Meet Carla and Maria – owners of Arepa Ink, founded in London, Ontario, Canada. Both women settled here from Venezuela to work and start families, but both have since left the corporate world to launch their dream business. This business plan was inspired by both their love of Venezuelan food and culture – the smell of the Caribbean sea, the view of the mountains and the family-oriented feasts are just a few of the things that they miss – and also by their deep desire to bring Venezuelan food to their city, with a creative, Canadian twist!
Carla has been in Canada since she was a teenager – she arrived with her parents and had a challenging time integrating into her new life. Everything was new including the school, the language and the food! She once drove three hours in a snowstorm to get some good Venezuelan food in Toronto, some of her favourites being cachapas and golfeados. Of course, her family still honoured typical Venezuelan traditions - some of her fondest memories are the huge feasts around the holidays that took up to three days to prepare! Carla has passed down her love of Venezuelan food to her two girls, and all her friends and family love coming over for her feasts, especially cachapas, tequeños and cachitos. Carla has always felt compelled to be an entrepreneur – over the years she has had tons of opportunity to work with local restaurant owners as a consultant which further stoked the entrepreneurial fire in her. In 2020, she decided to finally go for it bringing with her years of sales, marketing , HR, operations management, and big, big ideas!
Maria shares Carla’s love of Canadian life and Venezuelan food, but also finds great joy in logistics and discipline - something she picked up during her years as a competitive swimmer in her home of San Cristobal, Venezuela. While in Venezuela, she attained a degree in Industrial Engineering, and (after her arrival to Canada in 2009 she kept adding to her education). She has both American and Canadian certifications, and MBA and is certified in Supply Chain and Project Management, making her perfectly suited for entrepreneurship! Maria is also family-oriented - she is the oldest of 3 siblings, has two children of her own with whom she loves to cook for! Her favourite foods include her mother’s arepa, plantains with butter and cheese and since becoming Canadian, she has adopted a joy for pancakes with maple syrup. Although 2020 brought many challenges to families world-wide, it also brought Maria the opportunity to realize her long-life dream of becoming an entrepreneur and take the leap - thus Arepa Ink has been born!
Both Carla and Maria believe London is the perfect place to start their Arepa empire because of London’s diverse population and culture. They recognize that people come from far and wide to study, live and work here, and just like them, these folks will be looking for bold, extraordinary, unique food experiences to enjoy while in Canada, which led Carla and Maria to choose the arepa as the inspiration behind their business. Arepas are a healthy, affordable meal for students and families alike, and they can be enjoyed anytime. In Venezuela, they eat arepas for breakfast, dinner, as a snack, at family gatherings and especially as a late night food after a night of lively dancing and socializing. The arepa is such a staple in their culture, Carla and Maria knew they wanted to make it the base of their new business model. In Venezuela, every family uses the exact same brand of cornmeal to make arepa – the bag has become so iconic that it has replaced the flag in some households as the symbol of home. The arepa is more than just a delicious, addictive food to Carla and Maria – it is a representation of the country which they grew up in, and love. Venezuela has had its share of issues in the last couple of decades, but one thing remains true - the people of Venezuela are united by their love of food (especially the Arepa!), family and spreading joy.
The idea of Arepa Ink has been something close to the hearts of Carla and Maria for years and they are so excited to finally share it with you. Carla likes to joke that she has been conducting ‘market research with love’ for years because basically every single one of her house guests has been fed arepa at one time or another. Carla and Maria’s family, friends and children (they both have two girls!) love their arepa so much, several menu items have been named after them! (For example, the Sofia, the Marcela, the Camila and the Luciana are all named after their children, and the Veggie Tribe is dedicated to some of their closest friends who eat plant-based.) They both find so much joy in feeding their Venezuelan friends and family traditional arepas with a Canadian spin (the Lumberjack, for example, is a traditional arepa base with a distinctly Canadian filling.) But as much as they want to expand the pallets of those who already know and love the arepa, they also want to introduce it to anyone who is new to Venezuelan food. Because the arepa is naturally gluten-free and can be assembled to suit any dietary needs, the arepa is truly something that can be enjoyed by everyone. Carla and Maria have both always found Canadians to be inclusive, and incredibly open to new foods and flavours, so they believe there is no reason why the arepa can’t be the next big thing! Arepa Ink has opened in London, Ontario and owners Carla and Maria have an enthusiastic plan of bringing the arepa to all of Canada, and beyond!
The arepa is already a nutritious and unique food, but Arepa Ink will be taking it one step further by adding vegetable ‘ink’ to their dough recipes providing their signature base flavours: yellow (squash), magenta (beets) and green (spinach). This adds a creative, funky flair but also packs even more nutrition into this addictive snack! It’s truly INKnovative!
The innovation doesn’t stop there – but to find out more about arepas, we suggest that you come find out for yourselves. If you are a lover of salty, sweet, crunchy, fluffy, party-in-your-mouth flavours and textures, we invite you to come try out one of our arepas! The friendly staff at Arepa Ink will be there to answer any questions you might have, and we truly cannot wait to share a piece of our homeland with you. We promise that when you bite into an arepa from Arepa Ink, whether you’re Venezuelan or Canadian, it will feel like home.