Empanada Fork Inventor Hipatia Lopez Would Like You to Know You Are Not Alone
Empanada Fork Inventor Hipatia Lopez Would Like You to Know You Are Not Alone —HSN Project American Dreams Empowers Latino Entrepreneurs to Reach 90+ Million Households
by Giovanna Aguilar
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.” — Seneca
Inspiring. Driven. Made of Steel and Ignited on Full Blast by the American dream.
That is the Latina entrepreneur, inventor Hipatia Lopez who is in good company too. She is part of the demographic that represents the highest increase in female business ownership of any race or ethnic group between 2017 to 2012 when businesses owned by Hispanic women grew 87 percent, from 800,000 to 1.5 million, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. She holds a design patent for a handy stainless steel kitchen utensil — The Empanada Fork — from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, placing her within an elite group of Hispanic women inventors who are fewer than 1 percent of U.S. patent holders.
Last month I interviewed Lopez at Home Shopping Network’s NYC office where she and four other winners of HSN Project American Dreams participated in an intense boot camp to prepare for the opportunity to pitch their products live, on March 13, 2017, to over 90 million households. HSN Project American Dreams provides “the tools and resources to build brand awareness and keep team members on board with what the product is, why it was created, and who would benefit fro using it.”
As a foodie, I confess that I love empanadas and with all sorts of fillings. In Ecuador, where my family is from, empanadas are usually fried, filled with cheese and served with sprinkled sugar on top for a little added crunchy sweetness to the savory experience. But, if you are like me, you opt out of making them. Why? Because they can be a pain to make by the dozens. Getting the pastry dough to close tightly with our fingers or the kitchen fork is time-consuming and thumb-numbing.
Hipatia’s journey to invention began while making about 100 empanadas for her family’s holiday party. As part of the Lopez family tradition, she and her husband give out bottled water and empanadas to guests as they leave. Frustrated by the empanada-making dilemma, she took on the challenge to figure out a way to make the process easier and convenient.
Lopez, an accountant whose parents are immigrants from Quito, Ecuador, tapped into her company Christmas bonus and the support of her family. Initially, she had mixed feelings. “As a mom, you feel guilty spending money on yourself. I basically held a little family meeting at my house, my kids were a lot younger then, but to my surprise, they were all like ‘that would be so cool, mom being an inventor,’” she shares.
While initially, she felt alone, she quickly realized that there was a whole community sharing her passion for the American dream of business ownership and success. She was proactive and connected with like-minded visionaries and joined organizations such as the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, recognized in 2016 as the best chamber in the USA by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “You’re really not by yourself even though you feel like you are because sometimes you feel like you can’t turn to someone because you are afraid of what they think of your failures. I had a lot of bumps in the road and shed a lot of tears. But you have to realize the whole human aspect of it.”
Lopez is extremely grateful that HSN Project American Dreams helps Hispanic entrepreneurs like her make their dreams a reality.
“With HSN you hit so many people from different avenues and nationalities. I mean it is television and that by itself is a dream come true.”
Her vision is to see her invention used across restaurants and stamped with their logos.
However, Hipatia underscores that the opportunity to sell on HSN, every entrepreneur’s dream, was not reached overnight. It took her about four years of a lot of hard work, from concept to design to production to networking. Her first prototype of the Empanada Fork was made of plastic and did not work well, so the final version was made with stainless steel to make it sturdy. Thanks to the ease of the hand press, empanadas can be made by the dozens conveniently and without any frustration. She highlights the benefit of her handy and reliable kitchen utensil is that it is ideal for all types of stuffed-type dough foods such as calzones, apple turnovers, pierogies and more.
Yet not only does HSN provide an unparalleled platform for inventors like Lopez to reach millions of eager consumers but they also provide winners of Project American Dreams with a boot camp where they learn the tools to succeed as the voice of their brands from industry experts and mentors — Multicultural expert, CEO and co-founder of Cien + Lili Gil Valletta and “The Billion Dollar Man” and TV’s ORIGINAL Home Shopping host Bob Circosta, and U.S. Bank representatives.
To help “get their voice right,” Valletta prompts mentees with questions about the features and benefits of their merchandise and reminds them that consumers buy “WHY” you sell what you sell, not the “WHAT” of your product. In other words, entrepreneurs need to target their prospective consumers with why their product is going to make a buyer’s task or life easier.
