If there’s one thing that stands out about entrepreneur Jezreel García Barragán, it’s his enthusiasm, hard work and tenacity, qualities that have led him, in just two years, to expand his hors d’oeuvre manufacturing company Yemi LLC.

Six months ago, the entrepreneur decided it was time to create a new type of packaging, add more flavor variety to cheese fingers and increase production rate.

The 27-year-old from Colombia, founded his small family business in 2015, whose name originated from the combination of Yeye, which family and friends call Jezreel, and Mimi, his mother’s nickname and who’s his inspiration and role model.  Cheese fingers and chocolate and hazelnut mousse (cocktail pastries) were the first hors d’oeuvres he launched on the market.

With total candor, he told this newspaper that initially, he didn’t have much budget to market the brand, so he concentrated on the quality of his product, which he packaged in small, simple foam trays covered with cellophane. “Those were times for learning, becoming familiar with the market and analyzing the brand’s positioning.  In the process, I realized that it isn’t just about manufacturing a good product, but also about competing.  You compete for quality and packaging, and our challenge was to highlight the products on the shelf.  You have to earn that space in the refrigerators,” said the Inter-American University Business Development graduate.

Accustomed to going up against others with the goal of winning, the former soccer player reinvested the profits from the business seeking to make it grow.  He first contacted a graphic artist to design new packaging, and another local business that supports small businesses, 3A Press in Lajas, manufactured it for him.

He then moved to a larger facility allowing him to increase his production, hired four employees to help him with that work, and incorporated the new flavors.  Now, Yemi has mozzarella, cheddar and gouda fingers.  Each package has 12 pieces.

The product is fried, like potatoes or fried plantains, there’s no need to wait for it to defrost and the dough is soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside.

In the case of the chocolate and hazelnut mousse, the small box has six pieces.  The young entrepreneur said that customers and some restaurants like to serve them with a scoop of ice cream. “It’s been a success.  The customers themselves were telling me, you have to try them with ice cream.  That combination of ice cream coldness with the crunchiness and warmth of the chocolate and hazelnut-filled dessert is perfect.  That’s why we call it mousse because it’s an inspiring dessert,” he said.

The new Yemi products will be available at the end of this month in the Pueblo and Supermax supermarket chains, as well as in some Econo stores. “We’re negotiating with other supermarkets and we hope that the large chains will open their doors to us and support the local manufacturer”, said the interviewee.

He explained that the cheese fingers fall into the frozen hors d’oeuvres category, so the packages will be available in the mozzarella sticks and fried yuquitas section, among others. Meanwhile, chocolate and hazelnut mousse will be in the ice cream section.

Yemi has other packaging for wholesalers and for the institutional market, which he calls the Ettie Mix -in honor of the businessman who gave him the idea to create it- and which is made up of 24 small boxes, six of each flavor.  “That packaging is ideal because its size saves space for wholesalers in the warehouse,” said García Barragán.

Before the end of the year, he plans to open an area where customers can go directly to the factory and buy products.  “If we don’t take risks, we won’t win.  Fear is holding us back, and small businessmen need to try new things and show that we can move our businesses forward,” he said with his characteristic tenacity and enthusiasm.

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