Photo Courtesy USAToday
Photo Courtesy USAToday

On the weekends, food truck owner Orlando Osornio, 30, and his wife, Denise, sell mile-high tortas, filled with California fusion-inspired ingredients: hot Cheetos, bacon, mango-habanero sauce, or pineapple. Some come for the birria torta, or the chicken-bacon-alfredo torta.

A line of customers winds its way around the side of his tent as meat sizzles on the grills. On the other side of the mesh, Osornio and his crew pack and stack toasted buns as fast as they can.

Two years ago, when Osornio, who is Mexican-American, was contemplating launching Tortas al 100, he knew one thing: He didn’t want to apply for a loan. Osornio had racked up “about $30,000” in credit-card debt as a teenager and said when life smacked him in the face in his early 20s, he got serious about paying it down and fixing his credit score. 

That experience, he said, was what prompted him to forgo applying for a small-business loan. Instead, Osornio estimated he and his wife spent at least $50,000 of their salaries on the burgeoning business, including food, four grills and a tent, during its first year of operation.

Latino small-business owners like Osornio are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. even as they battle systemic racism that has resulted in lower incomes and loan rates. Over the past 10 years, the number of Latino business owners grew 34%, compared to 1% for all business owners in the United States, according to a recent study from Stanford University. And more Latinos than ever are applying for small business loans to launch or grow their operations. 

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