“We received our small business loan right at the perfect time.”Juan Betancourt
While working as a teacher at Chicago High School for the Arts, Juan Betancourt dreamed about opening his own restaurant but was nervous to take the leap. He conducted extensive research into what would be needed and began saving money to buy equipment. Two years later, he opened the doors to ArePA George, a Colombian restaurant in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood which he named after his father, George.
An immigrant from Colombia, Juan grew up making tamales with his family. “Everything started because of my mom,” Juan gushed. Juan’s mom Lina works along-side him at the restaurant and his sister Nathalie joined the family business earlier this year.
In the beginning, Juan started with a simple menu of arepas, empanadas, and juices. “Every morning, I come in and make empanadas,” Juan said. “I call myself an empanada machine.” The restaurant was so successful that he was quickly able to expand his menu and add services like catering and delivery.
Allies for Community Business provided a $10,400 loan to help Juan buy materials and supplies to keep up with his orders, which were through the roof thanks to a new partnership with Fooda, a meal-service program for office buildings. “With a partnership of that kind, it is like having two restaurants. We are making 60 to 100 meals a day,” Juan said.
Ever curious and extremely driven, Juan looks forward to continuing to watch his business grow. “It is a learning process. We learn new things every day.”