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Meet Ignacio, Yazmin and Uriel Viramontes of Dulces Colibri in DTLA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ignacio, Yazmin and Uriel Viramontes.

Dulces Colibri was officially registered as a business in 2003. However, the events that led to this step started many years before. In the Early 90’s Ignacio Viramontes Sr. (husband) and Martha Viramontes (wife) started a candy company manufacturing traditional Mexican candy in Puebla. Their products were well accepted by the people but due to an unstable economy they eventually had to close down and decided that Ignacio Viramontes Sr. would try his luck and migrate to the U.S. in order to save up some money and go back to Mexico. He arrived at the U.S. without speaking English, without knowing anyone and without a job offer so he started out trying his luck in front of the Home Depot as a handyman. By the mid 90’s he had met a construction contractor that liked his work style and quality and started to have more constant site jobs during the weekends and during the weekdays, he would work at a food processing factory. Toward the late 90’s Mexico’s economy wasn’t getting any better, so Ignacio decided to bring over his family to the U.S. (Martha – Wife, Ignacio Jr – Son, Uriel – Son, Yazmin – Daughter and Silvia – Martha’s Sister).

When the family arrived, Ignacio continued working as normal, the kids started school, Silvia started working as a babysitter for Ignacio Sr’s Contractor boss’ kids in order to help out with the family expenses. She would be away the whole week and come back on weekends. Martha in the meantime was taking care of the house chores and the kids. Martha however, felt that she too needed to contribute to the family’s finances and decided to start doing what she had already done for many years to sell traditional Mexican candy. She made a small batch and offered it to local mini markets. They gave her a chance and the candies were well accepted by the people. For some time, life continued like this and Martha’s customer base kept growing. Because life was so busy and the whole family had rarely a chance to be together since Ignacio Sr. worked m-f at a factory and weekends in construction, Silvia was a babysitter m-f and only came home on weekends, Ignacio Sr. and Martha decided to pursue the candy business full-time as a whole family. Many people warned that starting a business wasn’t easy and that giving up their stable jobs was a risky decision, but Ignacio Sr. and Martha had faith in their products and decided to take the risk. When Ignacio Sr told his Contractor boss about his plans to start a candy business, his boss told him that it wasn’t very likely that that would work and in turn offered Ignacio Sr. to become business partners in construction and to petition him to become a legal resident. The conditions were that Ignacio Sr. would have to work full-time with his construction boss for the next five years.

Ignacio Sr. being a man of faith, placed all his faith on his plans to start a candy business and declined the offer from his contractor boss. He knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to become a legal resident but having been away from his family for many years, he opted for keeping the family together. Also, construction work just wasn’t his passion. So, in early 2000’s everyone quitted their job and got to work making Mexican candy at home where instead of living room furniture, they had candy machines. One day they came across the inevitable question: What would be the name of the business? Ignacio Sr. recalled that every time he would be developing a new candy, his younger son Uriel would always stop by to taste it. If Uriel disliked the candy, he would rework the recipe and if Uriel liked the candy then it was ready to be offered to the customers. Because Uriel was always after sweets, Ignacio Sr. nicknamed him “Colibri” (hummingbird). Hence the brand name came to be “Dulces Colibri” (hummingbird brand sweets).

In 2001 Ignacio Sr. found out that one of his cousins was about to start a new business. His cousins had already been living in the U.S. for many years, were citizens and were better off financially than him. They asked him if he knew of a building that was already set up for food processing in order to spend the least amount of money on building modifications. Coincidently, the factory where Ignacio Sr. used to work was moving to another state and he knew the building’s owner (his ex-contractor boss’ dad). Because he had a good relationship with the building owner’s son, he recommended his cousin and his cousin was able to sign a lease. To reciprocate the favor, the cousin decided to rent Ignacio Sr. a small space where he could start his business. In 2003 Ignacio Sr. came across an opportunity of a bakery that was for sale. He didn’t quite have the money for a purchase down payment, so he spoke with the seller and both agreed to sign a lease to buy contract. Dulces Colibri had officially its own building now.

