This week we're spotlighting history writer, podcaster, and cook: Rocio Carvajal. Rocio is the founder of SABOR! This Is Mexican Food Magazine, and Pass The Chipotle Podcast-- two editorial project where she shares the heritage of her country (Mexico) through stories, interviews, and articles. Check out what Rocio had to say about being a Latina entrepreneur and how she stays motivated when challenges arise.
What is your business and what inspired you to start it?
After changing careers and allowing myself to have a period of self-reckoning, I realised that using my talents to share with the world my passion for Mexico’s vast culinary heritage with the world was exactly what I wanted to do.
With a mix of daredevil attitude, excitement and a lot of encouragement and support from those who believed (still do) in me I created SABOR! This is Mexican food magazine and Pass the Chipotle Podcast, trusting my own ability to create high quality content and captivating storytelling to transform the way in which the world thinks about Mexican culture, food, cooking and eating.
Why Mexican food? While my country’s cuisine is listed as UNESCO’s intangible heritage of mankind, it is by far one of the most misunderstood and little explored cuisines in the world, and I felt immensely frustrated to find that the so called “authorities” on Mexican food mainly wrote and cooked over-interpreted and stereotyped tex-mex and -cali-mex food, and on top of that most of them weren’t even Mexican.
Instead of moaning about who’s fault was it? I asked myself: what can I do to turn that around? Mexican food is so much more than the riot of flavours that assault our taste buds, it actually reflects a deep and complex national identity, forged by the intense exchange between indigenous, mestizo, and European groups that shaped my nation.
By championing the work and talent of cooks, writers and entrepreneurs through Pass the Chipotle Podcast and share their passion for Mexican food around the world, I want to challenge conceptions, open discussions about cultural cross pollination and expand our understanding and enjoyment of this world acclaimed cuisine.
How do you overcome challenges and stay motivated?
Managing expectations is perhaps the key to survive in any uncertain environment. Digital technology has empowered everyday people to access resources and reach audiences that in other times was simply impossible, the downside of it is that finding your dream “niche audience” or “tribe” is incredibly difficult. While we can virtually reach every corner in the world through digital platforms, getting feedback, creating personal connections and building a profitable business is really hard, and the learning curve is steep. Trusting your abilities and believing in the quality of your work is really important but also staying humble to know the limits of your knowledge. These past years I’ve pushed myself to learn as much as I can about businesses, publishing, podcasting, networking, marketing and twenty other things.
I’ve found an incredible sense of freedom by not sweating the things I can’t control (I was a control freak and micro manager) and not waisting time feeling sorry for myself for not knowing enough, I push myself to work around problems, develop more skills and reach people to ask for help and honest feedback.
Normalizing failure is not easy but you get better at it, and being appreciative of every little act and word of encouragement really goes a long way, in short, remaining true to myself, humble, never stop learning and never stop creating is the best way to stay motivated.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned as a female Latina entrepreneur?
In my particular line of work and they way I have crafted my business I don’t think I’ve been treated any different because I am a woman, then again I don’t think I was too aware of the impact of my heritage until I became an itinerant migrant. Making a deliberate effort to make my pride for my cultural and racial heritage tacit and get in return the appreciation and respect from others who see the value of my authenticity and pride is perhaps one of the biggest compliments I’ve received form guests at my supper-clubs, catering events, clients and audiences at public events.
That is not to say I haven’t had my fare share of retrograde machismo when I worked in the private and public sectors but the sooner I realised that the problems were people’s perceptions and stereotypes I learnt to reply with a simple: this is how things are now, and we can do it this way or you can look elsewhere. Admittedly I was in a position that allowed me to say that but I was never impressed by other people’s inability or unwillingness to be inclusive. I didn’t make it my problem.
Best advice you’ve received and would like to share?
While I’m all in for motivational speeches I prefer concrete tools, in the early stages of my business I was introduced by my partner to design thinking with the lean startup process, value proposition and the business model canvas.
The Lean startup was created by business Harvard professor Steve Blank and it basically helps people finding the value that their product or service is providing and think of it as a solution to an existing problem. This saved me from creating beautiful but ultimately useless things that didn’t resonate with people.
Read more about it here.
Value proposition and the business model canvas were created by Alexander Osterwalder and in short they help entrepreneurs design, test and deliver the products that existing (or future) costumers want.
Read more about it here.
My favorite and most valuable piece of advice, again courtesy of my partner is to learn to kill my darlings, meaning not being afraid to turn the page to something that you thought your best work but turns out to be antiquated, too big, too small, too vague or too complex, in short not good enough. Learn from it, be grateful for the lessons learnt and kill it, so you can move on to build something new, different and hopefully, better, and if that stops working… well, kill it! And start again.
To stay up to date with all of Rocio's writings and podcasts, be sure to follow along on Instagram: @rocio.carvajalc.