Lopez who also won the HSN Project American Dreams $5,000 Social Media Award from U.S. Bank, for strategically tapping into her fast-growing online community, adds that the support she receives from her family, friends, industry peers and now as one of the winners of HSN Project American Dreams, has empowered her on a personal mission to rally behind other women to tell them they can be inventors too, because ‘women need to put their name down in history.”
She ends our interview with the self-realization that she is a fact a feminist whose “spark is ignited on full blast!”
Hipatia’s Tips on Keeping the Spark:
- Build your online presence. Check out a recent article by Karen Gutierrez, “Social media success: Just stick a fork in it”
- Let Google be your best friend. Hipatia’s reliable go-to- search engine helped her locate the manufacturing companies she needed and connect with like-minded networks and industry organizations such as the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.
- Encourage others. Your success relies on others success too. Be generous with your contacts and provide guidance to those starting out.
- Don’t be intimidated. You are not alone in your quest for the American dream. Turn your fear into energy and connect with others who share your drive and vision.
- If at fail at first try, try again. Remember the prototype of her Empanada Fork did not work yet she did not throw in the towel
- Don’t say “No.” The sooner you eliminate the word “no” from your vocabulary the sooner you will be able to nurture much-needed positive reinforcement for the long haul.
- Love what you do. You find your spark when you have the passion for what you do and if it’s making empanadas for your family and friends then that’s a great way to build a business around love.
Documentary DreamTown Screening at Yale Feb 1 at 7pm
DreamTown Ecuador/USA. 2016 (Director Betty Bastidas)
Q&A with producer Giovanna Aguilar
DETAILS: Wednesday, February 1, 2017
7 p.m., Luce Hall Auditorium
34 Hillhouse Ave., New Haven 06511
Dreamtown is the inspiring story of three young Afro-Ecuadorian soccer players from La Chota who chase success in the face of extraordinary challenges. Entwined with their athletic dreams are the hopes of all Afro-Ecuadorians for whom soccer is more than a sport–it’s a means to attain recognition and respect.
Free and open to the general public.
Spanish with English subtitles.
On Grant Writing: Top 10 Things to Consider When Submitting Grants
I Need $$$! Best Practices from Grant-Awarded Writer to Fund All Types of Programs
So, you are considering grants to fund your dream project or program. Perhaps you are a nonprofit, filmmaker or public school program in need of financial support. How do you begin the grant writing process? How do you bring to fruition your thoroughly researched idea?
January is not only for setting new year’s resolutions but also for planning your grant submission calendar. It is important for you to know that this is when most grantors restart their funding cycles.This represents an opportunity for you, but it must begin with a mix of preparation, patience and perseverance. Trust me, these three Ps are going to make all the difference in how you secure your first awarded grant — funds.
I got started writing grants by chance and out of utter necessity when one of my film projects, DreamTown, needed funding.
The director had sent me a previously submitted grant application that I wound up spending a couple of days rewriting expeditiously to beat the deadline. By the time it was completed, I had a severe migraine. My first tip to you: Do not do that – throw yourself into a tight deadline, especially the first time. It will deter you from the already draining process. Yes. It helped that I had a template to work from, which is essentially what your first application will be, a reusable document with key sections that include the project’s objectives, impact and budget.
Here’s the deal. I’m going to be straight with you. Whether you are writing the grant proposal yourself or hiring a professional, it takes work, a lot of work. Your job is to write effectively based on a strategy for your program. Let me reiterate this point, you must write based on a strategy for your program. This is nonnegotiable. You must have a strategy, a plan, in place, or a spin doctor-grant writer who knows your industry inside and out. Yes. I won’t lie. Luck and spin happen too.
Ultimately, though, securing grant funds is about selling your story to the grantor. And I must admit that filmmakers are deftly suited for this, which is why I am happily sharing insight into grant writing best practices that have worked for me across all types of programs. While the grant writing process is quite an arduous one, these 10 are a good start.
G’s —Top 10 Best Practices for Writing Winning Grants
1. Respect the Grant Writer. I start with this one because whether you are writing the proposal or hiring an expert, you will be asked to provide information. This is not an option. The sooner you get what is needed, the sooner the work can begin and be completed. For larger grant applications, you may be asked to provide audited financial statements, a tax exempt letter, and other pertinent documents or information. Respect the grant writer. There should be no chasing down for information.
2. Read the Grant’s Eligibility Requirements. Before you go any further, read the RFP’s or grant eligibility requirements. Go through the whole checklist and make sure they fund your type of program. For instance, will the grantor fund your project in your state? Is the grantor funding only STEM programs and yours is for dance? Does your organization need to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to apply?