By 2005 the city was revamping the shopping center where Dulces Colibri was located and the building owner was asked to make some building modifications. Because Ignacio Sr. was eventually going to buy the building, the owner told him to pay for those modifications. These modifications would increase the value of the property, so Ignacio Sr. agreed and decided to sell the house he had managed to buy in order to pay for the building modifications. Because of the ongoing construction, Ignacio Sr had to rent another business property in order to be able to make candy which quickly began to put financial stress due to the double rent that had to be paid. By 2007 the modifications were done, the Viramontes Family were now renting a house and there wasn’t much money left in the bank.

Ignacio Jr. graduated high school in 2005 and was accepted to UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz. He was looking forward to becoming a software engineer. However, when he went to visit the college campus he had chosen (UC Davis) he was told that they would be unable to offer him financial aid or work on campus because he didn’t have a SSN. Not being able to afford the university tuition he had to forgo his professional career plans. On the plus side, this meant that Dulces Colibri had acquired a new full-time employee. Ignacio Jr. however didn’t give up completely on education and enrolled in a community college. He would work in the mornings and go to school in the evenings.

Then 2008 came in and the economy collapsed. By this time, Dulces Colibri’s workforce was composed of Ignacio Sr, Ignacio Jr, Martha, Silvia and five hired employees. The company didn’t have deep enough pockets to endure the recession and in order to prevent a bankruptcy, they had to let go of the five hired employees. Slowly the company managed to survive and became a mom & pop kind of business for the next six years. They unknowingly got caught in a routine, the business wasn’t expanding but the Viramontes were able to pay their expenses. Yazmin graduated High School in 2012 and Uriel in 2013. They both joined the Dulces Colibri workforce and now the whole family was working together. In 2013 they decided that it was time to convert the lease into a purchase. Ignacio Sr. scheduled a meeting with the landlord and the landlord said that he no longer wanted to sell. The Viramontes were willing to take the matter to court, however they found out that the person who did the lease to buy contract hadn’t done it correctly and there was nothing they could do about it. All this stress was beginning to have a toll on both Martha and Ignacio Sr. but their faith on their business allowed them to move forward. The next year in 2014, as the Viramontes were arriving for a normal workday, a note was on their business’s door. It was a notice that the landlord had sold the building to someone else and the new landlord was giving the Viramontes 30 days to vacate the building.

Ignacio Sr and Martha were thinking of giving up because it seemed like they didn’t have any options left to continue forward. Luckily Ignacio Sr’s cousin that had started with them back in 2001 had a small food processing plant in East LA that was not being used and offered it as a temporary solution. It was immediately accepted and Dulces Colibri moved to East L.A. As soon as Dulces Colibri was settled down and ready to start working Ignacio Sr focused on getting new wholesale customers in DTLA. By this time, Dulces Colibri had already started to be known for their high-quality mangoes. Because Ignacio Sr was under pressure knowing that the new location was temporary, he did his best to try to increase sales as much as possible to get ready to move yet again to a permanent place. One of the things he did was to introduce more products. He introduced caramelized fruits, marmalades, syrups for shaved ice amongst others. If someone would request something, Ignacio Sr. would make it. This took a toll on everyone because it was just too much to do and everyone was overworked. One of Ignacio Sr’s friends came by to visit him one day and recommended him a mentor (Carlos Marquez). Ignacio Sr. was much too busy so he sent Ignacio Jr to a conference with the mentor where Ignacio Jr. was introduced to selling on Amazon. He continued to assist conferences and events with the mentor and the mentor became interested in helping out Dulces Colibri.

