A Food Truck With A Fresh Taste

The COVID-19 pandemic devastated small businesses nationwide during most of 2020. Those that survived did so by adapting to the drastic changes brought on by lengthy closures, strict disinfection rules and mandates on masks and social distancing.

One business in a Texas town has been able to reinvent itself thanks, in part, to a microloan from Communities Unlimited.

Freshbox of Amarillo was started in Amarillo, Texas, in 2018 by Anna Lisa Ramos. The business provides catering for events and businesses featuring a menu with classic Tex-Mex dishes and modern healthy options.

Anna Lisa had spent several years catering as a side business. She started with church and corporate events and built a reputation for excellent food. She opened her own business using the skills she had honed over the years and the help of a small business mentoring program. Anna Lisa opened Freshbox of Amarillo. Thanks to the delicious, healthy options she served, her business grew. Then, COVID-19 hit.

The business was hit hard when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The pandemic shut down businesses and events, eliminating the core income of Freshbox of Amarillo. If the business were to survive, it would need to adapt and quickly.

Anna Lisa came up with the idea that could help the business survive — she would buy a food trailer and make her business mobile.

Anna Lisa came to Communities Unlimited in July 2020 to request a microloan of $48,000 to buy the food trailer and a wrap that would cover the trailer, marketing costs and startup expenses for her new food trailer. She began working with Deborah Temple, Director of Lending, and Loan Associate Kevin Tillman on her loan application.

Luckily for Anna Lisa, Deborah and Communities Unlimited’s CEO, Ines Polonius, were familiar with her business. Both attended an event that Freshbox of Amarillo had catered and knew the food was top quality. Their knowledge of the product allowed them to see the potential in the overall business and Anna Lisa’s plan to pivot to a food trailer.

She completed the application with Kevin’s assistance on July 28, and she received approval for the loan by Aug. 21.

Anna Lisa is now waiting as the wrap and equipping the food trailer is finished, but that does not mean she has stopped working with Communities Unlimited.

“Communities Unlimited is helping me so much with all the references and everything y’all have to offer,” she said.

In addition to the loan, Anna Lisa also took advantage of another Communities Unlimited service — technical assistance. Through the Entrepreneurship program, Anna Lisa received expertise and training to get her food truck off the ground.

“It’s just so valuable for me to receive this,” she said. “It’s valuable so that I can be successful.”

Communities Unlimited provides technical assistance such as bookkeeping software training and other financial and accounting training to help small businesses find long-term success. One-on-one assistance is tailored to the client. In Anna Lisa’s case, she is getting assistance with the bookkeeping and her menus.

“The biggest problem that I had over the years was figuring out my menu as far as the cost,” she said. “Everything I had to figure out on my own. It takes a lot of time.”

She began working with Akira Morishita, Management Consultant for Communities Unlimited. Akira worked with Anna Lisa to determine what type of menu to offer and what would provide the best cost-to-revenue ratio for her new mobile business.

Her background in catering and buffet-style presentations made it easier to decide on the format for her menu. She said Akira helped her decide on a buffet-style. One factor in determining that was to figure out the cost for each dish.

“I think he’s going to present me with something I can use for every recipe,” Anna Lisa said.

She also began working with Cynthia Terry, Director of Entrepreneurship, on projections for her business. They were able to determine that Anna Lisa could hire an employee.

Anna Lisa said her relationship with Communities Unlimited has her optimistic about her future.

“I feel like everyone who is involved and who is helping really truly wants me to succeed,” Anna Lisa said. “They did not just lend me the money, and that’s it. I really think that they’re setting me up for a successful business and not just another taco truck.”