Like most of us, Luis loved ice cream as a child. However, unlike most of us, starting at 8 years old, Luis began making his very own ice cream with his uncle on their ranch in San Juan de Monte, Mexico. When Luis immigrated to Oakland at the age of 24, he worked hard and went to school to learn English, but that 8 year-old was never far from his mind. He bought what he needed for an ice cream cart, and on May 5th, 1991, he started selling ice cream for the first time at a Cinco de Mayo festival.
Luis sold ice cream from a cart for several years, then through a pizza restaurant, and even operated that Pied Piper of childhood- an ice cream truck complete with a bell to announce his arrival to eagerly awaiting children. More than 15 years after that ice-cream cart, he opened his first store location in Oakland’s Fruitvale Market, and named it in honor of that first day selling with his cart – Nieves Cinco de Mayo.
Ambitious, self-made, and with a sweet ice cream following, Luis sought out Centro Community Partners in 2011 to help take his business to the next level. Centro’s unique structure pairs each entrepreneur with a dedicated MBA Advisor, creating an exciting learning dynamic and a mentorship relationship that often lasts well beyond the program. Once Luis joined Centro’s Business Growth Program, he took weekly classes for four months and gained valuable advice from his MBA Advisor, Christine Kwong. Luis learned how to control inventory, capitalize on internet marketing, and with Centro’s help developed a business plan that mapped out a strategy for the future.
Armed with the skills he learned from Centro’s core curriculum and a plan to grow his business, Luis was able to open a second location on Mission Street in San Francisco. His nephew and brother help him there, and he has expanded his flavor selection from just lemon and vanilla when he had his cart, to more than 30 flavors of ice cream and shaved ice snow cones that he changes seasonally. His favorite flavor, lime, is always on the menu. Flavors like rose petal, hibiscus, guava and cactus fruit, along with traditional favorites, are among many to try. And we have!
Luis has been able to realize a childhood dream of operating his own ice cream business, and, with Centro’s help, he has added a new location, created jobs for his family, and is confident in his businesses’ future. You can indulge your sweet tooth, and your inner 8-year-old, at Luis’ Nieves Cinco de Mayo locations at Oakland’s Fruitvale Public Market (3340 E 12th St, Ste 2), or on Mission Street in San Francisco (2590 Mission Street).
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