During National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) and throughout the year, we commend the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hispanic and Latinx business owners we have worked with in our communities. We also share and celebrate their successes!

When Denise Vigil needed funding to launch her vision, The Friar’s Fork, she turned to First Southwest Community Fund. 

For National Hispanic Heritage Month we interviewed her about starting a business. If you are thinking about starting or growing your business, may her interview inspire you to reach for your dreams and Let your ethnicity be a reason to shine!

Denise Vigil in Friar's Fork


How did you start your business?
I have been actively in the food & beverage industry for around 30 years, mainly as a chef. I graduated from the CIA in 1997 and spent my time since operating at a high level within many kitchens of top restaurants across the United States and was honored to learn from the best and hone my skills. During “the great pause” that we referred to the pandemic as, I too took the opportunity to think about what my next step would be. I was ready to step out on my own and was blessed with the opportunity to purchase an empty, former church and embrace the historical nature of the building. Having been in this industry for so long, I was aware of the challenges and pitfalls we might encounter but pushed through and continue to do so still. My training was well versed in many cuisines and I chose to create an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant. We chose this theme as it was not a saturated one and we felt that we would not be pulling business from our peers in the local restaurant scene. Additionally, I wanted to build something different and special to add to the jewels that make up the San Luis Valley. A place Alamosa could be proud of. After the purchase, we set to remodeling and setting the scene for what would become The Friar’s Fork & Sanctuary.  

What’s the most rewarding aspect of starting your own business?

The most rewarding aspect is also the most daunting. I think it’s incredibly rewarding to have an evergreen opportunity to stand on your own and daily create and nurture something and to have tangible proof of exactly what one can accomplish and what legacy one can leave. The pressure of that, of the expectations of others and from oneself is huge.

What are the three most important habits to be a successful entrepreneur?

The most important habit I think to cultivate is to build, empower and nurture your team. The team of employees is most important. They are to whom you turn to every minute, and they are the ones to whom the credit is greatly given. It’s also important to balance both understanding and feeling the pulse of your business intimately and giving yourself time to replenish yourself. It all will collapse if you are not keeping yourself recharged. Lastly, I think an important habit is to practice consistency in as many things as possible.   

How did you push through your biggest business doubts?
I still work through doubts I may have. I think by having faith in a strong team, in my experience and faith that I try my best is all that I can do.  

How did the first Southwest Community Fund help you in launching your business idea?
First Southwest Community Fund helped us launch our idea by providing funding we needed to start-up our vision.

As a Hispanic entrepreneur, what specific advice do you have for others who would like to become entrepreneurs?
I believe it is important to understand that as a Hispanic, or any other ethnicity for that matter, that your abilities really have nothing to do with any label. Your abilities lie within your creative prowess, your fortitude, your work ethic and your agility to bend and flex within your particular industry. Bottom line:  don’t let your ethnicity be a cause for self-sabotage. Let it be a reason to shine.

As a female entrepreneur, what specific advice do you have for women who would like to become entrepreneurs? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a female business owner?
I grew up with extremely strong women in my family. My mother was a chemist and entrepreneur. She started and ran a state certified environmental laboratory for decades until her retirement. My sister, Julie has taken the helm of that business. She is a chemist, a business owner, and mother as well. The women who I was surrounded by in my upbringing were all strong in their own ways. Some were educators, some homemakers, some did menial labor, some ran politics, some ran businesses. Some of these women are free-loving and living. Others were strict and seemingly unyielding.  

All of this to say that as a woman, you can come at your entrepreneurial goals from different angles, from different vantage points. The important thing is to come for your goals. Come for them in your own way, with your own unique strengths and talents. From there, supplement them by surrounding yourself with other excellence. Understand and embrace your worth.  Society at large has historically diminished women. It does, at times, make being taken seriously as a woman business owner challenging. Even amongst women, we have been taught a feeling of scarcity. We’ve been made to believe there isn’t enough for everyone. That women must compete or diminish other women to have your piece of the pie. What I know to be true, is that there is always more than enough for everyone. Embrace and support fellow women entrepreneurs because doing so only enhances the whole and can change negative impressions.  


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