How a KC Couple Got Their Sweet Start Selling Homemade Chamoy at First FridaysBecky Brown
Entrepreneurship can be delicious! Just ask husband-and-wife duo Erik and Paley Carmona. What started out as a kitchen experiment has turned into a tasty side hustle.
Now, Carmona’s Chamoy is flourishing, thanks to support from loved ones, the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation and the Latino Arts Foundation. Here’s how they’re building a business from the ground up.
Following a passion
Erik and Paley have both worked in food. And Paley enjoys finding new recipes and making them her own. So when she saw chamoy all over TikTok in December 2021, of course she had to make the treat herself.
Sometimes called Mexico’s favorite condiment, chamoy is made from fruit, spices and lemon juice. The result is a sweet and sour paste that can be used as a dip or in candy. Paley made her chamoy with tamarind and shared it with family and friends. Then, she didn’t think much about it – until people kept requesting it. And requesting again. And again.
“We figured we might as well make it a business,” Paley says. “We made chamoy into candies and then started to do events.”
With almost 40 events between late March and November this year, Erik and Paley have been plenty busy. Not only have they been developing watermelon, mango and hibiscus candies, but they’ve also started serving aqua frescas — refreshing drinks with chamoy rims.
But starting a food business is more than making food. The Carmonas have had to deal with everything from permits to finances — and didn’t always know what they were doing.
“We’ve had our own businesses before, so we knew we needed to do X, Y and Z,” Paley says. “But we didn’t know we needed the whole alphabet!”
Fortunately, Kansas City boasts a robust and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Erik and Paley found the help they needed.
Support for small business owners
The Carmonas connected with Maricela Garcia of the Hispanic Economic Development Council. Maricela was able to help them the nuts and bolts of business ownership, like permits, establishing a legal entity and more.
“Our goal is to help entrepreneurs navigate their way into business ownership,” Maricela says. “We offer digital literacy as well as financial literacy — both are crucial for owning a business.”
Guidance from the HEDC certainly made a difference to the Carmonas.
“They can help you with everything — taxes, forms, permits, all of it,” Paley says. “Your business is your baby, but sometimes you need to ask someone who knows. It’s not bad to ask for help. And that’s something we didn’t know until we realized we did need help.”
The HEDC strives to improve the quality of life for Latinos in the greater Kansas City area by supporting people with dreams of owning a business.
“We provide entrepreneurs with the education that will lead them to become successful business owners,” Maricela says. “We do what we can to be with our clients and support them through the whole process.”
With Carmona’s Chamoy, part of that support was introducing the entrepreneurs and their products to a larger audience. Deanna Munoz of the Latino Arts Foundation has also been a huge supporter, hosting Paley and Erik and their tasty treats at events and gatherings.
“They’ve helped us so much!” Erik says.
Advice for other food entrepreneurs
Paley prepares the chamoy, but making the business succeed requires teamwork outside of the Carmonas’ kitchen in Prairie Village, Kansas.
“It’s a family effort for sure,” she says.
Erik and his mom, Erika, work most events. And Erika has been a huge supporter since the first taste test.
“We’re so appreciative of family and friends supporting us, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without them,” Erik says.
But starting the business has not been without its bumps and bruises. The Carmonas booked a big event that didn’t turn out to be so big.
“We got overexcited and prepped too much,” Erik says. “We didn’t make back what we needed to make back. So we learned not to overdo it. You don’t want to throw away stuff — that’s money. So you’ve got to be prepared and know what you’re getting into and ask questions.”
Paley seconds the need to investigate.
“It may feel like you’re being annoying, but at the end of the day, you need to know,” she says. “How many people do they expect? Is the event still on if it’s raining? Just don’t overdo it. Selling out feels so much better.”
And if you don’t know what questions to ask, don’t worry. KCSourceLink can help! Our Resource Navigator™ lists more than 230 organizations that can help you reach your goals. The KCSourceLink Calendar is the metro’s most comprehensive list of entrepreneur classes and programs — some of which are even designed specifically for food-related businesses.
If you don’t even know where to begin, our Network Navigators can create a free Personal Action Plan just for you. It’s a to-do list tailored to your unique needs and dreams and directs you to the experts and organizations in KC who can help you move your business forward.