Bricia Lopez is am an entrepreneur who is helping her family’s business thrive. It was in the early 1990’s that Bricia, then only 10 years old, moved with her family from Oaxaca, Mexico to Los Angeles. Her father, Fernando, had a dream and a goal of providing Oaxacan Angelenos a taste of home with his restaurant Guelaguetza. Now housed in the first Korean-styled building in Koreatown (according to Bricia), Guelaguetza is still thriving under the management of Fernando’s children including Bricia. They handle the day-to-day operations of Guelaguetza as well as their own Oaxacan-inspired online businesses Mole And More, I Love Micheladas, Super Mamas Podcast, and their very own online store I Love Mole. Bricia sat down with mitú to talk about what it means to be in charge of a restaurant catering to regional food and becoming a boss-level woman in the hyper competitive food industry.
Tucked away in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, you’ll find Guelaguetza, an authentic Oaxacan-themed restaurant that has been thriving for more than 20 years.
“People from Oaxaca have a very specific relationship to food where food is your life. Everything surrounds food. Family, celebration, death, everything has to do with food,” Mexican-born restauranteur Bricia Lopez told mitú. “
[Guelaguetza] is our home and we serve the food that we grew up with. It’s not fancy food. It’s not fusion food. It’s not new Californian food. It’s not new Mexican food. It’s not innovative. It’s just traditional food that I grew up eating, just very high quality. So, that’s how the menu of the restaurant was inspired. Just foods that we grew up eating off the road [in Oaxaca]. Everything you find here at the restaurant is what you can find in Oaxaca.”
The restaurant has been passed down from founder and father Fernando Lopez to his children. Bricia said that the transfer of power left her with a stunning message from her father about the benefits of being a woman and a boss.
Bricia admitted to mitú that when she first took charge of the restaurant, she was often looked as the “daughter of” Fernando. She longed to be seen as the boss and she asked her father for help getting that respect since he is the one who started the restaurant. His response? He told her she would have to work for it.
“He told me, ‘I wish I was a woman because you guys have so much power,'” Bricia recalled to mitú.
Bricia continued: “He said, ‘You guys are so much smarter than us. You guys just have so much more ability and can also be so nurturing. You need to understand that what you have is very powerful. As a woman you are ahead of every man that you meet. So you need to understand that it’s a plus. You need to learn how to navigate your womanhood and take advantage of it and earn people’s trust. I can’t give you that.’”
Bricia also learned that it was important to treat employees as family, which she says comes naturally to her.
To Bricia, taking charge of the restaurant meant embracing all the employees as her family because all of them are working to a common goal: the success of Guelaguetza.
Bricia shared that very early on, she learned that success to her is all about being purpose-driven.
“Understand why you are doing everything that you do. When you are purpose-driven, it is not about the to-do list,” Bricia told mitú. “It is about achieving a bigger thing that can get ten things out of the way. It’s about deciding if this thing that you are doing is taking you a step into your purpose or away from it and if it is taking me away from it, then why am I bothering with it.”
Bricia argues that it is not enough to just set a to-do list and just do them because you think they need to be done. What has helped her succeed is making sure that everything she has been doing had the result of taking her closer to her purpose and goal.
This purpose-driven, just do it attitude has translated into the Lopez children launching a handful of online businesses that were born out of Guelaguetza.
Guelaguetza and the Lopez siblings are helping to bring Oaxacan flavors and culture to people across the country from mole to micheladas to Oaxacan clothing (in the Koreatown restaurant). Bricia told mitú that it was a no-brainer to sell their products online to fans and Oaxacan expatriates living in the U.S.
“We just did it,” Bricia told mitú about launching their online store.
“We Googled everything and found out how to do things,” Bricia told mitú. “I feel like so many times people make things more complicated than they should be. Like, it’s not that complicated. People were asking us for the micheladas. We’ve been serving the micheladas since we opened. People would come in and ask if they could buy the mix from us so we would fill up empty tequila bottles and sell them and they would come back every weekend. By then, we had opened our online store where we shipped our mole so we started thinking about what else we could sell in our store.” That’s when I Love Micheladas was born.
As a mother, Bricia understands that sometimes things can get pretty hectic, but that should never stop you from achieving your dreams.
“I think for mothers, the number one thing is to understand that it’s okay to ask for help,” Bricia advises for any mother looking to start or grow their own business. “Latinas, especially moms, feel like because their moms raised four kids as immigrants with nothing and they cooked every day. I honestly don’t know how they did it. We feel like we have to do the same thing, we can’t complain, we can’t have these issues, and we can’t feel pain or ask for help because we have to be able to do everything by ourselves, which is not true. We need to remember that our moms who were able to do all that have a community around them of primas, of support.”
“You need to understand that you need to take care of yourself first and then you can take care of everyone else,” Bricia said of being a mom and a businesswoman.
“You just need to find whatever makes you happy and do whatever make you feel a little selfish and look to take care of yourself because when you’re happy, your family will be happy,” Bricia continued about being a mom and entrepreneur. “A lot of moms don’t do that. Latina moms don’t take care of themselves. It’s like, first is my baby, then it’s my husband, then are my friends, then it’s my business, then there’s this, and at the bottom of all of this, is me. What kind of mother are you going to be if you put yourself last? What kind of wife are you going to be if you make yourself last? What kind of friend are you going to be if you put yourself last?”