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Meet Zulma Del Carmen Portillo of CHIMI AND MORE

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zulma Del Carmen Portillo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was in born and raised in Argentina. I was raised by a single mom and I have one sister who’s younger than I. I went to school for accounting and started working for a travel agency as an accountant. Eventually, I learned more about the business and became a travel agent with them.

Because of this, I got the opportunity to come to the U.S. for with a free flight with PanAm airlines. I used this free ticket to come visit my boyfriend at the time, who later became the father of my daughter. While here, I fell in love with the country and the lifestyle and decided to stay.

Eventually, I got married and helped my husband start a winery from a vineyard that he owned. Since we were selling Malbec, which is an Argentinean wine, I thought it’d be a great idea to offer chimichurri to pair with the wine.

After 14 years of marriage, our relationship ended but I continued to make chimichurri as a means to support myself. This venture has been a learning experience that not only helped me become a better business person but also more independent and to discover how capable I am.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with everything in life, there were challenges and obstacles. Getting divorced was the hardest things to deal with.

At age 55, I found myself losing my husband, my family, my work, and this winery that I thought would always be my home. I now had to start from scratch and figure out a new path on my own.

Another obstacle is the language barrier. While I speak and understand English, this is not my first language so I have to ask for help sometimes when filing paperwork or other important business dealings.

Most of the years I spent in San Diego I built my circle of connections around the winery, so when I had to start over a year ago, I found myself without a support system. I’m just starting to build my brand and make new friends and connections.

Please tell us about CHIMI AND MORE.
I make authentic Argentinean chimichurri. I use my family’s recipe and I bring the spices from Argentina so preserve the traditional flavors. I have stands at local farmer’s markets and I also sell it to restaurants.

I am very proud that I’m selling a product that is healthy and made with love and to showcase my culture. I am also proud that the restaurants that choose to sell my chimichurri love it so much to offer it to their customers.

What sets me apart from others is making sure that the quality of the ingredients is high. Also, I make sure that the product is richer and not watered down. All the ingredients are fresh and healthy for the body. Chimichurri is friendly for many diets including vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc. It is also very versatile as it can add flavor to any dish and is very easy to use, not to mention delicious!

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I loved going to get fresh milk from the milking yard with my cousins. We would go from my grandpa’s home through the jungle to get there. We would get to play around and cross creeks and just be kids while getting the milk. By the time we made it back, jugs would be half empty but it was worth the fun!

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