3. Who, What, Where, Why and How. Go back to the basics of every story and be ready to articulate concisely and effectively the following, but be as specific as you can be:
Who Is your program or project going to benefit or target?
What is your program going to do?
Where will the program take place?
Why is your program so important that the grantor must fund it?
How will you ensure that you can do what you are proposing with the funding?
4. What needs funding? I know this is listed above, but you would be surprised how often the obvious question is the one that is least thoroughly considered. In my experience, this is a typical situation for public or government-funded programs, unfortunately. Wanting a lot of money, let’s say $100k, for the science department is not enough. You must present a program with defined objectives.
5. Be concise as you persuade the grantor to buy your story. Most applications are submitted via the grantor’s online platform. As a result, make sure your copy is not over each section’s character limit. I recommend using your handy Word count tool, as you go. Trust me. You will kick yourself at 11:58 p.m. when your application is due at midnight, and you have to cut 100 words from each section.
6. Are matching funds required? Yes? You will know this by reading the grant eligibility requirements, but I cannot stress how overlooked this one is. You will need to know how much the grantor requires to be matched i.e. 50%, 25%. You will be asked to provide this line item in the budget along with corroborating materials.
7. Request letters of support. If this is an option, get letters from your most influential supporters. Grantors are very interested in your resourcefulness, which also means you have a chance to brag about who you know and why they love you and your project. You can make the request easier by writing the letters yourself and sending them to your supporters for approval. Just make sure the letters are returned to you on company letterhead and with the appropriate signatures. This is common practice in the grant writing process.
8. What is your program’s impact? You can start by explaining the demographics of your target audience and how they will be positively affected or influenced by your program. This is where you really get to open up about the heart of your cause. Are you producing a story about an underserved, under-represented community? Research previously awarded grantees and study what type of impact they have had.
9. Prepare a realistic and thorough budget. Make sure you have a line-by-line budget of your project’s expenses and then get ready to write summaries of what each line means and how they all connect to the whole project.
10. Be patient and try and try again. Getting awarded a grant is ultimately like playing a numbers game that includes a mix of great storytelling, a program strategy and a justifiable, realistic budget. Grantors must be wowed by your proposal and be persuaded to trust you with their money. Note. As part of the numbers game, you can continue to tweak your living, breathing grant proposal, because that is what it will be. There is always room to color the story with another layer, shade, tint… OK. You get the picture. Each submission is an opportunity to improve your story.
On Vérité with Linda Lajterman on Her Son’s Death to Drug Overdose
A Mother Shares the Consequences of Her Son’s Death to Drug Overdose with the Hope to Prevent Others from Going through the Same Pain
Life After You- What Your Death from Drugs Leaves Behind
This was a tough story for me to work on. But I had to.
One thing is to read the CDC’s stats that indicate that every day there are 78 deaths from opioids, another is to be deeply touched by the reality that surrounds us. These are real, personal stories of loss for many families who we may know. And this could also be yours. It could be someone I know and love, too.
Yet too often we believe that our family dynamic may insulate us from such trauma. “How could a parent not know?” is the accusative question that too many unjustly ask. Well, do you remember being a teenager? I do. And till this day my parents do not know that I had an eating disorder for years. I hid that reality very well.
So many teenagers struggle in isolation with their own issues because they may feel disconnected from those closest to them and fear ensuing judgment or punishment should they open up about their problem. Then, of course, there is the jarring reality that is continually echoed in Linda Lajterman’s experience when she hears, “Drugs and my Kid? Never!”
My latest podcast is an interview with Linda Lajterman about losing her 19-year-old son Danny to a drug overdose. Linda shares why shortly after her Danny’s death she was motivated to write about her tragedy in the poignant letter Dear Friends, although intended for her local community, and how her words touched addicts and their families all over the world. The tremendous connection that so many people had to her story inspired her write the book, Life After You -What Your Death from Drugs Leaves Behind, which presents a sobering yet very real picture of death from a drug overdose and the aftermath that follows, such as in Chapter 5: Your Death and Chapter 6: Your Funeral.
Linda hopes her book, which also addresses long-term debilitating health issues due to drug abuse, can help our youth and families engage in open conversations. Her mission is to help those with drug addiction to seek help from loved ones instead of struggling in isolation.
Linda is a member of the Family Advocacy Partnership (FAP), created by Steven Rogers, the Commissioner of Nutley, NJ, who invited me to facilitate this much needed support and resource group, to launch in August 2016. Family Advocacy Partnership is a network of family advocates whose experience with drug-related trauma will serve other families immediately dealing with a loved one’s drug overdose or a related health crisis.
