Black tank top adorned with a black apron, Cecilia stands over the hot ovens, flipping tortillas with her gloved hands. She carefully packs wet burritos into boxes. Under the large awning, a table of students sit at a picnic table, laughing and talking while they await their orders.
Confident, she swiftly navigates the kitchen; her daughter passes her orders from the register. It’s a family-owned, women-led restaurant. Her menu has been steadily growing since she opened in March, excitedly she talks about the upcoming menudo and tamales. Right in time for the cooler weather and holiday season. Salsa simmers in the corner, as she takes out the hand-made masa for the next order of sopes.
Cecilia Romero, entrepreneur and business owner, emigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of 17. She has worked in the restaurant and service industries for more than 30 years, often cooking in the kitchen of others, yearning to have one of her own.
Supporting Cecilia’s Dream
Opening her own restaurant, crafting a menu of her choice, and bringing the vibrant flavors from her hometown, has been a longtime dream of Cecilia’s. Language barriers and cultural differences made the already arduous journey to become a businessowner that more challenging.
This past year, after a referral from a friend, she reached out to Michigan Women Forward’s (MWF) bilingual Technical Assistance Business Consultant, Mayra Villareal-Martinez. Mayra helped her prepare a business plan, project budget, and financial statements before submitting a micro loan application. MWF is certified as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and focuses on expanding economic opportunity by providing access to capital and resources to those in communities that lack access to financing.
Taco’s Yanga opened in March 2022, a realized dream for Cecilia. “Thanks to Michigan Women Forward for the technical assistance and funding opportunity. The micro loan has helped my business cash flow,” says Cecilia.
What’s in a Name?
The restaurant name honors a hero from her home state of Veracruz; a member of the royal family in West Africa who was captured and enslaved. He led other enslaved Africans to refuge and rebelled against the Spaniards. On her logo, the shape of Veracruz is seen in the background of the logo. The palm trees and food represent elements from her home state. The image of the woman is based on Cecilia herself and drawn by her younger daughter.
It was important to Cecilia to include history in her restaurant, she appreciates the richness of Yanga’s legacy and it’s an extension of herself. She loves how people from different backgrounds came together to support each other’s independence and freedom.
Late afternoon, there’s still a steady stream of customers after the lunch rush. Cecilia explains that a loan isn’t a cure all, but it helps her to breathe, and continue growing the business.
Amid the orders, Cecilia greets customers by name, her daughter at the counter remembers their previous orders and where their kids go to school. It feels like you are part of the family, those moments you’re in Taco’s Yanga, in Cecilia’s kitchen.
Michigan Women Forward is dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs like Cecilia. Offering a relational, supportive approach. MWF walks alongside women and those who lack access to traditional financing.
“I really want to thank Mayra, who always made me aware of the process that was very unfamiliar to me. Thank you Michigan Women Forward for the help, as I start a new journey for my family and business.”
She remarks, “it is still challenging to start a business in this post-pandemic world, but organizations that offer immigrants and women access to capital and resources is a huge help.”
Her granddaughter skips into the building, sliding into a chair and immediately begins chatting about her day. Cecilia looks up beaming, “it hasn’t just helped me, but my entire family.”
To support entrepreneurs like Cecilia, make a gift to the Michigan Women Forward.