- JUNE ISSUE ACTIVATION KIT -
Keep your money where your heart is: buy and hire local
Off the Sidelines Interview with Eve Rodriguez Montoya, owner of Yogolandia
Q: How has growing up with a small business impacted your career and goals?
A: Growing up with a family business has impacted everything. I grew up seeing my parents work day in and day out building their businesses while raising my brothers and I.
I saw firsthand what intense commitment and work ethic can accomplish. I knew that I needed to work just as hard in school and in my career and ultimately gain the knowledge and experience to come back and help grow the family business, Dulcelandia Candy Stores.
Q: What gave you the idea for Yogolandia?
A: The need for a healthy frozen-yogurt option in the community.
So I created, Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar, “Frozen Yogurt with a Mexican Twist!”As a Little Village native and a huge frozen yogurt fan, I wanted to bring this healthy treat as an option to the Little Village Community.
Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar opened in Little Village in September 2016 offering self-serve, healthy Non-Fat, Low-Fat, Low-Cal, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and all natural yogurt with a high-quality variety of toppings including fresh fruit, granola, cereal, cookies and candy.
Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar custom Yogurt Flavors include: Flan, Churro, Arroz con Leche (rice pudding), Chocolate Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate), Nutella, Mango, Pepino (cucumber) and Horchata as well as traditional flavors such as Cookies and Crème, Strawberry and Vanilla.
Q: Why did you choose Little Village to start your business?
A: Little Village is where I grew up. Our community is very strong and hard-working, resilient and resourceful. Come to our community, get to know our people, shop at our locations and see for yourself —Little Village is full of people who came to this country to achieve the American Dream.
Q: Do you have any advice for women that may want to start their own small business?
A: Yes, be excited about your business, talk about your business constantly! Excitement is contagious and the more people know about your business, the more opportunities will arise and the more successful you will be.
More About Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar
Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar opened in Little Village in September 2016 offering self-serve, healthy Non-Fat, Low-Fat, Low-Cal, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and all natural yogurt with a high-quality variety of toppings including fresh fruit, granola, cereal, cookies and candy. Expanding on the existing Dulcelandia Candy Store brand specializing in Mexican candy and piñatas, Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar opens its doors offering Frozen Yogurt with a Mexican Twist! Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar custom Yogurt Flavors include: Flan, Churro, Arroz con Leche (rice pudding), Chocolate Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate), Strawberry, Mango, Pepino (cucumber) and Horchata.
Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar, “Frozen Yogurt with a Mexican Twist!,” was created by Eve Rodriguez Montoya, a Little Village native and a huge frozen yogurt fan who wanted to bring her love for this healthy treat as an option to the Little Village Community. After 15 years of public service working under two mayoral administrations, Eve and her brother Marco Rodriguez, a recent graduate of Loyola University, worked together to open Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar and plan to bring this new and exciting concept to Logan Square and Brighton Park in 2018.
More About Eve Rodriguez Montoya
Eve Rodriguez Montoya is the founder and president of Rodriguez Montoya Communications LLC, a firm established to assist clients looking to expand their brand, product, mission or service in the Latino market and beyond. One of her key clients is her family’s business, the Dulcelandia Candy Store brand.
One of Rodriguez Montoya’s most recent efforts was to expand the Dulcelandia Candy Store brand, a long-standing family-owned Latino market staple, by creating a new line of healthy latino-flavored frozen yogurt and establishing Yogolandia Yogurt and Botana Bar inside of Dulcelandia in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. The new brand initiative, off to an impressive start by any standards, offers unique flavors known as Yogo, frozen yogurt with a Mexican Twist!
Rodriguez Montoya counts on more than fifteen years of experience in communications and public affairs work for the public and private sectors. She has worked directly for two mayoral administrations in Chicago, most recently as deputy press secretary for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and she has worked for five City of Chicago Commissioners as well as major corporate and private sector companies in New York City and Chicago.
Rodriguez Montoya earned a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations from Columbia College Chicago.
Q&A with Lynn Mooney, co-owner of Women and Children First bookstore in Andersonville:
Q: What made you locate in the Andersonville neighborhood?
