Your Conversation With
You bring the questions, we make the connections.
Gain insight into how to follow your passion, meet your business goals and give back to your community by asking metro area leaders who have done just that at Your Conversation With. Also network with fellow business and civic leaders and learn from the top of the town at this complimentary program.
[March 5, 2020 from 7 AM - 9 AM]
Lorena Cantarovici - Founder of Maria Empanada
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Lorena Cantarovici is the force behind Maria Empanada –the Denver-based restaurant chain that in only 5 years earned national recognition as the leading brand of artisan empanadas and is credited with developing the on-trend, differentiated and highly scalable “craft casual concept.”
Lorena came to Denver from Argentina with only $300 in her pocket, not a word of English, and the determination to make it big. In 2011 she started selling empanadas from her garage, mostly to friends and family. That those sales laid the groundwork for something bigger is evident today:
- Maria Empanada now has five locations and is expanding
- The company is widely credited with developing a new category in the fast casual dining space –the “Craft Casual” concept
- In 2017 Lorena traveled to Washington, D.C. to receive the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year Award for the State of Colorado
- Zagat has rated Maria Empanada as “One of the 12 Hottest New Bakeries in America;”
- The chain won a Top 50 Colorado Companies to Watch Award
- Maria Empanada has been featured twice on The Food Network (in Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives), as well as in PBS’ “StartUp” show
- It has been the subject of scores of local, national and international media coverage
- The chain was selected by the City of Denver to the 2018 cohort of the Denver Gazelles, a group of five fast-growth companies that the City features when attracting other companies to settle and/or invest in Colorado
- Lorena has twice served as a judge in the international empanada competition held in Argentina –no small feat given that the country is the Mecca of empanada culture
- Maria Empanada secured Series A funding from the Colorado Impact Fund.
For Cantarovici these accomplishments are not only a validation of the empanada, and of Maria Empanada itself but also of the ever-expanding appreciation of Denverites for international cuisine.
Lorena is not only the “Empress of Empanadas” –as Guy Fieri called her on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”– but she is also the queen to three soccer fanatic boys, a fabulous husband and a shoe-loving puppy.