Welcome to the first installation of our new series: Merry Interviews! For this, we are reaching out to members of our Merry Community to discuss their stories and adventures.
Today, we are chatting with Diana Hull, the co-founder of La Tortilleria in Melbourne. La Tortilleria is a culinary beacon in Australia as the source of the best tortillas, totopos, and tostadas. Like Merry People, they started as a small idea in Melbourne, and are now sold in groceries and restaurants nationwide. Chances are, if you’ve been out for yummy Mexican food in Australia, you have bitten into one of their delicious tortillas.
Besides wholesale, La Tortilleria sells directly to the public, so if you are hankering for a taco night, be sure to check out their online delivery. If you are in Melbourne, you can go one step further and order from their Kensington restaurant (open for takeaway during our Iso 2.0!)
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How are you connected to Merry People?
Dani and I met through a mutual friend and instantly hit it off chatting about the highs and lows of running a small business. That was almost 5 years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s great having the support of a fellow business owner to bounce ideas off and keep each other on track when things get challenging, as they inevitably do in small business!
Where are you right now?
I’m currently in a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, riding out the coronavirus storm. I left for Mexico before the virus became the global threat it now is, and as things began to get worse, getting home became risky and problematic. In the end I decided it was best to ‘bunker down’ here instead.
How has it been in Mexico during COVID-19? How do you find ways of being Merry in your day-to-day?
I’m lucky that I can get everything I need delivered, so I’ve actually barely left the property other than going for walks in nearby fields, and a few times to the local tortillería when I’d run out of tortillas ….That’s definitely an ‘essential emergency’!
For me, the key to staying Merry has been to look at this time as an opportunity. It’s not often the whole world is given the chance to pause and reflect on life. These times are definitely not business-as-normal, and I feel this shakeup is a rare chance for us to realign on both the global and individual level. Sometimes things need to fall apart before they can be rebuilt stronger!
So taking time each day to be grateful for this process has been important to staying Merry. As has maintaining a regular work schedule. I’m lucky enough that I can stay in touch online and still do a lot of my work from here, and I’ve got an excellent dedicated team that can keep everything running smoothly back in Melbourne through these crazy times.
What inspired you to start La Tortilleria?
The short of it was: Australia needed good tortillas! I went to university in Mexico City and my business partner Gerardo grew up there. Eating delicious, authentic, tortillas was what we were both used to, but in Australia, the only ones available were pumped with preservatives, were imported frozen, or were made here but from instant tortilla flour, not made from scratch. We were both craving real tortillas, so we decided to do something about it and start making them ourselves the traditional way. We started a restaurant to showcase our tortillas and very soon other Mexican restaurants in Melbourne wanted to use our tortillas too. From there we’ve grown to supplying our tortillas and tortilla chips to restaurants and independent grocery stores across Australia.
Was having your own business something you always wanted to do?
I ran quite a few businesses throughout my younger years; everything from a ‘mobile book van’ selling handwritten books to two key customers (umm…mum and dad) when I was 5 years old, to selling my handmade teddy bears at local craft markets when I was a teenager. So I guess business was on my mind from a young age!
What's the biggest challenge you've overcome as a founder/entrepreneur?
There have been so many! I honestly don’t know where to start.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business?
Stay true to your brand’s core vision and don’t compromise. This doesn’t mean don’t be flexible, adapt to your market and reassess your business plan when needed (these things are important!) but always keep the core heart and soul of your business alive: the reason you brought that product or service into the world in the first place. Integrity is vital to gaining trust with your customers, but also for maintaining motivation and energy in the business, and both of these are vital for success.
Tough question: What’s your favourite taco?
Easy: ‘Tofu al Pastor’. It’s an old favourite that’s been ‘veganised’ (the traditional ‘Taco al Pastor’ is pork marinated in chilies and cooked on the ‘trompo’ or rotisserie spit, and served with grilled pineapple).
When I was at uni in Mexico City, I’d walk past about 10 al pastor taco stands on my way home each day (they’re everywhere there!). I’d usually manage to resist stopping …until I got to about the 5th or 6th stand at least. Long story short I developed a strong addiction to al pastor tacos. I now don’t eat meat very often, so it’s been great to still feed that addiction with a delicious vegan alternative that still has all those juicy, delicious al pastor flavours.
Stay Merry everyone! Xx
Have someone you think we should chat to? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.