Drug overdoses are an escalating problem within our national drug-related health epidemic. Between2000 and 2014 about half a million people died in the United States from drug overdoses. 2014 went on record as the year of the most deaths from drug-overdoses with most of them (6 out of 10) due to opioids.
For more stats you can visit the CDC’s Injury Prevention & Control: Opioid Overdose.
On Vérité with Emmy Nominated Director-Writer-Producer Reinaldo Marcus Green
On Vérité Top List: “What do you wish you had known on your first independent film?”
Reinaldo Marcus Green, one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film (2015) and recipient of the Spike Lee Film Production Grant 2016 (Monsters and Men,) shares best practices with Giovanna Aguilar on filmmaking.
On Vérité Top List for Independent Filmmakers is complementary content for an upcoming written article to be published on my blog at Giovanna Aguilar.
Watch Reinaldo Marcus Green’s acclaimed short film STOP—a young man’s livelihood is put to the test when he gets profiled and stopped by the police on his way home from practice, courtesy of Conde Nast’s steaming platform The Scene.
HourGlass Gets ON YOUR FEET! FULL ACCESS with Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Jerry Mitchell
As the executive producer and co-host of the podcast HourGlass Time to Talk, I am proud and excited to release the promo of On Your Feet! Full Access, up-close and personal interviews that my co-host Maria Torres and I conducted with multi Grammy Winners Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Tony Winner Jerry Mitchell, who share their journey of bringing their story to Broadway and living the American dream. These upcoming episodes are especially close to HourGlass co-host Maria Torres who is also the associate choreographer for the show.
FULL EPISODES will be released soon that also include interviews in Spanish with Emilio and Gloria Estefan and On Your Feet’s choreographer Sergio Trujillo who joins Maria Torres on the segment—Kick, Ball, Change – Keep it Moving!
HourGlass On Your Feet! Full Access Credits
HourGlass is an original podcast production hosted by creators and producers Maria Torres and Giovanna Aguilar.
We would like to give a special thanks to all who made On Your Feet Full Access possible: Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Jerry Mitchell, the Nederlander Organization, the Marquis Theater, Christina Boursiquot and Mandy Tate from the Charlotte Wilcox Company.
HourGlass’s original music is composed by Roman Rojas.
501(C) (3) Organization Certified Angels Begins Grant Funding Initiative for Youth Arts Center and Arts Program to Serve Adolescents in Passaic, NJ
Join me in supporting the non-profit 501(C)(3) organization Certified Angels whose mission is to provide a safe haven for adolescents in Passaic, NJ.
I am excited to share that I am working with Certified Angels to facilitate grant funding opportunities for the establishment of their proposed arts center at a designated location (to be secured) and to roll out a comprehensive after-school arts program with a career track that will serve children and adolescents living in the City of Passaic and surrounding communities.
Passaic is an underserved community that in 2013 had a population of 70,868, 71% Latinos, with a median household income of $37,332, or an estimated per capita income of $15,249. Certified Angels recognizes the tremendous financial need of the City of Passaic and the significance of offering arts programs in one of the poorest communities in New Jersey that without the foundation’s support would not be able to have access to theater, music and dance training.
Certified Angels supports after-school programs in the arts for youth as being highly effective tools to empower youth by giving them the opportunity to explore their creative, artistic sides, which in turn can complement youth’s self-esteem and confidence. Certified Angels’ vision is to incorporate a career track by offering dance, acting and music classes led by professionals in their respective fields.
Certified Angels is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Jessica Delacruz,
Certified Angels is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Jessica Delacruz, who graduated from William Paterson University in 2014, where she received a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. Delacruz has a passion for working with the youth of Passaic that began through her employment at organizations such as NJ After 3, the Boys and Girls Club of Passaic/Paterson, Urban Crisis Council Daycare, and the Passaic Board of Education.
Delacruz shares that Certified Angels allows her to fulfill her lifelong dream of “making a difference.”
Certified Angels Mission
Our mission is to create a safe space for our youth and children to find comfort in who they are, discover their talents and learn how to share them with the world. We focus on developing a healthy balance of mind, body and soul by encouraging creativity, physical activity and self awareness. Certified Angels is a non- profit that aims to create an atmosphere where our members feel embraced for who they are and supported in their journeys to become the best version of themselves
For more information visit, Certified Angels.