GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A first-of-its-kind restaurant and cafe is now open in downtown Grand Rapids. It's the latest business to open with the help of a local organization giving minority-owned businesses a boost.
"It's one space for the people in my culture," Pochis Sweet Designs owner Paola Carson says.
The first Colombian café and restaurant is now open in downtown Grand Rapids on Ionia Avenue. Their soft opening was Jan. 16.
"I started my business in 2019 with a hobby," Carson says.
She's from Bogota, Colombia, and in her five years here in Grand Rapids, she's grown her passion for decorating desserts by selling baked goods, chocolate-covered strawberries and bouquets online.
Now, that's all available in her restaurant, including Colombian cuisine.
"I'm very happy when I see the people from Colombia coming here. And I'm very happy to have one space for the culture and [for them to] see the food," Carson says.
"I think that makes downtown Grand Rapids very unique and very special in the sense that a lot of people have options," Start Garden Director Jorge Gonzalez says.
Start Garden is an organization that provides resources and opportunities to new or current business owners in Grand Rapids.
"So, we provide four different types of capital," Gonzalez says. "The most popular one that we provide is financial capital through our pitch competition."
Carson won a Five by Five competition hosted by Start Garden in 2021, taking home $5,000 to improve her online business. Later, she won another competition, bringing in $20,000 to open her business.
"Historically, marginalized communities, which is basically minorities and females, haven't had the same access to resources as mainstream. So, what we're trying to do is leveling the playing field," Gonzalez says.
Now, he and Carson hope everyone sees their motto in action when they visit the cafe.
"We love what we do," Gonzalez says.
"I'm very excited for this," Carson says.
Pochis Sweet Designs official grand opening is coming up on Feb. 13, just in time for Valentine's Day.
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