Bringing the Classic Taste of Mexican Towns
Upon stepping up to YoYo Treats’ kiosk at E14th Eatery + Kitchen (formerly Ashland Market & Cafe), customers are greeted by a playful, bright colorful menu. One can’t help but smile while tapping their foot to the music gently humming from behind the kiosk.
From duros to empapelados, the hardest part for customers is choosing what to order. Everything about YoYo Treats is carefully curated by owner, Diana Ramirez Jasso. Diana shares what makes her wake up in the morning:
“It’s my customers’ smiles and they’re happiness when they see the product!” She adds, “The music is not for me, it’s for my customers,” rounding out just how clearly she thinks about the customer experience.
"I knew how to create a business plan, I just didn’t know how to get started."
But how, exactly, do the paths of Mandela Partners and YoYo Treats cross in the first place?
Coincidentally, in the very same place we find ourselves now. Before YoYo Treats came to exist, Diana learned about Mandela Partners through a flyer that was distributed at an apartment complex just above E14th Eatery + Kitchen--a market hall launched in unincorporated Alameda County by Mandela Partners in 2019.
“I was visiting a friend who lives at this apartment complex about four years ago. I saw the flyer on the community board calling on local food entrepreneurs to apply to be part of this new food hall, and I wanted to learn more,” Diana shares.
When Diana was invited to interview for a kiosk at the eatery before it opened, she originally pitched an entirely different business concept: Grab-and-go salads. Even though she wasn’t selected, what she had pitched was not the kind of food Diana loved to make.
So she started rethinking her business concept.
“I had only been in the United States for a couple of years, and I knew I wanted to bring the classic flavors and colors of my favorite Mexican towns here,” recalls Diana. “My husband is a chef and I studied business in college...I knew how to create a business plan, I just didn’t know how to get started.”
Here is where Mandela Partners enters the scene (again). Diana worked with Mandela Partners in a few ways--first, by attending a foundational business workshop that Mandela Partners hosted for entrepreneurs applying to E14th Eatery + Kitchen. Participating in the workshops not only helped Diana further refine her business model, but also taught her what the market is like in the United States.
“Mandela Partners helped remove my fear of starting a business as an immigrant,” Diana comments. “They help you navigate processes about running a business that you don’t know.”
Next, Diana enrolled in Mandela Partners’ Business Advising sessions.
For Diana, opening YoYo Treats meant that she had to make a business plan that not only looked good on paper, but also was actionable. With the help of Sabine Dabady, Entrepreneurship Development Manager at Mandela Partners, Diana identified start-up costs she would need, and created a personal budget to accurately assess her debt to income.
Also, Sabine helped Diana create a video of her business story that was used to apply for, and successfully secure, a $10,000 micro-business loan through Kiva.
Diana remarks on how the workshops and advising grounded her.
“Taking the workshops and working with Mandela Partners made the focus of my business not get out of hand,” says Diana. “It was an arduous follow-up after each advising session that made me focus more and more on achieving my goal of opening my business.”
When a kiosk space became available in 2020 at E14 Eatery + Kitchen, Diana reapplied--this time with new recipes, a business name, and playful bright yellow and orange aesthetic for her business, YoYo Treats.
The food and branding were strong, and Diana was enthusiastically selected from 13 other applicants.
Today, Diana is far from done bringing smiles and delicious Mexican food to her Bay Area customers. In thinking about the future, Diana aspires to own a larger restaurant that brings all the flavors of Mexico to her customers. “I’d love a cenadoria with pozole, enchiladas, sopes, flautas, and quesadillas; a big restaurant for everybody that’s affordable,” says Diana.
And it’s not just the support and knowledge that Diana takes away from this experience, but a change in herself.
“This experience has changed me in all aspects of my life. It’s helped me define my own personality, especially now that I can say ‘I AM a business owner!’ ”
Visit YoYo Treats at 16395 E. 14th Street, San Leandro, and follow YoYo Treats on Instagram