Sharing a Passion for Paletas: Paleterias Tropicana
José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca | Kansas City, Mo. | Main Street
José Luis Valdez and Lucia Fonseca launched Paleterias Tropicana in 2004 in midtown Kansas City as a way to bring natural, authentic Mexican-style ice cream and paletas to KC’s growing Latino market.
But they didn’t stop there. They now offer an extensive menu of fresh fruit cocktails and juices, smoothies, freshly made and filled churros and traditional Mexican lunch and dinner items—and they recently launched a private label product, Freshata to help bring more Latin-themed products to the U.S. market. If you haven’t tried them out, you should. (You can find them in KCK, on Southwest Boulevard, in the Tomahawk Shopping Center—and even at the Kansas City Zoo and the T-Bones ballpark.)
Below, José and Lucia share their entrepreneurial story and how their family-owned business has become a KC favorite.
What’s your big news?
In 2014, we celebrated our tenth anniversary in Kansas City, and this year Paleterias Tropicana was recognized as a Hispanic Lifestyle award winner as a successful family-owned business.
What inspired you to start your business?
A strong desire to form and operate a successful business – following a family tradition.
How did you finance it?
We were self-financed from the start with money saved from our employment.
Which resources have you worked with?
We have utilized the services of the following organizations:
- Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City
- Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City
- Hispanic Economic Development Corporation
- University of Kansas State Food Science Program
- Olathe Chamber of Commerce
Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
Yes, our business model is rooted in our culture and the traditions, especially our foods and beverages.
What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
You need a great product or idea and the passion for the business.
When times got tough, what inspired you to keep going?
Our faith in ourselves, the support from family members and our loyal customers
What lessons did you learn the hard way?
Making hasty decisions and not fully embracing planning.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Embrace technology and innovation.
What can/should Kansas City do to be more business friendly for Hispanic Entrepreneurs?
Facilitate cross-selling agreements between Latino and mainstream businesses in KC
Where does the city get it right?
Investing and leadership in integrating technology and innovation in business.
Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire.
- Steve Jobs - technology and innovation
- Michael Wunsch – Outpost Worldwide – video production
- Carlos Slim – business diversity
What has been your biggest triumph so far?
The Kansas City community has accepted and supported our business concept, allowing us to open three stores in metro KC and one in Wichita.
What is your favorite quote?
Just do it right the first time.