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Success Story: Jess Torres & Amy Gonzales

Posted on in Break Fast and Launch, Success Stories

Jess Torres and Amy Gonzales started out with a dream of introducing San Antonians to Tacos Tapatío’s. They bought a food truck from Jess’ mother and, through trial and error, narrowed their menu down to five main items. Neither woman had formal culinary experience, but they knew what they wanted to make. Once they’d found their food footing, La Maceta was born. 

In the beginning, they’d give away tapatíos just to get people to try them. By 2016, they hit the downtown scene. Jess gave birth to their daughter, Jessamy, with the help of a doula who turned out to be one of the founders of the San Antonio Social Ride. They stayed in contact and she invited La Maceta to sell tacos to the ride for the Women In Charge night. They were determined to make every item to-order, but they had 20 minute wait times with a line much longer than they were used to. The truck was so cramped that Amy took orders from outside. People complimented the individual attention she paid to each person with no idea that she simply couldn’t fit behind the window. La Maceta established a reputation for customer service that they maintain to this day. They were invited back and eventually ended up working with the San Antonio Social Ride on a regular basis. 

Then David Elder happened. One night, he happened to be around the location of their food truck and a friend recommended he try their food. They started talking and he decided to feature them on SA Live. The publicity boosted their customers, they learned how to time their orders, and La Maceta hit their stride. 

Around that time, a friend, Edward, who owned the The Box Street Social truck, recommended they try LaunchSA’s free culinary accelerator program, Break Fast and Launch (BFL). Amy stayed up that night to finish the application but didn’t know there was a deadline. At midnight, she got a notification that they missed the deadline to submit. She told Edward, who told Jody Newman of The Friendly Spot, who told them just to submit the application anyway and she’d help them out. They ended up in the cohort. 

“We had no idea really what Break Fast and Launch was when we signed up for it, we just needed some sort  of guidance,” says Amy. They had been in business two years already at that point, so they were at a different level than some of the newer companies in the cohort, but Jess says it was good to learn the different routes that people take in the industry. “We got to network with really cool people, and that helped us with growing our business and learning just how to network more,” she says.  “Everything was very helpful. It was casual, too, which was good. One time we had to bring Jessamy, because something fell through, and everyone just made us feel really comfortable. We grew. We learned a lot. It felt like it all happened at once. And some of the LaunchSA staff have become consistent mentors for us, easy to come to when we need help. It’s a great family.”

Through the class, they met Joe Saenz of Swine House Bodega, who let them sample different cuts of meat during the program and toss around ideas for new menu items. They also met Mike and Elisa of Southern Grit, who have become some of their closest friends. “Mike and Elisa will call just to check in on us. They’ve just been a constant support,” says Jess. “They have a son, who’s a year younger than Jessamy, and they get along so well. We used to do playdates just to talk. They’re married too and understand what it’s like to work with your partner. It’s just so good to have their support,” says Amy.

Southern Grit and La Maceta have collaborated at Mockingbird fest and the Fiesta bike ride, and Mike and Elisa have more experience with pop-ups and permits, so Jess and Amy lean on them to find out information. “If it hadn’t been for Break Fast and Launch, we wouldn’t have met any of them,” Jess adds. “We were so focused on the truck. That’s another good thing about being around other entrepreneurs: They understand the lifestyle and it’s great to know that other people are doing that. They understand that we’re constantly hustling.”

BFL’s culminating event, Dinner Day, was an incredible experience for them. They’d never been to Brick at Blue Star before and they met other entrepreneurs who attended the event. Jess’ sister, who couldn’t attend BFL but also works in the truck, got to come and celebrate how far they’d come. 

La Maceta is currently looking for a permanent spot. “We’re at a point in our business where we’re ready to grow and be bigger, build more of a team and maybe an actual restaurant,” says Jess. Two years ago, they upgraded to a larger truck and started getting help from a cousin, which has already made a huge difference. Amy still takes orders from the outside of the truck but now it’s by choice because of the connection she feels with their customers. With five years of success under their belt, they’re ready to move on to something newer and bigger. “People show up half an hour early to the truck just to wait for us,” says Jess. “ We want them to have shade, have somewhere to sit. It’s time to have a space.” 

Jess and Amy still come to the dinner nights every year and meet the newer cohorts. They love that they can facilitate those connections. “Sometimes we’re like, we should take the class again, refresh, learn new  things,” says Amy. “There’s always more we could do, more we could learn. And we just love the community.”