Local couple makes their mark with frozen sopaipilla business

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Sopaipillas are to New Mexico what apple pie is to America.

In fact, one area couple says the puffy fried pastry is the state’s bests kept secret and it’s about time the rest of the country got a taste of what people in New Mexico have been enjoying for generations.

Barron Jones-News-Bulletin photo: Meadow Lake couple Angela and Randy Mendoza started Rosie’s Sopapillas, a frozen sopaipilla company, in hopes of making the New Mexico treat a household product.

That is why Meadow Lake residents Angela and Randy Mendoza created Rosie’s Sopapillas and formed Mendoza Developments LLC, last June, to license and legally sell the Southwestern mainstay.

Before they formed the company, the couple would sell batches of the sopaipillas to family and friends. The pair named the company to honor their mothers, who share the name Rosie.

They said they got the idea after Angela was fired from her job and the family’s diminishing budget forced them to make the inexpensive sopaipillas for their church’s potluck dinner. At the dinner, the couple said they were surprised to learn, from one of their congregation members, that the multipurpose practical New Mexican favorite isn’t as widely known as other Hispanic foods.

“Everybody knows what tortillas are because they are in the stores. Why not sopaipillas? They are New Mexico’s best kept secret,” Angela Mendoza said.

Shortly after this realization, the Mendozas went to work, perfecting their recipe and developing a plan they hoped would transform Rosie’s Sopapillas from an idea to a viable business.

The couple started by reaching out to several women’s business associations who led them to the South Valley Economic Development Center’s  Mixing Bowl test kitchen in Albuquerque.

There they met with manager Ernie Rivera to arrange an agreement that would allow them to use the nonprofit’s test kitchen to launch their product. Rivera, a former executive chef and food service industry buyer, said he was impressed with the Mendozas’ product because it’s unique and convenient.

“It was different in the sense that someone has come forward with a uniquely New Mexican product,” Rivera said. “I think it’s going to be very successful.”

Acting on the advice of a friend who once worked as a supermarket broker, Angela made a sales call to an Albuquerque store that sold local food. She said she was nervous but the outcome was favorable.

Apparently, Rivera wasn’t the only one impressed with the Mendozas’ product. Before the couple could work out the details to use the test kitchen’s space, the couple landed a sizable contract to supply the frozen sopaipillas to a New Mexico grocery store chain.

But this presented additional challenges. The test kitchen is a shared-use space that serves as an incubator for about 60 clients that wish to see their food-based products on store shelves.

So, to fulfill the huge order they received from John Brooks Supermarket chain, the Mendozas had to find a funding source and a space to make their product. At first, Angela thought finding money would be nearly impossible because of the poor credit they had developed, they said, through a lifetime of irresponsible living, including years of drug abuse.

“We did not have no money, no job and horrible credit because all we ever did was party, sell drugs waste time and money,” Angela said.

They credit their devout religious beliefs for helping to repair their lives and deliver them from chaos, set out to prayer. They need $4,000 and that is exactly what they asked for while praying.

To raise the money, the Mendozas wanted to sell 10 percent of their businesses to the first bidder, but that wouldn’t be necessary.

“I handed (the business plan) to some people and a brother from the fellowship who did not know us called to meet with us, and wrote a check for $4,000,” Randy Mendoza said. “He did not want 10 percent. He just wanted to be paid back Wow! That blew our minds — the faith of this brother is remarkable.”

The Mendozas said their goal isn’t to get rich, they just want to earn enough money to pay their bills.

Now they have a stable base of production and distribution, they said Rosie’s Sopaillas should hit the shelves of the Lowe’s grocery chain sometime next month.