The Business Foundations success stories series highlights various program participants of the Business Foundations Technical Assistance program. This program allows participants to learn the fundamentals of starting and operating their small business.
We start our series with Misk'i Wasi, a maker of handcrafted, one-of-a-kind sausages using the best ingredients, meat, spices, and casings. Recently having launched this summer, Misk'i Wasi used the program and grant to launch their business and set it up for success. To learn more about their journey, we heard from Chef and Owner, Javier Benites.
What sparked your interest in starting a business?
It all started in Las Vegas June 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. After three months being unemployed (nine months unemployed in total), I shook my soul, my head and thought: What are you going to do? This is so uncertain, nothing is clear, confusion everywhere, you have a beautiful family and enough life experience to overcome these awkward times.
I clearly remember talking to myself, in the kitchen at home, and saying "I don't want to work for anybody. I want to be my own boss, I don't want to work in restaurants anymore, hotels, casinos, or in the line of any kitchen. What do I really want to do?” Immediately after, I knew the answer: I want to do charcuterie. With the support of my wife who gifted me my very first meat grinder and stuffer, I was pulling my charcuterie and salami books and notes. The long, interesting, beautiful and flavorful journey began.
Is there anything interesting about your backstory that you’d like to share?
I am a Peruvian and a professional Chef and speak Spanish, English and French. I have attended and graduated from culinary schools in Peru and at Le Cordon Bleu in France. I've been achieving experience and honing my skills in kitchens around the world from cities like Lima, Miami, Montreal, Seville and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas is where I learned how to cure meat, make salamis, charcuterie, hams, etc. I got hooked immediately when I first saw those pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling and racks in a small room inside Mario Batali's restaurant (B&B Ristorante) at The Venetian Hotel & Casino. The peak of my career was when I became an Executive Chef for MGM Resorts in Las Vegas until COVID-19 hit.
I’d been planning and trying to move to Colorado for almost two years before the pandemic. I came and went back to Las Vegas a couple of times without success. Finally in August, 2020 me and my wife decided to move to Denver once and for all. We had nothing to lose. We grabbed both kids, the dog and here we are.
I have come to the conclusion that power of attraction is possible and it really works. I am living in Denver, no more kitchens for me, no more hotels or casinos and after two years of very hard work, ups and downs, I finally opened the doors of my own business. I am literally living my dream.
What made you want to complete the Business Foundations program?
Along this path, since I started the Misk'i Wasi project, I knew that I needed more than just a good idea, a meaningful logo and delicious sausages. I knew that I needed to learn about laws, taxes, social media management, marketing, website development, etc. I was doing research for all of these topics when I came across the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). They told me about the Business Foundations program and the reimbursable grant. Follow some steps, seminars, online courses and all of the expenses for the courses will be covered by the grant. This was my opportunity to start my business with a more solid foundation. Knowledge is power.
What challenges do you face as a small business?
As a brand new small business, our first challenge is to make our name become known, positioning ourselves in the market, convincing people to learn about and try our one-of-a-kind and exclusive sausages, to value our locality, artisan labor and manufacturing of our product and recommend other people to try them. We don't have a physical store yet so our marketing strategy has to be direct and extended. We need to reach more people daily. Our big challenge is to survive the first six months. After six months, I am sure everything will flow.
What have you accomplished or will you accomplish with the support of the Business Foundations program?
Thanks to OEDIT, MBO and SBDC, we have learned how to manage the first steps to form and open a small business. We have met very knowledgeable people that have been on our side all this time, not only to solve our concerns, but motivating us to keep going, to keep fighting and to let us feel and understand that we can count on them. We have a lot of expectations of organized teamwork and growth with OEDIT and other government entities. We are very thankful for it.
Learn more about Business Foundations
The Business Foundations Technical Assistance program provides technical assistance and small grants to Colorado small businesses to help businesses legally establish themselves. Once completed, businesses may be eligible to apply for small grants of up to $1,200.