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How three Faire entrepreneurs showcase the rich flavors of their Latino heritage

September 15, 2022 | Published by Faire

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Image courtesy of Masienda

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, taking place from September 15 to October 15 in the US, we’re sharing the stories of the artists, makers, and entrepreneurs from the Latino community on Faire. We recently spoke with the founders behind three Latino-owned Food and Drink brands—Chuza, Chuao Chocolatier, and Masienda.

Growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, Chuza founder Danny Schwarz was drawn to his hometown’s spiciest snacks. He missed his local favorites when he moved to America, so he founded Chuza to share those authentic Mexican flavors and cultures with the world.

In 2002, brothers Michael and Richard Antonorsi founded Chuao Chocolatier (pronounced chew-wow) to offer the chocolate lovers of the world uniquely delicious treats. A Venezuelan Master Chocolatier, Chef Michael’s award-winning recipes feature Fair Trade Certified chocolate with inventive flavor profiles that include chipotle, potato chips, waffle cones, and more.

Founder Jorge Gaviria launched Masienda in 2014 to connect the world with the rich cultural diversity of the Mexican kitchen. Showcasing independent farmers, his marketplace features heirloom masa harina and corn, single-origin ingredients like chiles and spices, and more—all sourced with sustainability and agricultural biodiversity in mind.

We spoke with Danny, Michael, and Jorge about their inspiration, their heritage, and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.

Chuao Chocolatier

Faire: What led to the founding of this business? Where did the inspiration come from?

Michael Antonorsi: I grew up in Venezuela and went to University of California San Diego to study biomedical engineering to impress everyone, including my parents. In my heart, though, all I wanted to do was cook. After 14 years in computer networking and telecommunications, I uprooted my family from Venezuela and went to Paris to become a chef, then worked for two years in a Michelin-star restaurant. We moved back to San Diego, but all I could think about was how Venezuela produces one of the finest cacao in the world. Chocolate felt like a smart choice since it has a good shelf life, and I figured I could combine a Venezuelan vibe with the California freedom to do what you love with my more formal culinary techniques—and Chuao was born.

Faire: What’s been the most difficult part of running this business? The most rewarding?

MA: Starting out, we made lots of quick decisions and chose weird names for our products that only Venezuelans could understand. We finally realized we weren’t communicating with our American customers. Then, we grew really fast and started to think we were invincible and knew everything. But we learned it’s important to line up your expectations with reality: You have all these hopes and desires, and you want to really hit it out of the park, but you have to go through many hard and difficult steps to get there.

As a Venezuelan in the United States, I’m incredibly grateful for the way the American public embraced us. I was very surprised that people were so outspoken about their appreciation. It really fuels the day—when we get that recognition, we just want to do more good things. 

Faire: What does celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

MA: We don’t have a Hispanic Heritage Month—we have a Hispanic heritage life. What’s so beautiful with Hispanics is that there’s always so much to celebrate. We don’t say, “OK, today we’re going to specifically celebrate our heritage.” We live that celebration every day. 

We also have a really great Hispanic heritage community inside our company, which was so important during the onset of COVID-19 because everybody supported each other. 

Faire: What’s one piece of advice you would give to fellow Latino entrepreneurs hoping to start their own businesses?

MA: Stay the course: Your first idea was probably the best one. When you start seeing all the forces affecting you, and you start changing your initial intuition or vision, it won’t feel like you anymore. You also have to be really patient because it takes time. Stay the course, stay consistent, and be patient. Also, be clear about why you’re doing what you’re doing and stick to that. 

Faire: What kind of impact do you hope your company has on others?

MA: Our intention as a company is to share joy with the world through deliciously engaging chocolate experiences. The botanical name of chocolate is actually Greek, Theobroma cacao, and Theobroma means “food of the gods.” People understand chocolate. They feel it; something happens magically inside when they taste it. That’s the sort of impact and joy we want this food of the gods to bring to people.

Learn more about Chuao Chocolatier, visit their website, and support them on Instagram.


Faire: What led to the founding of this business? Where did the inspiration come from?

Jorge Gaviria: My mom was born in Mexico and my dad in Cuba, so I grew up in a mixed Latin household and community. Both of my parents came over from Latin America as immigrants, which gives me an interesting entry point when thinking about the diversity of Latin cuisine and what unifies it.

