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An Entrepreneur’s Journey From Colombia to New York City

East Harlem’s Pabade Bakery is a family-run bakery known for their addictive European pastries (our absolute favorite are their vegan muffins!). Born in Venezuela and raised in Colombia, the founder Yolfer Carvajal eventually made his way to New York City to follow his dream of opening a bakery. Now when the business has grown—his brother Donny and sister Dahyanna are a part of the team handling sales and logistics.

Yolfer Carvajal during his morning production at Hot Bread Kitchen’s Incubator

Members of Hot Bread Kitchen incubator since 2016, the new year has brought exciting news with the opening of their very own coffee shop at 135 East 110th Street—a must for anyone’s Harlem eats list! Pabade coffee shop is located just a few blocks away from HBK Incubates kitchen that they continue to rent for daily production. Opening the coffee shop was a natural next step for Pabade team—now they can interact face to face with their customers and grow their presence in the East Harlem community.

We visited Pabade coffee shop to sip on a cortado and hear their tips about starting a food business as immigrants to the United States.

The importance of learning a new market and culture
“We experienced that we needed to learn a new market and traditions. We had to understand what kind of food people like for breakfast and what they absolutely wouldn’t eat,” shares Dahyanna, who handles the administrative part of the business.
“We had to learn a different philosophy of food. People care about their health here more than in our country. In Venezuela we don’t pay much attention to these things. We just eat!”

It will take time for your brand to grow
“Sometimes you might feel that people don’t appreciate what you do. My brother put a lot of effort, love, and technique in Pabade and sometimes people say ‘It’s too expensive’ or ‘I’m not going to buy that because I don’t know this brand.’ You need to be patient and work hard for your dream,” says Dahyanna.

Keep on knocking on doors
Finding clients is hard for any food entrepreneur but it can get even harder without having the social circle in a new country. When they first started the brand, they were literally knocking on doors of different coffee shops. Yolfer shares, “We were lucky to find Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator. We felt very supported and they helped us to find bigger clients.”

Language can be a barrier
“Our first language is Spanish so sometimes it’s not easy to communicate with others and explain everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and more explanation if you don’t understand something. You will need to learn new rules and legal systems in the new country. In Venezuela, opening a business is very easy but here you have to follow many things,” shares Danyanna. Yolfer recommends figuring out a way to make the communication easier: “When somebody calls me to talk about business over the phone, I tell them, please email me.” He reveals that sometimes people talk too fast to understand so e-mail makes the life easier.

Never forget why you came here
“You need to be focused and set an exact goal for yourself. Start at home, develop the recipe, don’t wait for the perfect circumstances—just start! It may be uncomfortable at the beginning but you will become better and better. Many people will tell you that you’re crazy or invite you to go out, and in moments like these you need to remember what was your goal coming here,” shares Yolfer.


Dahyanna Carvajal at Pabade Bakery

#HBKIncubates provides kitchen space and business development advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs. Learn more at hotbreadkitchen.org.