To learn more, FSR spoke with one of the leaders behind Juntos Crecemos, Esperanza Teasdale, the vice president and general manager of the Hispanic Business Unit of PepsiCo Beverages North America.
How did Juntos Crecemos start?
Given everything that’s happened in the country, starting in 2020 with COVID and racial inequality, our CEO [Ramon Laguarta] made a commitment to both the Black and the Hispanic consumers. Where the business piece really became important was that, with the pandemic, we definitely saw small businesses, particularly Hispanic small businesses, struggling. And then we had the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, let’s define how we can help them.’
So one part is the investment, but the other is, what actions are we going to take? We started to brainstorm and figure out strategically, what are the problems they need to solve? What is it that they need the most support in? In this community, lack of access to capital is one; driving traffic is another. Once we kind of figured out what we wanted to do, we fortunately found the Boden Agency and came up with this new platform called Juntos Crecemos.
How did you personally become involved?
In addition to my day job as general manager and vice president of the Hispanic Business Unit at PepsiCo, I’m very passionate about talent and diversity. And so I’m very involved with our Hispanic Employee Resource Group and in general supporting and coaching folks. When our CEO made the commitment, I saw that our division then had a responsibility to figure out what to do and I said, I’ll lead this. I felt a personal passion to do it because I knew that the impact in the community was real. It wasn’t just about some crazy advertising campaign, rather it was more about the money going to these small business owners who need our help. It’s very easy to get excited about doing something that will impact the community directly.
How does the program work?
The platform is investing in and helping restaurants, bodegas, and carnicerías, which is another way to say ‘meat market’ or ‘butcher’ in Spanish. And there’s a couple of things that the businesses can do. First, our PepsiCo Foundation has what’s called IMPACTO, and it’s our Hispanic business accelerator. Those funds are run through local CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institution Funds), who disseminate $10,000 grants locally. That’s one way where people can apply for those grants
The second way is the Hispanic Digital & Delivery Program. We provide them with a consultant who would help them evolve or improve their brick-and-mortar with a digital footprint and online delivery. We also provide office hours and consultation time to help them. That could include better photography for their food, a better menu setup, technology, how to connect with third-party aggregators, etc. That’s a big one. And we think it’s great because that’s also short and long term. It will set them up for the future because people are going to still be ordering food online and expecting it to be delivered.
And then the last piece that we had was also what we called Retail Essentials. Working with our sales organization, we identified key customers and markets and provided them with safety kits, some marketing, investment, and then digital media to help drive traffic to specific stores.
What kind of impact has the grant had on these restaurants?
There’s one that we experienced in the Bronx called Claudy’s Kitchen, which is a Peruvian restaurant. They’re pretty well-known locally for amazing empanadas and flan. Empanadas are very manual; you make the dough by hand, and you stuff them. What Claudy’s was able to do with the grant was buy a pastry piece of equipment that helps roll the dough. They can make more empanadas faster because a lot of these small businesses are impacted by labor shortages as well. They were able to buy this machine with the grant. We went to their store before and then after. It was just awesome for them to tell us, ‘Hey, here’s what this grant was able to help me do. Now I can make more empanadas for my customers.’
How have the grant recipients reacted to this news?
It’s very overwhelming. They may be a bit shocked, too, but really, really happy. And they’re so proud; in Spanish, we say ‘orgulloso.’ They’re proud of their business and someone investing in their businesses at a time where it’s been so difficult. It’s just been really wonderful to watch the different businesses talk about their history, talk about their customers, and say ‘Thank you for doing this and helping us.’
What are your long-term goals for the program?
To continue to support more restaurants, bodegas, and carnicerías. We want as much of that money to go into the things that are going to help them directly. We’re excited that we’ve got four more years to go of investing it right back. Then we’ll probably make some pivots. Hopefully, we will get beyond the pandemic, when safety kits are less of a need, but other things might pop up as more beneficial. We will continue to do research and really listen and study these business owners to just find out what they need and how we can help them continue to thrive.