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How Juan Barbaran Turned Guacamole Into a Family Business

Monday, July 27, 2015  
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Juan Barbaran’s business is the product of a cultural difference: When the Peruvian came to the U.S., he discovered that — unlike in his native home, where it is customary to wait on your party guests — here it is polite to bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer to a party.


That’s how Americans first tasted Barbaran’s guacamole, made with his grandmother’s recipe. What started as an in-demand party snack became a full-fledged business last year, when Barbaran started selling his guac at the Fells Point Farmers Market under the moniker #Juan Guacamole.


Today Barbaran balances a full-time job as a sales consultant at Paychex with his growing business, which he manages with the help of his wife and his in-laws. The former Baltimore Sun ad salesman and director of memberships and marketing for the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce describes owning his own business as “a small dream coming true.”


What was the experience like starting a business?
When I came to America when I was 21, I learned that most of the parties where you go, you have to bring something. You have to bring a bottle of wine or an appetizer or whatever. So the first thing I did was guacamole. Every time I brought guacamole, people were like, “Come on, you should bring more.”

Christy, my wife — her mom and her dad are like parents. We have a great relationship. They were asking us why don’t we go and sell [the guacamole]. So last year was when I was getting more serious about it. My wife was a stay-at-home mom. I was selling online marketing for 10 years, and I was trying to get into something new. So I took a break and I focused on the guacamole. We launched the business, Barbaran Foods LLC. We started with 80 containers at the Fells Point market. We sold out our first day. I just remember we were pinching each other. We couldn’t believe it.


What’s special about #Juan Guacamole?
We’re making guacamole that’s handmade, we don’t use preservatives. Our shelf life is seven days. We use ingredients that not everyone else uses, like olive oil. It’s a secret my grandmother taught me. You put olive oil to make it creamy. And lime juice, fresh lime juice. You cannot use the bottled lime juice. Everything that we do, we do it by hand.


Do you sell packages people can take home, or is it to eat at the market?
We sell a container for $8. It’s 10 ounces of fresh guacamole. At the festivals we do chips and guacamole. We sell it for $5, $6.


What else do you sell at farmers markets?
In Peru we have an appetizer that’s very famous, it’s like a half-avocado and you can fill it with meat, with beef, with chicken. We have grilled stuffed avocados. Ceviche is a Peruvian dish, and we claim to make the best ceviche. We have different types of ceviche. I came up with a recipe for shrimp ceviche, and it’s a home run. Then we have a Peruvian roast chicken and we serve it with pineapple and a mild jalapeño sauce that my mother-in-law made. Then we have a Southwestern black bean salad with a honey-vinegar dressing. I think the Peruvian concept and the healthy point of view is what’s popular. We’re trying to keep it simple but healthy.


At what other events do you sell?
We did the Maryland Wine Festival. We were at Pimlico. Fells Point has a festival every year called the [Fells Point Fun Festival]. We sold out everything, both days. We sold a lot of chips and guacamole orders, 500 orders. We sold a couple hundred containers.


How much did you gross at, say, the Fells Point Fun Festival?
[It was] $8,000 to $10,000. That was over two days. When you do your math, it’s not a lot of money. But it’s just my wife and my mom, me. We want to avoid paying people until we get there. Eventually we’ll have to hire somebody to work.


At any market we sell about 50 to 100 containers of guacamole. Just talking about numbers, you’re talking about $800 to $1,000 a day. But if you go to the festivals, that’s when — revenue-wise — we can make things happen.


How is juggling a full-time job and the business?
It’s awesome. I enjoy being busy. I know what can wait, what opportunities I need to jump on. It’s fun, even to the point where it gets hectic. But it’s also rewarding.

I just want to focus on the business, and hopefully my kids will be in the business. We might have national accounts. A couple months ago Harris Teeter approached us. But we’re not there yet. I had to say no, for different reasons.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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