at expanding our catering business,” said David Gutiérrez.

Nancy Dahlberg

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