Dahyanna Carvajal and her two brothers built a thriving family business through hard work and authenticity. Read their story and discover four growth strategies that can help support your business today.
If you had spoken with Dahyanna Carvajal a decade ago, she never would have thought that in 2022, she would be running a family-owned bakery with her two brothers, Yolfer and Donny. After moving to the U.S. from Colombia in 2006, Dahyanna began her career as an accounts payable clerk, and always imagined that if she were to go out on her own, it would be to start her own accounting firm. But when Yolfer—a professionally trained baker—came to her with the idea for Pabade Bakery in 2016, she saw an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. Growing up in Colombia, Dahyanna and her brothers were first introduced to cooking through their aunt, who taught them how to make traditional Latin American delicacies and ultimately inspired Yolfer to attend culinary school in Venezuela at the High Training Educational Institute and Instituto Europeo del Pan (IEPAN). Through Pabade, Dahyanna realized that she had a chance to tap into her culture and build something special for herself and her family—so she left a stable job and pursued the unknown with her two brothers.
Pabade started six years ago as a wholesale bakery, working out of a commercial kitchen in Harlem and selling pastries to coffee shops across New York City. After seeing the success of their products in other bakeries throughout the city, Dahyanna and her brothers decided to take the next step; they opened their own café in 2019. In the years since, Pabade has thrived as both a wholesale bakery and neighborhood café while the Carvajal family has become a staple in their East Harlem community. Dahyanna uses her experience in accounts payable to handle the sales, finance, and logistics parts of the business with Donny, while Yolfer handles the baking.
Together, they’ve built a business that is set to last. But the road hasn’t always been easy. Reflecting back on her business journey, Dahyanna has learned that it’s one thing to have a business idea, it’s another to make it into a reality. Since starting out in 2016, Dahyanna has had a crash course in the many different aspects that go into running and growing a successful business, from marketing, to cash management, to business planning, and much more. Through it all, Pabade Bakery & Café has remained resilient, and Dahyanna has gained hands-on experience in managing common challenges and moving forward in any business environment. Here are the four strategies she has used—and continues to use today—to achieve sustained success for her business.
1. Take advantage of mentorship.
While Dahyanna’s background in accounts payable provided her with a strong foundation for running a small business, she still experienced a feeling early on with Pabade that is likely familiar to many business owners: “When it came to running a business, I knew some things going in, but I didn’t know everything, and I needed some help.” To develop the wide range of skills that she needed to manage the business side of her bakery most effectively, Dahyanna turned to mentorship.
By participating in Santander’s Cultivate Small Business Program, Dahyanna was paired with a mentor from the CommonWealth Kitchen, a nonprofit business incubator based in the Boston area. Communicating regularly with a business owner who possesses deep experience in the food service industry has opened new and lucrative doors to business growth. Through her mentor, Dahyanna learned about the potential benefits of catering for her bakery, which has since emerged as a key line of business for Pabade moving into 2023. Dahyanna is also working with her mentor today on a written business plan to help attract outside investment for further expansion.
Above all, Dahyanna finds value in hearing from someone who has been where she’s been and can offer first-hand insight on the day-to-day and big picture challenges of owning a small business.
2. Leverage social media to grow your brand.
As Pabade has grown over time, Dahyanna has looked for new opportunities to expand the bakery’s profile in the retail, wholesale, and catering spaces. The marketing benefits of technology became apparent to her early on, and she has relied heavily on social media in recent years to strengthen Pabade’s customer base. Through frequent posting on Facebook and Instagram, Dahyanna has provided an inside look at the products and the people behind Pabade’s success, and she plans to use additional platforms like TikTok in the future to reach an even wider audience.
To become more comfortable with social media and other key digital tools for small businesses, Dahyanna recommends tapping into the knowledge of younger generations. For Dahyanna, her daughter has played a crucial role in growing Pabade’s online presence—she urges other business leaders to follow her lead and turn to family and friends or younger employees for reverse mentoring on the latest technology.
3. Lean into your community.
When Pabade moved into the retail business three years ago, Dahyanna and her brothers had a clear vision for what they wanted their café to be. “At some coffee shops, you just order and leave,” she explains. “We think our café feels more like a community, where people can come in, make friends, talk to each other, and feel like they’re part of a family.” By creating an environment where customers can meet, relax, and engage with members of their community, Pabade has woven itself into the fabric of East Harlem, and it’s these connections that keep patrons coming back.
4. Make your business unique to you.
While Yolfer’s culinary education has made traditional French pastries a specialty for Pabade, Dahyanna and her two brothers also strive to bring their own culture forward into their business every day. The inspiration behind Pabade has always been the time they spent cooking with their aunt while growing up in Colombia, so naturally, they innovate and put their own unique Latino spin on the baked goods they create. Croissants with guava or dulce de leche are a particular hit with their customers, and Yolfer looks for any opportunity to combine his professional training with the culture that is so important to him. “We put a lot of effort into our pastries, and we try to make them unique to us,” explains Dahyanna.
Big plans for the future
Dahyanna and her brothers’ commitment to embedding their culture into their business lays at the heart of their growth plans. Today, they are preparing to open a new location for their wholesale and retail operations in New Jersey, building on the success they’ve enjoyed in New York City. But their goals for expansion are not limited to the tri-state area—or even the United States. Eventually, they would like to take their business full circle and open a location in Colombia.
The future is bright for Pabade, and Dahyanna will continue using the strategies she’s developed over the course of her business career to move the bakery forward and provide value to the communities that she, Yolfer, and Donny serve.
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