Food Entrepreneur PORTLAND, ORE. — La Porteña Foods, a maker of small-batch chimichurri, won Brazi Bites’ first Latino Entrepreneur Accelerator Program. The startup will receive a $10,000 business grant and 12-week mentorship with Junea Rocha, founder and chief marketing officer of Brazi Bites, a brand of Latin-inspired, gluten-free frozen foods, plus access to resources across the Brazi Bites team, including sales, marketing, operations, finance, e-commerce and more.

Founded by second-generation Argentine immigrant Jessica Viciconte, Portland-based La Porteña Foods offers a range of chimichurri sauces formulated with locally sourced ingredients and Argentine spices. The products are sold in regional specialty food stores and farmers markets.

“It is a huge honor to be chosen as the inaugural winner of LEAP,” Ms. Viciconte said. “As a fellow Portland-based company, I’m very familiar with Brazi Bites and find Junea’s story incredibly inspiring. Starting this company through the pandemic has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences, and I feel proud of what I have accomplished so far. With this prize and mentorship, I can take the next step to grow my business and introduce this incredible product to more consumers in the Northwest and beyond.”

In addition to La Porteña, five finalists were selected for outstanding consumers packaged goods business models and products, including Hot Mama Salsa, a producer of fresh salsas, hot sauces, chili oils and tortilla chips; Ice Queen, a brand of vegan paletas; and I Eat My Greens, a vegetable soup company.

The accelerator program launched this past September and received nearly 100 applications from Latino-owned business across the country. Ms. Rocha created the program to elevate and empower Latino entrepreneurs, who often encounter systemic challenges in raising capital to build early-stage businesses.

Founded in 2010, Brazi Bites began as a maker of Brazilian-style cheese bread inspired by Pão de Queijo. The company’s product line has since expanded to include a variety of pizza bites, empanadas and breakfast sandwiches, sold at more than 17,000 natural, conventional and club stores nationwide. The business gained national attention following its appearance on “Shark Tank” in 2015. San Francisco Equity Partners acquired a majority stake in the company three years later.

“During this first year launching LEAP, our team has been blown away by the incredible applications we received from entrepreneurs nationwide,” Ms. Rocha said. “Our entire team came together to thoughtfully read through each and every application, and sample products, giving us the chance to take part in the process as a collective. We are thrilled with our chosen winner and finalists, and I look forward to sharing my expertise and supporting La Porteña over the coming months.” 

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