When I worked in restaurants, I noticed all these farm-to-table concepts and realized the food I grew up with wasn’t represented in such an accessible, consumer-friendly way. Instead of treating consumers as passive participants, I wanted to start a platform that approached food in a more active way. I wanted them to be involved in the value chain and help them produce really wonderful dishes at home that connected them to a culture and people they could relate to, with a strong emphasis on celebrating the richness of the Mexican kitchen and pantry.

Faire: What’s been the most difficult part of running this business?

JG: Building a supply chain from scratch will always be the hardest thing. We work not only in rural communities but rural communities that are subsistence-based, so they don’t actually produce this corn for commercial consumption. We aggregate any surplus they happen to have, so it’s an unprecedented model.

Faire: What’s been the most rewarding part of running this business?

JG: There’s nothing more pleasurable than an authentic brand that connects cultures through food. These are folks, in some cases, who speak Indigenous languages and live in strictly Indigenous communities. They don’t have interaction outside of their very small community. So to see them reflected in this way, respectfully, with a lot of reverence, in a really cool way—it’s great.

Faire: What does celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

JG: I genuinely feel like every day is a day to celebrate and be grateful for all the people and moments worth celebrating. I appreciate that it gives everyone time to reflect. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember the sacrifices that folks have made, especially in cultures that have sometimes been misrepresented and not celebrated in their fullest capacity. 

It’s also really cool to come full circle and feel a sense of belonging—it feels nice, like a big hug.

Faire: Tell us more about your upcoming book, Masa.

JG: When I started this journey nine years ago, there wasn’t much out there on masa (maize dough that comes from corn). From an intellectual and cultural perspective, I was really curious. My research started to take a lot of firsthand knowledge from farmers, and tortilla artisans in Mexico and the US—people who had something to say about the history and science behind masa. 

There are a lot of identity politics that come with this food. I felt like I had a unique perspective, both personally and professionally, to connect these dots across cultures. I wanted to celebrate how connective a food masa is. That’s why I started to write this book. 

Faire: What kind of impact do you hope your company has on others?

JG: What motivates me is connecting people through food and fostering respect for one another. That’s not even just for different cultures; it’s also internally within the different cultures of Mexico. Things just feel so divided and polarized, and food is an equalizer in a lot of ways. So it’s important to get people around a table eating some masa together and breaking tortillas. 

Learn more about Masienda, visit their website, and support them on Instagram.


Faire: What led to the founding of this business? Where did the inspiration come from?

Danny Schwarz: I’ve always wanted to build something and tell a positive story. When I moved to the US, I was craving hometown flavors and had a passion to share Hispanic culture with Americans. There’s a lot of misrepresentation in how Hispanic brands are seen and consumed, and we wanted to bring something loud and proud. We want to share our flavors, culture, and flair with everyone. 

Faire: What’s been the most difficult part of running this business? The most rewarding?

DS: The biggest challenge is awareness and getting people to try it. The most rewarding part is seeing someone’s reaction when they finally do try it. We were recently on The Today Show, and people saw not only that the flavor and product were good but that we’re representing Hispanic culture in a very positive way.

Faire: How does your heritage show up in your business?

DS: Mexican culture is super colorful in every way, which is why all our packaging is very bright. We try to positively represent our heritage, and every touch point is important. We pay close attention to the quality of the product, both inside and out.

Faire: What does celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

DS: It’s nice to celebrate a minority in a country; it’s so important in how the country works. People are consuming spices now more than ever. And we have the authenticity and credentials to bring something great to the market and represent our minority in a way that’s impactful.

Faire: What’s one piece of advice you would give to fellow Latino entrepreneurs hoping to start their own businesses?

DS: First: Just go for it. Second: Have very thick skin. Don’t take things personally and stay focused. Be very stubborn in your belief of your product and mission. Don’t be shy if you don’t know the answers—and don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

Faire: What kind of impact do you hope your company has on others?

DS: We want to spice things up. Chuza is a fun snack that accurately represents our culture. And it can be consumed in lots of ways: You can give it to your kids as a snack, put it in a drink, toss it in a salad, or add it to a charcuterie board. It’s so versatile that it’s for everyone in the family, and it’s meant to be enjoyed together.

Learn more about Chuza, visit their website, and support them on Instagram.

Shop these brands and more from our Latino-Owned Businesses Collection on Faire.

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