In the magazine's January 2000 issue, Inc. began following five fledgling businesses for twelve months. The founder of one, Inca Quality Foods, reveals his lessons and insights.
Founder: Luis J. Espinoza, 49, CEO
Company: Inca Quality Foods, in South Bend, Ind.
Original business model: Distribute and merchandise Hispanic food products in grocery stores
Current business model: Be a consultant to stores about marketing to Latino customers
Original projections for 2000: Undisclosed
Actual 2000: Undisclosed revenues; not profitable; no employees
Total capital raised from date of launch: None
"Ever since I was a child I liked selling -- candies and ice cream. And deep inside I wanted to do that. I still do.
"But I wasn't ready to leave my regular job, and Inca needed me constantly. I needed to be there full-time. I know now you can't serve two masters. If you're going to do your venture, you have to do it full-time. If you think it has a lot of potential -- which normally everybody does -- you need to dedicate your time totally to it.
"When you're growing too fast, you get into predicaments and you jump onto opportunities that you think are opportunities. Then you get overwhelmed."
--Luis J. Espinoza, CEO of Inca Quality Foods
"The ambition is still there. I have a plan -- a business plan -- and I guess the key is this: I can't leave my job for another two years. I think consulting is a business that you can start part-time and work at when opportunities come and time permits, and that's what I'm doing now, consulting in the food business. We call the company Latino Concepts. When I retire in two years, I'll go back full-time to the idea of my original start-up.
"I've learned a lot. I found out that if you have ideas, people listen to you. It doesn't matter how big the corporation is. But I learned something else about big companies: you need to be careful when you get contracts with them. They see opportunities. They know that you're a small company, and they give you a chance at the beginning. But then you need to produce. And so the growth is tremendous, and a lot of small companies can't absorb it. Inca couldn't. So then bigger companies come in and take over.
"My point is that when you're growing too fast, you get into predicaments and you jump onto opportunities that you think are opportunities. Then you get overwhelmed."