Meet Lucia Mena, founder of Cinnamon and Sugar, purveyors of delicious South American street food around West London. Lucia visited PBC to tell us how her business started and where it is going…
What does Cinnamon and Sugar do?
‘At the beginning we just did churros, then we moved on to other things, South American street snacks, Brazilian, Colombian. Churros is our signature snack, with home made cream caramel and Nutella. These are vegan, some of our snacks are gluten free and we have started using halal meat for our chicken coxinha and beef or chicken pastel.
We now do Colombian empanadas with herbs and chilli sauce. Our food is fried, but we make it as healthy as possible, with salad’.
How and Why did you start?
‘I always had a drive for cookery. From a young age I cooked for my parents and siblings. Back home (Ecuador) that’s what we do. In London, at parties, I started helping my friends to cook and loved my food.
The idea came back to me after I had my kids. I needed to do something to help me change my life; if I have this talent in my hands, why not use it?
One day I said to my husband “Notting Hill carnival is coming up, I’m going to do something”, he said “go for it”.
I applied and I was given a very expensive spot at carnival. I got a gazebo, we build tables. It was two days of complete nightmare! I had never seen so many people. I didn’t sell anything till later afternoon when everybody wanted to eat. We covered our expenses, so we said “great, we’re going to carry on”.
So, I applied for a spot by Shepherds Bush station. The council said it wouldn’t work as it would be a hazard. So, I asked for a spot by the roundabout, we planned it carefully, but they said “no” again.
The council required us to have a website for the application, so my 10-year-old son created it!
I do seasonal events like Christmas, and I have regular spots on North End Road in Fulham, in Lyric Square in Hammersmith. I’m looking for a permanent spot. I don’t really see potential on North End Road and I have to work a day job as well, so I need to expand Cinnamon and Sugar’.
What drives you?
‘I would like everyone to try South American food. I see a lot of potential in that, but we are lacking it here in London. I want to show the signature of our food.
I also want to do something for my future, to organise my life and be successful. Customers always ask: “where are you based?” and ask when the next event is – I have loyal customers in the market and this pushes me to do more.
I’m very much business-minded. It’s something different from everyday life, I give it my full potential – I’m focused. Tomorrow I’m travelling to Blackburn to look at a mobile trailer.
Our children are very young; we like to show them passion, tradition and hard work. It’s important they understand where the money is coming from’.
This is a Success Story – how do you define success?
‘Success for me will be that I have a coffee shop with my brand in it. A chain where I can give ideas, have lots on offer, where everyone is happy.
I would like to put my products in big shops: Whole Foods, Marks and Spencer…in Marks and Spencer, 10 sticks of churros is £7. They go chewy, but churros should go crunchy. We want to develop a way to keep churros for a few days without them going soft.
For me personally, success would be to not worry about money or about the kids having what they need.
It’s step-by-step to get more security. I know I have to work hard; I know it will not be easy, but if I do things right, it will happen.’
How did PBC help you?
‘After working at carnival, I wondered how to do it again. I went to PBC to ask where I could find spaces to sell. Angela told me about a course for businesswomen. It was so interesting; there is so much to think about. To be bigger you have to think about media, about licenses…
Maria went through the processes with me. She knew all the detail, tax returns, all those things. I had a few meetings with her. The first three meetings were free, then I had to pay, but it was worth it. They let me see the pros and cons of everything after the course.
For the course, me and another three did food. One of them then came with me to the market with Cinnamon and Sugar, so I became the teacher. I was very organised; it was the Christmas market in Lyric Square.
PBC have kept calling me. I can visit any time for advice, and they connect me with helpful people.
Hopefully this will go further and better. I’m very positive’.
Interview conducted and written by Tom Charles @tomhcharles