The first thing the mentor recommended was to focus on our best-selling items and to stop making too many things. The next thing was for Ignacio Sr. to step down and to let Ignacio Jr. take the lead of the business alongside Uriel and Yazmin because if Dulces Colibri wanted to survive, it had to start appealing to the younger generations. By this time, Ignacio Jr was 28 years old and had received DACA in 2013 which granted him a SSN and a work permit. Ignacio Sr. agreed and he let Jr. take the lead. The first thing Ignacio Jr. did was to register the brand as a corporation. The second thing he did was to give the company image a facelift. (Throughout the years, Ignacio Jr kept going to community college and took many classes. Amongst those were graphic design & photography which gave him the skills to re design product labels and product packaging). The third thing he did was to assign the new corporation a purpose. Having grown up in amongst artisan parents making good quality Mexican candy and food, Ignacio Jr. developed an affection and a strong sense of pride for Mexican Traditions and Culture. Because of this, he made it his purpose for as long as he is in charge of Dulces Colibri to showcase the true capabilities of Mexican artisans and to show the world that Mexico is a culturally diverse country that offers high-quality artisan candy. Mexican candy is much more than piñata candy. For the past years, Mexican candy hasn’t had a great reputation amongst non-Mexican people. They see Mexican candy as cheap, too spicy, too salty and not very friendly for the stomach. Dulces Colibri will change that perception one customer at a time. When the time came in 2015 that Dulces Colibri had to move out of the temporary place, Carlos Marquez helped Dulces Colibri find a place I Gardena, CA to move into and with Ignacio Jr under DACA, Dulces Colibri was able to sign its first proper Lease agreement.

2016 was the first year of tangible growth for Dulces Colibri. Although it was hectic because of the relocation, Dulces Colibri was able to start acquiring equipment and raw materials in higher quantities thanks to loans and credit cards that Ignacio Jr, Yazmin and Uriel were now able to to apply for. By 2017 Ignacio Jr had re-designed the product packaging for all products and introduced a new Gourmet chili mango line intended for the more demanding customers. Dulces Colibri started to be present in social media and thanks to interviews from different TV stations, the brand had exposure to thousands of people across the US. In 2018 Dulces Colibri had to relocate yet once again due to logistic problems that incurred from having to travel back and forth between DTLA where most customers are located and Gardena where the business was located. The business relocated to its current location in DTLA where they have been focusing on entering the local (SOCAL) mini markets and liquor stores while at the same time increasing online presence. The next step to move to the next level will be to start selling to national chain stores and hopefully become a leading Mexican candy company owned by dreamers that employ American citizens while accurately representing the true potential of Mexican artisan products.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Our road has been anything but smooth. From the very beginning when our dad started he came to a country without speaking the language, knowing anyone for advice, knowing the system and only having a 6th grade education but with big dreams. Throughout the beginning of our journey, the lack of a legal status was our biggest roadblock since that made it difficult for us to apply for loans to buy machinery, to buy property and to even sign a lease contract. Also the lack of knowledge about the legal business process (permits, plan-check, sellers permit, legal structure, taxes, etc.).

Dulces Colibri – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our brand specializes on top quality artisan made Mexican candy. We specialize chili coated candies. Our flagship items are out Mango line up (Mango Enchilado, Mango Chamoy, Mango Tamarindo, Mango Pica-Chamoy), Our gummy chamoy line up and our Pistachio Line up ( Habanero, Jalapeno, Chili-lemon, Sal y Limon, Tequila). From the very beginning, our parents set our brand apart from the rest by making sure every product we made was the highest quality possible with an authentic Mexican taste. As years went by and we (the kids) took over, we also wanted to make sure that Mexican culture was accurately represented in the candy business in the US. Most Mexican candy brands in the US. are simply driven by profits. We on the other hand, have appreciation and pride for Mexican culture.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Our proudest moment today was when we launched our online store in Feb 2020 and people from all ages and cultural backgrounds showed great acceptance and complemented our quality and authentic taste. This was the moment when results of all of our parent’s lifetime of sacrifices and hard work began to materialize.

Pricing:

  • Colibri Sampler Pack – 18 different snacks – $30.42 (Gift wrap available)
  • Subscription Box – Build your box – $30.42 (50% OFF your first box valid throughout May)
  • 6 – Pack of any of our items – $10.14 – Free shipping on orders over $25.00
  • Discounts available: Student, Military, Teacher, Medical

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