Q&A with Owner, Andres Melendez
Give a high level overview of your business. What products or services you offer, where you're located, etc.
CUJI Foods (CUJI LLC) is a family business founded in early 2022 by Daniella Ferrantelli, Andres, and Ricardo Melendez. We are a fun, beautiful marketplace of South American specialty items offering the highest quality products from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and more. Our first store is in Boulder, CO.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Daniella, while doing her Master's at the University of Colorado Boulder, was asked to develop a business model. With the help of Andres and Ricardo, the best concept was to distribute Hispanic food products. It did not take long for that homework to become a real business opportunity.
What neighborhood is your business located in and what do you love about that location?
Boulder is the location of our first store, and we love it. Since we opened CUJI, we realized success is easier when a community like Boulder is behind you. But we have clients from all over the state, so Colorado is our neighborhood, and we are working on getting more CUJI stores around the state.
How did your journey lead you to Colorado Enterprise Fund?
A good friend recommended we start looking if the city and the state had any financial programs for startups, and that's how I found CEF; every search took me to them. Then I read the experiences other companies I respect had with them and knew I got the correct place.
What was your experience like when trying to get funding for your business? Ie, how long had you been looking? Did you experience difficulties, etc.?
Getting financing is the most challenging part for any startup. Traditional banking requires commercial history and collateral. Sadly the market is also full of financing offers that can do more harm than good. It was hard, and finding proper financing was vital for our project.
What was your experience like in working with CEF?
Fantastic, I will never stop saying how lucky we were to find CEF. We see them as part of our team. I knew since my first conversations with Renee that CEF truly cared about us and was cheering for our success.
What were you able to do with the funding you received from CEF?
We bought equipment and inventory and used some for working capital.
What's on the horizon for you and your small business?
Short-term goals are opening a second location in Denver early this year and two more by the end of 2023 in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Ultimately, CUJÍ seeks to become the first stop for purchasing Hispanic food products in Colorado and expand further to North America.
What is something you're looking forward to in the next 3-6 months in your business?
Open a bigger second location in Denver, and include more products to our portfolio from Caribbean countries, Spain and Portugal.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
We want to become a meeting spot for the community, a place for encounters with different cultures, where our visitors can engage in new foods and fall in love with traditions. CUJÍ represents "The Taste of Culture."