This is the second of our small-business profiles celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
Circumstances brought Joan Castaneda and Lucy Richardson to Atlanta. Faith brought them to the same church, where they formed a fast friendship based on similar backgrounds and a shared love for cooking.
“We felt we had a calling from God to help others – especially women and children going through some of the situations we went through growing up.” Castaneda explained.
They started preparing meals for the church, and then for small events featuring their families and friends, which led to catering assignments under the name of Dos Hermanas, meaning two sisters.
Surprised at the initial success, the friends decided to expand the business – now branded Empanada Takeover – starting off with their pop-up tent events. To do that, they went to another friend, Latoya Mathews, for help.
“They contacted me looking for a way to get started and asked what they needed to get their business up and running,” said Mathews, who works as a consumer banker for Regions in Marietta. “I explained the business accounts and the programs we had to help set them up.
Now based in Douglasville, a suburb on Atlanta’s west side, Empanada Takeover creates a new spin on traditional Latin, Asian and Soul cuisine. “It’s a little bit of Puerto Rican and Latin food, joined in with Asian and Filipino backgrounds,” Castaneda explained.
The thriving business has provided better financial security for the two owners. It has also provided more flexibility. For Richardson, that has meant more time with her son, who has autism.
Empanada Takeover recently went public and has plans for a brick-and-mortar commissary. Yet the dream expands well beyond business.
“We both have had different experiences with abusive pasts,” Richardson said. “If you grow up in a household with no hope for your future, it’s often hard to have hope for yourself. But we also know from our past that if just one person believes in you – whether it’s a family member, someone from church or even a neighbor – that you can change someone’s path for the better.
“That’s why we believe that a person who cares, smiles and wants the best for you makes a difference and enables you to realize your dreams and be successful.”
About those dreams …
For Castaneda and Richardson, long-range plans include an outreach program to feed the homeless and a shelter in Douglasville for abused women and children.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” Richardson said of those who seek to escape. “For a woman who is abused, it’s scary to leave. And even if you can, where do you go?”
As with their business, they hope to accomplish their plans to help others by working with Mathews and Gwen Cole, manager of Regions’ Parkside West branch in Atlanta.
“My husband and I opened our account with Regions when we married,” Castaneda said. “We’d had issues with another bank and quickly found out that Regions was trustworthy. When we purchased our home, we went with Regions. Now, with our business, we feel we have a genuine relationship and can count on their customer service.”
That relationship, Richardson said, is critical.
“Latoya is our friend,” Richardson said, “and we know she will take care of us. If there are any services we might need in the future, she will let us know.”
Mathews understands the potential for Empanada Takeover to make an even greater difference.
“This is their way of doing what they love and giving back to the community,” Mathews said. “They truly want to give back and make life better.”