Check Them Out: Pat Fettig and Brett & Dadnitri Johnson!

What exactly is your business?
We own a Venezuelan Food Truck called Empanadas Aqui. We specialize and feature Venezuelan Street Food. Through the love of cooking and authentic family recipes, Pat Fettig, myself (Brett) and Dadnitri Johnson started an Empanada Food Truck in the Greater Cincinnati area in the Spring of 2014. When Dadnitri moved to Cincinnati from Caracas, Venezuela in June of 2012 and we got married, a lot had changed for her. Because she missed home so much, we decided to start a food truck that would bring a taste of Dadnitri’s home to Cincinnati. With Pat’s marketing and market research background, my experience in the food and hospitality industry, and Dadnitri’s recipes, the food truck was the perfect idea.

How did you find out about Aviatra?
Pat came across an organization called Aviatra that we decided to go through for a crash course in how to run a business. We decided that we would apply to be a finalist in the running for a $25k loan at the end of the class, and if we were a finalist, we would continue the class. We didn’t really think it through to consider what would happen if we didn’t make the cut. The help and support we found through Aviatra was incredible. There were no stupid questions and we could ask anyone for help. The organization of Aviatra did an excellent job finding the right field experts each week to come in, share, and answer our questions that we had. Even though we did not win the $25k loan, Aviatra backed us as a sponsor through KivaZip to crowd fund $10k to start our truck and get us going. This was a huge help and I don’t know that we could have started successfully without this support.

What is your inspiration?
Ever since the beginning of our story, we have been inspired by a passion to bring Venezuelan food to the streets of Cincinnati. Venezuela is a beautiful country and we want our city to see and experience that as much as they can. Every day we are motivated to bring our best representation of what we love about Venezuela. We focus on fresh food made with love and we hope people can feel that.

What has been your biggest accomplishment with your business so far?
So far in our business, our biggest accomplishment has been our Food Truck Team Members. We have worked hard to find just the right people to work with us to accomplish this passion we have. We have found the best people around to make, create, and serve our Venezuelan food to their fellow Cincinnatians. We find it very easy to brag on our team and we fiercely defend our work culture we have worked hard to establish. We are thankful that we get to pursue our dreams each day and there are amazing people who come along side us and continue to make it happen.

What was the most valuable thing you gained from your experience with Aviatra?
The most valuable thing we have taken with us from our time going through Aviatra are the connections we made. We have several ongoing business partnerships and relationships that we started while going through the course. In most days, I forget the info that I learned in the classes, but I am always reminded of the friendships and partnerships we made through Aviatra.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting your business?
Our biggest challenge we faced while starting our business was that none of us were an expert in the fast food service industry. None of us were professionally trained in the culinary world and we were still just crazy enough to want to jump into a food truck. There was a very large learning curve that we had to go through. It all ranged from what kind of meats to buy for our carne mechada, how many people to properly staff for each event, scheduling the right events, finding our niche market, and making sure that we still made enough money to ultimately pay our own bills.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
In 5 years, we honestly do not have any expectations about ourselves or Empanadas Aqui. We have thrown the idea around about a brick and mortar spot but I don’t know that that is where our heart is at the moment. We love having our food truck and it is very hard to imagine doing anything else at this point.

Any advice for future Aviatras?
For any future Aviatras, I’d say to go in each course with an open mind and an eagerness to form relationships outside of the classroom. As far as the course work was concerned for us, I wish I paid more attention while learning about Accounting and Finances. Now that I am actually in the thick of doing the work, I wish I had a better idea of what I am actually doing. But 5 years ago while going through the class, I never once thought I’d be doing this part of our business. That was not how our responsibilities were divided. Since then, that has changed.