L.A. stories of inspiration and success

L.A. stories of inspiration and success

2024 Women's History Month Women-Owned Businesses Spotlight on Nicole Carrasco, owner of Masa Catalina, specializing in Filipino-Mexican fusion cuisine
Prior to the pandemic, Nicole Carrasco was a professional interior designer in the construction industry, where she led an entire team dedicated to construction drawings. At the time, she made poor food choices, missed many family dinners, and faced burnout. Soon after, she began questioning her lifestyle choices as she considered motherhood. As time passed, her dream of being a mom was about to materialize when the pandemic occurred, leaving Carrasco without a job just a month before giving birth. These series of events, plus her love for Filipino and Mexican food, prompted Carrasco to start Masa Catalina, named after her daughter Catalina.

Starting a new business with no culinary background while being a new mom was a real challenge that included a lot of late nights and research to understand how her concept would fit in the market and how she could differentiate her offering from what was already out there. Understanding where to reach her target audience, how to create and manage a perishable inventory, while maintaining the economic sustainability of the business, was also part of the equation.

In March 2023, when Carrasco joined the Seasoned Accelerator Cohort 4, a program by Food Access LA and EWDD, she had already established Masa Catalina as one of the preferred vendors at the LA area Farmer’s Markets. However, there were still gaps to be filled within her business.

“I have no previous experience in the food business, and the Seasoned Accelerator has filled in the gaps for me. I had no idea of all the components needed to run a food business, including branding, marketing, pricing, financing, and more. One of the webinars on pricing made me realize that my pricing structure was not sustainable enough for our business’s growing needs,” stated Carrasco.

To address these challenges, the program’s management paired Carrasco with Jocelyn Ramirez, founder of Todo Verde, who would be her Business Coach, and with Lynnette Astaire, founder of Live Lynnette, who supported her as a Marketing Coach. Together they created an action plan to address these challenges.

Since then, Carrasco adjusted her menu pricing, increasing her revenue, allowing her to purchase new equipment and more supplies, and to increase the number of hours for her team.

Through the program, Carrasco was educated on the various forms of loans and community financial institutions that fit her business’s financial needs, and received guidance to build and hire a qualified team. Without the program, Carrasco says she “would not have a fantastic network of support and knowledge. It is a program that keeps on giving.”

Carrasco’s vision for Masa Catalina is big! It includes a brick-and-mortar space to keep celebrating the regional and diverse flavors of Filipino and Mexican cuisines with her community while keeping her commitment to sourcing high-quality ingredients.

EWDD administers and provides financial support to several incubator and accelerator programs in the City of Los Angeles. These programs contribute to the City's innovation landscape by supporting the creation and growth of start-ups. Learn more about the various programs on our Incubators and Accelerators page.

This story is part of the EWDD UPDATES from March 2024. Read this issue and more.