A: We feel lucky to be in Andersonville, which is one of the earliest communities in the country to convey localism. Dollars in this community spent locally continue to build the city. We are fortunate to be in this neighborhood that supports us!
Q: Do you have any advice for women that want to start their own small business?
A: I would tell them that networking is important. Surround yourself with smart, creative business owners... especially women business owners. We have learned a lot from them.
Founded in 2008 by Dr. Sonat Birnecker and her husband, Koval Distillery in Ravenswood is the first distillery in the Chicago since Prohibition. Read more about Sonat and the Koval Distillery from a recent interview below.
Q: When you started Koval in Chicago, craft distilleries and the ability to retail on site were illegal in Illinois. How did you finally get your distillery opened?
A: Nobody had made spirits in Chicago since the mid 1800s. When we started it not only had never been done, but I had go to Springfield [state capital] to get the laws changed. I was pregnant with our second son, debating the merits of starting a distillery. We made friends with Gene Schulter, an alderman (like a councilman). He put me in contact with all the right people and arranged a meeting with our state house representative and senator. I was blindsided when I showed up and there were 10 lobbyists representing the distributors – all men sitting in the same room. They were opposed to our plan. But I testified and explained why it was important. That completely changed the liquor business in Illinois.
Q: Wow, that’s pretty badass. And you were pregnant, too! You must never tire. Tell us what you were trying to do with your brand and where you’re going with it now.
A: We are grain to bottle, and now we make lots of products like liqueurs and brandies too. We wouldn’t have left our careers and the safety net just to buy our stuff from Canada and put our own spin on it. Since we’ve started, we’ve seen a huge boom in the distilling industry in Illinois and we have a very good knowledge of what’s going on. Robert and I have helped set up 75 distilleries and educated about a third of everybody who has set up a distillery in the last five years and Canada. Consulting is a big part of our business now.
Q: You’re still truly a small producer, with 20,000 cases of booze a year. Ever think about ratcheting it up a few notches?
A: We started with 800 cases our first year. Our biggest issue has been growth. Our model is not one that relies on having our own bar on site or a big event space. Our revenue has to come from the alcohol. So we need to constantly develop our distribution and sell more product. That can be really really difficult because what we have to do is play futures with whiskey. There is a huge investment in doing that. Sometimes there are things you really want to do for your business but you can’t yet because you’re not ready. We try and be very conservative. That has really helped us. When we started, we moved into my brother’s old bedroom in my parents’ house and lived there for two years. We invested every penny in the distillery. We are completely and 100 percent family owned and operated. As a result, we’ve made tough choices. When we needed a new piece of equipment for the distillery, we delayed buying ourselves a house. But we have no bank debt and no investors.
Q: That’s amazing – and rare. What’s the best advice you give your consulting clients who are new to the game?
A: We’ve seen people overextend themselves. It takes $250,000 to do even just a very, very small startup distillery and you don’t even know if you’re going to be good at it. We tell people to start small and make sure they are prepared to make the best product they possibly can. Because if people start trying craft brands and they’re horrible, they will think they are all like that.
KK: Alright, we have to chat about the juggling you do, running the distillery and homeschooling your kids. You’re helping your son with math homework as we speak. You’re a master multi-tasker! What’s that like?
SB: I am seriously a full time mom who’s also constantly working. For us, the distillery is a legacy for our sons. The kids are growing up in the distillery. I have the only 6 and 4 year-olds that know more about liquor than most grown ups. They’re learning about work in a way that’s very different from what other kids know about what their parents do. My kids understand what work is and what marketing is. My 6 year-old will say, “I think we need a billboard” or “I think we need more impressions.” From the beginning of the business, I would have sales meetings with the kids present. That was my own foray into a new generation of feminism.
Q: I love the way you put that. It shows you can have it all if you have the stamina!
A: My mom and her friends taught us that we could do anything we wanted…but with that came a tradeoff that you end up having kids late because you develop a career first. I did not want to miss out on being with my children even though I wanted to work. When we started, it was just me, Robert and our kids in a Pack & Play. Now we’ve got 20 people working for us but I am still switching off between checking the still and reading Sylvester and the Magic to my kids. I love it.