Community activist harnesses the power of entrepreneurship to make progressive change in his community
Raised in an immigrant family of merchants, Alejandro Flores-Munoz learned about entrepreneurship from an early age. He watched his mother, a single parent living in Southern California, work a full time job, while juggling side hustles selling perfumes, jewelry, and desserts door-to-door. Today, he is an entrepreneur himself, with several gigs selling personalized buttons and sunglasses, and a proud co-owner of Stokes Poke, a Hawaiian food caterer and pop-up business in Denver, Colorado.
Alejandro worked for many years as a political campaign organizer for state and local elections in California before moving to Denver in 2016 to continue his work in politics. But in 2018, Alejandro decided it was time to invest his savings into a much more robust side hustle, and bought the rights and business plan for Stokes Poke. Along with a business partner, Alejandro worked part-time for about a year before taking the plunge and becoming a small business owner full time.
Alejandro shares, “After I left my 9 to 5 job to dedicate my full attention to Stokes Poke, I hired employees and worked tirelessly to provide for them, for my business partner, and myself. As an immigrant entrepreneur, I’m on a path to building generational wealth and want to encourage others to build businesses of their own.”
Prior to COVID-19, Stokes Poke served between 300-500 bowls a day, six days a week. “We were doing so well that we expanded our business from just Hawaiian food to creating a virtual kitchen called Combi Tacos, a catering branch serving Mexican tacos,” he says.
But with business down drastically after the pandemic stay-at-home orders took place, Alejandro is lucky if he serves 50 orders a day. His business model changed from self-serve to pre-packaged bowls, and he quickly enforced safety guidelines to keep his customers and his team safe.
Like most business owners, Alejandro has turned every rock he can in hopes to keep his business alive. He applied to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL). He was denied EIDL, but approved for a PPP loan.
“This was such an important step in our process,” he says. “This was our first time applying for capital, and I feel we would've never been approved for a loan prior to COVID-19.”
In every step of his journey, Alejandro has built a wealth of knowledge that allows him to understand and conduct business. “With my sunglasses business, I learned how to market small businesses, and how to import products from other countries.”
Now after applying for federal relief programs, he has a better understanding of how to do bookkeeping and accounting, thus putting him in a better position for future opportunities to access capital.
As time goes on and Alejandro continues to build his portfolio, he hopes to continue to find creative partnerships to work with organizations that are supporting underserved communities. He explains, “Undocumented immigrants like myself encounter an uphill battle to achieve success. Our journey starts at a disadvantage, as we often lack access to resources or lack the knowledge of existing resources. However, we’re also used to overcoming barriers and we can achieve success through hard work.”
In September, Small Business Majority is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15) by sharing stories of Latino entrepreneurs and how they’ve pivoted their business during the pandemic. Small Business Majority is sharing stories like Alejandro Flores-Munoz’s to educate policymakers about what small business owners need in order to survive this crisis. Help us spread the word that policymakers need to do more to support business owners in order for our economy to recover by sharing your story or signing our letter to Congress to ask for long-term relief.