This summer Maria Cano (aka, the Arepa Lady) moved her thriving Colombian street food business into a storefront in Queens, NY, her first brick-and-mortar restaurant. For Cano, 70, it was a measure of hard-won success after selling arepas (cornmeal “pancakes”) from a street cart for more than two decades.
For Auria Abraham, 45, success has come more quickly — she launched her Malaysian sambal business last summer, after working as a jingle producer in the advertising industry for more than a decade. Her unapologetically spicy condiment is already on store shelves throughout New York City, and plans for new products are in the works.
Speaking through a translator, the two women note the importance of using their food businesses to create a legacy — both cultural and financial — for their children.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but it feels very good,” Cano tells Abraham. “The thing that feels the best is to have my kids involved and see them accomplish so much. They picked up the flag and they’re carrying my business.”
Listen to more in this series Zarela Martinez and Kavitha Rathi: Redefining Regional Cuisine
See what happens when you bring together women food entrepreneurs from different generations and different ethnic backgrounds to talk about food, business, and flavor.
Audio produced by Miranda Shafer. Translation by Natalia Perlaza. Photos by Lily Chin.
Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.