Maria Empanada, a leading Argentinian craft casual restaurant, today announced that it obtained up to $3.5 million in Series A funding from the Colorado Impact Fund (CIF). Maria Empanada offers artisanal, hand-crafted and fresh-baked empanadas and other traditional Argentinian dishes in three locations across the Denver metro area. Maria Empanada was founded by Lorena Cantarovici, who came to Denver from Argentina with only $300 in her pocket and the determination to bake her way to the top of the American dream. She started selling empanadas from her garage, mostly to friends and family.

Four years and three locations later, her efforts have paid off: Lorena won the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2017 Colorado Small Business Person of the Year Award; Zagat rated Maria Empanada as “one of the 12 hottest new bakeries in America;” the chain won a Top 50 Colorado Companies to Watch Award; and Maria Empanada has been featured on the Food Network and in a multitude of local, national and international publications.

“Lorena Cantarovici is emblematic of the type of entrepreneur CIF supports,” says Grace Oliva of the Colorado Impact Fund. “We have been incredibly impressed by Lorena’s ability to develop an on-trend, differentiated and highly scalable craft casual concept. CIF is excited to partner with a talented and dynamic female entrepreneur. Supporting female and minority-led businesses that have the potential for high growth and profitability is central to CIF’s mission.”

Cantarovici noted that “Maria Empanada is all about the American dream—the belief that everything can be accomplished through hard work and perseverance. CIF’s investment means I get to take that dream to the next level—to drive growth of new Maria Empanada locations. There is is such a strong demand for craft-casual food and Maria Empanada is continuing its mission to become the nation’s leading artisanal empanada restaurant concept.”

Fast Casual, Growth, News