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This South Central Mom Quit Her Job and Opened a Mangonada Stand to Make a Better Life For Her Daughter

Mangonadas Catis Cravings

Mangonadas from South Central’s Cati’s Cravings on Instagram.

Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco.

Meet Susanne Herrera, the 22-year-old from South Central serving up icy mangonadas bien preparadas (well prepared) to cool you down as temperatures rise in Los Angeles. 

Herrera, who lives near the Florence-Firestone area, is currently working full-time making mangonadas from home. When asked what drove her to start selling this staple frozen dessert, she said it was a combination of a few things that life had thrown at her. But mainly and most importantly, it was her need to want to give her daughter a better future and be a good example for her. Something she said she lacked in her life when she was a little girl. 

“My dad is from Mexico, and my mom is from Nicaragua. I was raised by undocumented parents for a little bit of time because my dad went to prison when I was eight years old, and he was deported when I was 13,” she said after picking up her daily groceries for her business. “And my mom had me and my siblings only for a little bit because honestly, she was battling drug addiction, and unfortunately, she couldn’t raise us. So we ended up moving in with family.”

Growing up, she swore that if she ever had kids, she would make sure to be present in their lives and be someone they would be proud of. She is trying to do this with her new business, Cati’s Cravings, where she sells mangonadas. The business is purposely named after her almost-two-year-old daughter Catalaiyah “Cati” Martinez. 

Another reason that drove Herrera to open her own business was the need to make a steady income. Before opening Cati’s Cravings, she worked different jobs but mainly worked at a boutique and enjoyed the job, but unfortunately, it did not pay well. She was forced to make the bold decision to quit. The 22-year-old shared that she was struggling, living paycheck to paycheck and not making enough money to buy basic necessities. Herrera also expressed that after giving birth to her daughter, she experienced postpartum depression and anxiety, interfering with any job she would obtain.

“I always felt like I had entrepreneurship skills, but after I gave birth, I got really bad anxiety, that made simple tasks so hard,” Herrera recalled. “And finding another job is obviously not easy, so I quickly started struggling with paying my bills, and I told myself I can’t be asking family for help all the time. I have to find something better for myself.”

Cati's Cravings
Owner of Susanne Herrera next to her two-year-old daughter Catalaiyah “Cati” Martinez. Photo by Jantte Villafana for L.A. TACO
Owner of Susanne Herrera next to her two-year-old daughter Catalaiyah “Cati” Martinez. Photo: Jantte Villafana for L.A. TACO
Mangonadas South Central
Photo by Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco
Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. Taco

For a month, while she brainstormed ideas about what that potential business of hers could be, she applied to any available job—applying to a total of 96 jobs. She tells L.A. TACO that no one called her back. What broke her heart and pushed her to try becoming her own boss was her daughter.

“The week I announced my business, I had asked for help to buy pull-ups for my daughter. It was so embarrassing to ask,” Herrera said. “That pushed me, you know, I have a daughter whose needs need to be met too, and if a job doesn’t allow me to make enough to meet those necessities, I’ll find one that does or create one.”

And she did; she continued to apply to jobs but had started to think about what she could sell from home. She knew she loved the kitchen but also wanted to sell something that she could do independently. She tells L.A. TACO that the weather that day was hot. As she sat there brainstorming ideas for her potential business, the heat took her back to summer days as a third grader. A flashback memory of her buying a mangonada from one of her neighbors crossed her mind. 

“This lady used to sell them for 50 cents. We’d get them after school, and they were simple, a small cup with a palito (stick) in the middle, and she’d add chamoy and Tajín, and it would be so good,” she said. 

It was like a light bulb lit up. Mangonadas it was. It was one of her favorite snacks, and they were easy to make, and it wouldn’t take much to start her business. 

“I honestly didn’t think that I would get more than five customers, but after posting, I got so many, and I’m very grateful that I went for it…I really hope I can create something stable out of this,” she said as she blended some fruit.

Currently, she offers three flavors, mango, strawberry, watermelon, and pineapple. But keep an eye out on her Instagram because she will occasionally include a new flavor for the day. She said her mangonadas are not as simple as the ones she ate growing up. Each one is made with real fruit and comes topped with Mexican candy, like trocitos, which are little tamarindo (tamarind) or fruit-flavored bits coated in chili powder. She also tops them with fresh fruit, a mini fruit popsicle, tamarindo sticks, and a rockaleta. Her mangonadas are affordable as well. The small 16 oz mangonada is $6.50, the 20 oz runs $8, and the largest is a 24 oz cup is $10. Herrera said she plans to add new flavors as she goes, but since she does work alone, she wants to take things one step at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. And to ensure a good quality product and presentation to her customers every time. 

As for what the future holds for Cati’s Cravings, she said the ideas are endless. If things continue to do well, she hopes to grow her business and her menu. 

“I feel like this could be a longtime business for me, I love cooking, and I can see me growing this to include other treats and food, mixing my Mexican and Nicaraguan side. My daughter is half Salvadoran too, so offering a little bit of everything,” she said, a smile filling her face. “Imagine!”

In the meantime, though, she is selling her 100% fruit mangonadas from her home, and people interested in cooling off on a hot day can place orders a day before through her Instagram account. As she finishes scooping up the last batch of mangonadas for the day, Herrera expresses how, in the end, she is proud of herself. While looking at her daughter, she said: “This is something that is mine and my daughters, I want my daughter to be proud of me when she grows up, and I hope she sees everything I did was for her.” she continued. “Giving up on myself is like giving up on her, and I’ll never do that. I want to give her everything that my parents, unfortunately, couldn’t give me.”

Open seven days a week from 2 PM - 8 PM to order and follow at @CatisCravings.

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