CUENCA, Ecuador --- Though he sells pizza in his Spanish-speaking country, Ecuadorian Patricio Hurtado retains a slice of Italy in his restaurant’s name: Pizza Nostra, which translates as “Our Pizza” in Italian. The name fits, because Patricio’s pride and joy belongs not only to him as the owner, but to the community, his growing number of employees, and to the God who led the restaurateur down this entrepreneurial path.
“Ever since I was about 16 or 17 years old, I have been involved in business,” said Patricio, the father of two grown sons. His wife, Emma, is a tradeswoman who sells clothing in an open air market. “As a teenager, I bought shoes in Gualaceo (a town famous for shoes) and sold them elsewhere." Decades later, his creative capacity for business prompted Patricio to pursue a new venture, one that would provide delicious fast food in a neighborhood with a shortage of restaurants (only one other eatery, a rotisserie chicken restaurant, existed). But first Patricio had to overcome fear of failure. “The doors opened and I could see my [pizzeria idea] was really from God,” he said. “Then I had confidence, faith, and peace.”
Linking arms with him on this journey are Carlos Serrano and Boris Ordóñez, both of Cuenca Partners, the local affiliate of Partners Worldwide, based in this city of half a million located in the highlands of Ecuador. Patricio took the Cuenca Partners business training course, and Carlos and Boris mentored him in everything from restaurant management to testing various dough and sauce recipes to achieve pizza perfection. After 6-7 months of planning, Pizza Nostra was born.
“[Opening a restaurant] was always something I found attractive,” Patricio said. “I like to work with my hands, being in the kitchen and cooking at my house. And I knew a pizza place could work well, according to people’s ability to pay. Food is a very practical business, not based on seller financing and credit; people pay immediately.”
Since opening a little over a year ago, Patricio has been able to create jobs for three employees―Juan, Nina, and Edward. Juan, whom Patricio knew from the Bible study group hosted in his home, works evenings, delivering pizzas on his motorcycle. Nina, a student, also works evenings. Edward, on the other hand, was the first employee, working shoulder to shoulder with Patricio from the start. They met by chance after Edward's previous employer closed his business and sold Patricio an industrial cheese shredder. While closing the sale,
the former boss recommended Edward as an excellent worker. Unemployed at the time, Edward had valuable experience running three pizzerias in Ecuador and Columbia. Investing his passion in his work, Edward beams with joy as he kneads pizza crust, only a year after being unemployed with few prospects. In September, Edward will have saved enough money to open his own pizzeria once more, this time armed with what he’s learned about successful business management through Patricio. Edward’s goal? “To be able to open more businesses that can help other people and me as well.”
Though Patricio will lose a hardworking employee in Edward, it’s gratifying that the worker he’s taken under his wing now plans to open his own business. Patricio believes God is blessing his enterprise in a way that no other business venture of his has been blessed. While he worked in various industries in the past—selling fabric, producing powdered drinks and candy, and promoting good eye care—this is the first time Patricio has had a vision for growth. These prior attempts struggled within a changing Ecuadorian marketplace, but in God’s redemptive economy led to Patricio’s salvation years ago. Now, Pizza Nostra is different. Patricio plans to open a second location of his successful business in the coming year.
“Many people have said, ‘There is something special about the owner of this business,’” Patricio said. “By giving good customer service with a smile, people notice a difference, and in this way we have been able to sow seeds for Christ.”
Read this story on the Partners Worldwide website here.