“If you grew up in Mexico you grew up going to bakeries every day, the smells and the flavors, just the experience of picking the bread,” says Ricardo Cervantes, MBA ’03. “Nobody goes angry into a bakery.”
Cervantes and his partner, Alfredo Livas, also MBA ’03, both hail from Monterrey, Mexico, but they didn’t meet until they were at Stanford GSB. After graduation, they ended up in Los Angeles, where they decided to open their first La Monarca Bakery in 2006. “We saw that the [bakery] tradition was there amongst the Latino communities, but there wasn’t necessarily a place that reflected exactly what it was like to be home,” Livas recalls. “That was the beginning of this idea.”
Today, they have 12 stores in working-class Hispanic neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County. In describing the chain and its products, Cervantes says it’s “as if a Mexican bakery and Starbucks had a baby.”
“When we first opened, we learned a lot by just being at the first location pretty much all the time,” says Livas. “We actually would sleep there. If you’re thinking of doing your own business, there’s never going to be a better time than right after you graduate. The opportunity cost of just deciding to go for it is the lowest it’s ever going to be.”
The COVID-19 pandemic initially hit their business hard, with revenue plummeting 40% in March. But they made adjustments and added new products, such as essential household items for their working-class clientele, and sales have rebounded. “Our team rose to the challenge,” says Cervantes.
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