From Corporate Attorney to Tamale Entrepreneur

Photo by Ed Finkel

Take two cups of commodities and agribusiness experience, add 1½ tablespoons of corporate and regulatory background, mix well with several years of part-time public interest work, fold in Mexican-American parents with their own tamale catering business, and bake inside a well-oiled business plan.

That’s Nancy Andrade’s recipe for success for Mexifeast Foods, her Chicago-based tamale company that now sells to stores like Whole Foods Market and Wal-Mart.

The entrepreneurial bug first bit Andrade during her time as a corporate and regulatory attorney at Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago. As the only Mexican-American attorney in the office, she also became the in-house expert on everything Mexican. “For some reason, tamales always came up; people asked, ‘Where can I get good tamales?’ ” Andrade recalls.

At first, Andrade started taking orders for her parents’ tamale business, but when those skyrocketed she decided it was time to start her own business. She left Katten in 2001 to start Mexifeast but also worked part time at a legal services agency to help pay the bills.

Before that Andrade logged time as the Illinois state trade director of Latin-American agribusiness (based in Mexico City) and as a commodities lawyer for another Chicago firm.

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