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.