Two Single Moms Bringing a Taste of Venezuela & Colombia to Portland

I heard a lot of great things about Oregon before moving here for the Kiva Fellowship: it's beautiful, no shortage of live music and local food, Portland is where all the “coolest” people from San Francisco eventually move… However, as I set out to get to know Kiva’s existing Trustees (partners that make our work possible in and around the Portland area) I was not expecting the immense amount of enthusiasm and excitement for our work, community, and the Kiva Zip program. In just 11 months since the posting of the first Kiva Zip loan in Oregon, this incredible network has funded over $136,000 in 0% interest loans to Oregonian entrepreneurs – talk about community! In addition, to date, all Oregon loans posted to Kiva Zip have been fully funded.
Carolina and Diana are two Oregonian entrepreneurs currently fundraising for their business in Portland that I had the pleasure of meeting during the first month of the Kiva Fellowship.

Owners, Diana and Carolina

As I walked into Mama Leo’s restaurant in Northeast Portland, I was instantly warmed by the sound of Latin acoustic music. A young girl seated us at a table in the back covered with tropical photos from the northern coast of South America. Owners Carolina and Diana soon joined us to share the history of how Mama Leo’s, named in honor of Diana’s mom, Leonor (known by her friends as ‘Leo’) and her delicious recipes, came to be.

photos from Venezuela and Columbia covering the tables

Their restaurant, Mama Leo’s, opened its doors just nine months ago. After years of their children telling them how they wished there was a place they could go for authentic home-cooked cuisine, Carolina and Diana decided to experiment with the idea by operating a booth at a local festival. It was a success! Their customers, pleased with their meals, kept asking, “Where are you located?” With clear demand, the duo decided they would give their delighted customers a reliable source of authentic Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine.
The two single moms were neighbors in Venezuela before immigrating to the U.S. in search of more opportunity. According to Carolina, Diana is the one with the culinary talent, but the business wouldn’t be possible without Carolina managing the administrative, marketing and social duties required to start a business! They are the quintessential dynamic duo.
After Carolina heard from a friend about the wonderful technical assistance program offered by the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, a Kiva Zip Trustee, the two business owners worked diligently with The Chamber to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality.
They are currently fundraising for a Kiva Zip Loan to allow more than two appliances in the kitchen to run at the same time! This unfortunately requires substantial electrical work, and will cost approximately $9,500. This improvement will enable them to reliably serve more customers. They are seeking a $5,000 Kiva Zip loan at 0% interest to help cover these costs. As a testament to the wonderful sense of community Diana and Carolina have cultivated, a regular patron of their Restaurant, Paula, will be hosting her birthday celebration at Mama Leo’s and has asked her friends only to make a loan to Mama Leo’s as a birthday gift.
Become part of this beautiful community supporting these two inspirational ladies, and Oregonian small business by making a loan here -

local newspaper clippings about Mama Leo's

About the author

Jennifer Terry

Jen grew up between a small Appalachian town and Louisville, Kentucky. At 18, she jumped at an opportunity to experience the West Coast and study in San Diego. With a curiosity about societal systems and a passion for equality, she studied political science. Her curious sense of adventure led to a year and a half in Spain, Argentina, and Chile. After leaving South America, Jen attained a position at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. working on democracy in Latin America. She then went to work for Senator Boxer where she developed an elementary understanding of the complicated prioritization required of lawmakers. After graduation from UCSD, Jen spent two months processing discoveries about competing priorities, the effectiveness of large bureaucracies, and inequality in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the small town of Rishikesh, she received her yoga teaching credentials as well as a personal lesson in resource management, growing quite skilled at showering with very little hot water. Jen joined Kiva as an intern on the Fellow’s Team in August 2013, and is beyond excited to continue her journey with an organization she strongly admires and respects and contribute to Kiva’s mission in Portland.