14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 November 2020 — Gretel Bormey was attending to her clients with care this Sunday at Amarillo Coworking, housed in what was previously the Casa Brava, a private boutique hotel located on Calle 2, between 21 and 23, which was forced to close due to the pandemic. The exposition space started last July and this weekend it hosted an event at this Vedado house aimed at bringing together entrepreneurs like Gretel.
Bormey & Daughter is the name of Gretel and her father’s family business. “He is a chef de cuisine and has many years of experience. I am a trained translator, but since I was a child, I have been watching him cook, I practically grew up in a kitchen. Our initial idea was to provide catering for small events, I always had the idea to also launch a parallel line to catering at some point, to offer certain products that are not available here or are not known in the popular culture”, she stated.
The pandemic acted as a reagent. Event cancellation led Bormey & Daughter to put catering aside for another time and make way for products more suited to the new reality: sauces, homemade sweets and frozen items.
“We thought that, in this situation in which we are confined to our homes there is a shortage of so many things but especially food items, we could offer people things that are different, that are fresh, healthy, quality products and that is what we do,” Bormey said.
Their list of products includes pesto, made with basil and spinach; garlic and curry mayonnaise; and chutney. They also make fish croquettes or ones made with spinach that they grow themselves in their backyard.
“It is an herb that contains no chemicals, that is grown and cared for with a lot of love. We also look for fish, my father has a boat and that is his hobby. We use fresh fish to make the croquettes. Of course, we would like to be able to offer many more products but the situation is a bit complex and sometimes our creativity is limited by what we can get in the market,” she laments.
Bormey & Daughter started in mid-September, limited to home deliveries. “Following hygiene measures at all times, we always use antibacterial gel to try to protect us and our clients,” she clarifies. So far, her business balance is very positive. “People place repeat orders, and that means that they like the product and that they have been incorporating it into their usual diet,” she highlights.
When Gretel Bormey found out about the Amarillo Coworking celebration event through social networks, she did not want to miss it. She was surprised by the number of initiatives that emerged in the context of the pandemic and that there are “many people making delicious things, promoting healthy eating.”
“We thought it was a great opportunity for our emerging small business to interact with other similar enterprises and learn what they do and establish alliances. These have really been very good days,” she says while having curious people who come to her stand sample her product, spread on a slice of bread.
Saily González, founder of the project, explains to 14ymedio that this is “the first physical co-working space for entrepreneurs in Cuba,” a place for business owners to exchange experiences and offer their best products to the public.
“The first part of the pandemic was difficult, but even more difficult was to open and to have to close again. We had a lot of uncertainty, few sales and a lack of interaction,” discusses González.
Some of the brands that participated in the bazaar were born because of Covid-19 and have developed only through social networks. “They are doing online sales but have not yet had physical interaction in the community. In my experience, when you, as the person behind a brand, interact with the community, it is very powerful because it personalizes brands and helps the entrepreneur generate a sense of community, that was the idea of establishing the bazaar. It was basically setting up the space and making the call,” she says in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the day.
The event, which was held between last Friday and Sunday, welcomed more than 20 small businesses over the three days during which they showed their products to the public, such as food, masks, ornaments and bags, between 10 in the morning and 6 in the afternoon.
The clients who arrived, most of them as a family group, visited the house’s rooms taking in every detail. Towards the back, in one of the rooms was stationed Havana Dehydrates, a product that has only been in existence for three months.
“So far, we have worked with four fruits: pineapple, coconut, banana and lemon. The process we follow is quite traditional, completely natural, we do not add any chemicals or sugar to our dehydration process. We have a gas oven with pressurized air. Depending on the oven and on the cut of the fruit, the process takes between 10 or 12 hours. We market our products in the form of chips, dice, slices,” explained a young woman to each person who approached.
On Saturday, Caridad León arrived at the house, hand in hand with her daughter, her son-in-law and her two granddaughters. She bought two face masks, curry mayonnaise and pesto sauce; and she did not stop praising the nice product packaging, their design and their quality. “I am happy, it is very good to see that young people want to do these beautiful things, it is inspiring. Filling one’s belly cannot be all there is.”
Translated by Norma Whiting
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