Today we’d like to introduce you to Jesse Mondragon.
Hi Jesse, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
Algo Dulce’s story begins with my dad, Jesus “Chuy” Mondragon. He was born in Mexico City, and since ever since he was a kid, he loved to cook. When my parents immigrated to Austin almost 40 years ago, my dad began to work as a cook and my mom as a housekeeper. Although we grew up very poor, my dad always made sure he could cook something good for us. He was always creative with food, and even has a book full of recipes. Our favorite thing he’d always make for us was his flan. He would make it for us a lot, and I fell in love with it the first time I had it when I was young. Fast forward to 2019, I was working at Whole Foods Corporate as a data analyst and finishing up my Master’s in Business from UT-Austin. During this year I decided that I was going to take the leap to entrepreneurship but I just did not know what I was going to do. I had absolutely zero business background and always felt like I couldn’t do it. A lot of my doubt came from the fact that I was a first generation Mexican-American, son of immigrants, with a comfortable job; however, there was one night where kept thinking about that leap my parents took many years ago when they came to a country not knowing anyone here or the language. This same night I was just thinking “What can I do? Where do I start?” all the meanwhile I was eating a huge flan my dad had made that night. It was this “aha!” moment where I realized that I never buy flan from the grocery store because it’s not good there. I began to ask my dad to make a lot of flan, and I began sampling at work and school, asking people questions and collecting data. I felt it in my gut that this was it. The next morning, I had to really hype myself up to put in my two week’s notice; my biggest motivation were the immigrant parents who have risked their lives and took a chance for a better life for their families. I remember my boss telling me it was “the biggest mistake of my life” and friends and family being scared for me. My job was my safety net and I cut that off so that I could rely on pure instinct. The next year were became the craziest year of my life. Right after I quit, the pandemic hit, and there was a lot of uncertainty, the biggest was how were we going to sell our product? Luckily I had a team of all-stars, between my brother Michael and our best friend Robert Silva, we worked our asses off for the next 12 months. We hustled to get our name out starting off doing direct delivery to our customers. We invested so much of our own money into the business, well knowing that I could run out of money and easily be out on the streets, I didn’t care, I knew deep down that we could be successful. Our biggest break was when we got into our first Famers Market, this gave us the opportunity to not only raise money but gain customer insights. We saw an explosion in the business from there, customers were delighted by our product and since then we have gained a great following. The biggest take away from our experience was that I learned to embrace my culture and work hard for something I believe in.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all. Flan is not a household name product for a lot of people in the US. Add that with the sampling restrictions that were in place during the pandemic, and we had a huge barrier to overcome. The farmers markets were slow during the pandemic and a lot of the shopper that would visit, would not buy from us because they didn’t know what flan was or they did not like it. We had to adapt and learn to become good salesmen and advocates for our product. Our first customers were the people that knew what flan was and were intrigued by a company focusing on flan. Although sales were not the best, it still felt so good knowing that people liked my dad’s flan recipe. We were all super excited when we made our first sale. That first customer that bought from us was so memorable, I recall fumbling to get the flan and shaking when I held the payment reader. Once the sale was done, my brother, Robert and I looked at each other like “wow… that wasn’t too bad.” I think we had gotten over our own doubts with that first sale, or at least felt more at ease. This rough start really motivated the team to work harder and be more creative with the way we market ourselves on social media and at the market. We still face a lot of struggles today, but I feel like we have built tougher skin and a growth mindset that keeps helping us move forward.
We’ve been impressed with Algo Dulce, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We specialize in a handmade traditional flan. Using my dad’s recipe and simple ingredients, we bring customer the richest and creamiest flan that they can find at the grocery store or restaurants. Our flan is inspired by our Mexican roots, and made from scratch in Austin, Texas. We want people to know that flan is such a precious dessert in the Latino culture and we make our flans, our dad still helps us, and we take pride in making a great flan. Ya’ll can find us at all Royal Blue Grocery stores, Dia’s Market, Tiny Grocer, Veracruz All-Natural, Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Cocina de Consuelo, and El Nuevo Mexico. You can also visit our website, www.algodulcefoods.com, to locate where you can find us near you.
What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
The food and beverage industry in Austin is not slowing down. There are so many great companies that are still in the come up and I encourage people to visit the farmers markets to discover these next great brands that someday you’ll see at big grocery stores. You will have an opportunity to meet some of the tomorrow’s most influential entrepreneurs and get to have conversations with them about their products. I see a lot of People of Color taking ownership our foods and becoming leaders in the food scene, and with this trend, a lot of introduction to a lot of great foods from different cultures. I am excited to see so many open-minded people when it comes to food because it allows for a much more diverse food ecosystem that we can all enjoy together.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: www.algodulcefoods.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/algodulcefoods/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/algodulcefoods
image credits: @comiendowithreyna