Ada Thomas Bakes It Till She Makes It

April 11, 2023

Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas was raised by her mother and grandmother, who taught her traditional Afro-Caribbean family recipes. The recipes that Ada learned during her childhood in the Limón region of Costa Rica are the bread and butter of her business, Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña, enabling her to support her family and most importantly, fund her son’s education. Inspired by her culture, roots and traditions as an Afro-Caribbean, Ada founded a food business making and selling homemade baked goods and Caribbean meals including artisanal bread and jams using local fruits.

Ada preparing patties, baked Caribbean flour pastries filled with a beef and chili mix (Photo: Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas).

Making ends meet

For years, Ada has been selling her homemade baked goods and foods as a way of generating additional income and sharing her culture with others. However in 2019 she lost her main job, and decided to focus all her efforts on her food business.

In 2020 I started selling food to my neighbors and local community as my official business and main source of income, but it was the biggest challenge of my life because it was during the pandemic and people were so scared at the time – they didn’t even want to open their doors to talk to me, there were lockdowns so I had to deliver the food by foot all on my own, and I could only depend on word of mouth to promote my business. Looking back at that tough period, all I can say is that the consistency and faith I developed in the process are key for success when it comes to the products you put out, and the efforts you put into the business.

Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas, Founder of Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña

Ada works with her mother, her son and some relatives to make the food and distribute it to clients. Her mother’s support has been particularly valuable to her business’ success, encouraging her to follow her dream of starting her own business and to transmit a cultural legacy through food for the benefit of society.

(left) Ada’s mother, Medida Thomas Adams, helping her prepare patties for sale. (right) Ada’s son delivering Ada’s homemade jams to a client. (Photo: Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas).

To improve her offerings she regularly takes cooking courses to learn how to adapt her recipes to the needs of customers with special diets so she can provide vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free options.

Ada’s secret ingredient for success… IP

As an entrepreneur, Ada also invests in learning more about business-related skills, including intellectual property (IP). She first learned about IP in November 2022, at the skills-building training program for entrepreneurs from the Limón region, which was delivered by the WIPO Academy and the Costa Rican Academy of Intellectual Property, a WIPO supported Intellectual Property Training Institution (IPTI). The training program was organized in the framework of the WIPO COVID-19 Response Package and held on the campus of the University of Costa Rica in Limón, in the Atlantic region of Costa Rica. Ada, along with other local entrepreneurs, was invited to participate in the training by the National Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, and after understanding the importance of IP for small and medium-sized enterprises, she was left with the desire to register her trademark. Shortly after completing the training program, she contacted the Costa Rican Academy of Intellectual Property and asked them for more information on how to register her trademark. They gave her all the guidance she needed and she was able to successfully register the trademark for Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña at the Registry of Intellectual Property of Costa Rica in January 2023. In fact, Ada was the first person from Limón to register a trademark, which is a historical achievement for her region and country.

The training program on IP helped me improve my knowledge on trademarks, which is so important for the development of my business, particularly after realizing how formalizing an enterprise can positively impact a society with new opportunities for stable work. As an entrepreneur, it is important to not only focus on money. To be successful you need to have a growth mindset and focus on building your knowledge. This will help you succeed in the end and move ahead. Focus on building your knowledge, including IP knowledge, and the money will come.

Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas, Founder of Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña

What’s cooking next?

Since registering her trademark for Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña, Ada has been able to further promote her brand and increase the visibility of her business nation-wide, beyond the Limón region. With the growing brand recognition, she feels empowered to expand her business even more, and she hopes to eventually own a gourmet café where she can sell her baked goods and Afro-Caribbean food.

With a registered trademark, Ada is able to brand her products and gain credibility in the market (Photo: Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas).

I can only encourage other entrepreneurs to take the initiative to formalize their business and register their brands and protect their products or services, because it will give them support in the future to take their businesses further, and it will help them avoid any uncomfortable situation with competitors and other entrepreneurs operating in the market. Formalizing my business is the reason it can be a source of income, jobs and open many opportunities for me and my family.

Ada Yorleny Thorpe Thomas, Founder of Aziza's Repostería y Comida Caribeña

Ada expressed that one day she would like to use her experience as a small-business owner to help others, by establishing an organization for entrepreneurs in Costa Rica, operating as a local support network for businesses to work together and help each other grow and succeed.

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