Andrea Herrera started working in restaurants when she was 13 years old. After college, she began her career in restaurant management, and worked for some of Chicago’s most renowned establishments.
In 1994, Andrea started Amazing Edibles. She started small with a passionate team on a mission to “foster relationship building over bread-breaking events.” Her business grew, and Andrea began catering for universities, non-profits, and Oprah Winfrey’s production company, Harpo Productions. In 2015, Andrea came to A4CB for a business loan to continue growing Amazing Edibles.
Before the pandemic, Amazing Edibles employed 20 full-time staff, plus 40 part-time waiters, bartenders, and chefs and operated out of a 5,000-squarefoot kitchen in the Near West Side.
The pandemic halted the business’s growth. “Our business is events based, and in 2020, you couldn’t gather people at all,” Andrea said. “Business dropped about 80%, and we laid off about 80% of our team.”
Realizing that she needed to create a new revenue stream, Andrea started a second company, Boxperience. Just after launch, Andrea joined A4CB’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL) to help develop her new business. “It was really wonderful to be connected with the group, to have mentors, and to have regular meetings to help me launch a new company,” she said. “There was a lot of learning and support at a time when it felt like the world was not in my corner.”
In 2020 and 2021, Andrea spent lots of time applying for emergency grant and loan capital. “The only way we stayed afloat was through city, state, and federal funding and grants from organizations like Allies for Community Business,” said Andrea. She received a Back to Business grant through a program that A4CB administered in partnership with the State of Illinois to help business owners recover and return to business. Her grant funds went towards payroll and operating expenses.
Looking ahead, Andrea is determined to return to pre-pandemic revenues. She also hopes to open two event venues in the next five years and to continue in her leadership role with Entrepreneurs’ Organization where she serves as Global Champion for Women.