Celebrating Women's History Month with Alicia Villanueva of Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas

EAT Club Presents: Our Incredible Female Restaurant Partners


Tell us how you got to where you are today.

I started my business at home, walking in the street with a cooler bag going door-to-door and selling my tamales to people at home, in body shops, and boutiques. On the weekends, I’d sell my tamales at the Santa Elizabeth Church in Oakland.

The difference between where I was then and where I am now is enormous. Now I have a lot of responsibilities in every single aspect of running a food business, focused on strategies for HR, accounting, production and operations.

My inspiration when I first stepped foot into the US was admiring all of the different cultures here. So, I decided to introduce my culture as well, through my cuisine, which is my passion.


What is your role in the business?

I have a family business with the support of my husband Pedro and my son Pedro Jr. They make things a bit easier for me, but my role here is to make sure every piece of the whole business is running and growing in the best way according to our values, mission and our vision for the future.


How long have you been in the food industry and what has that been like for you?


I arrived in the US in 2000 and started selling my tamales in 2001. In 2010, I started my business. 

I see the value of supporting one another and it is very important to me that my entire community can excel and make an impact. I feel very happy being able to provide employment to my community. I always keep in mind the goal of pushing the community ahead, so that our children can have better education and all the immigrants in my community can have the chance to change this country in a positive economic and social way.


What is something in your business journey you’re particularly proud of?

The difference between being a laborer and being an owner is enormous, Now I have so much more responsibility. My experience with this change is that in the beginning, I was focused on finding new clients. Now I’m generating new sales and creating tamales in all kinds of flavors. I am very proud of creating strategies for my five kitchens when it comes to preparation, cooking, assembling and cold prep. 


What are your thoughts on the service industry?

The service industry is a noble business, but at the same time it is very demanding when you want to offer great quality and service, so the commitment to serve the clients as best as possible grows. For me, cooking is so passionate that one gives their whole heart and soul to create delicious and traditional Mexican food.


What advice do you have for a woman looking to start a business in food? 

If you have the passion and love for food, just go for it, no matter what. My key values are patience, persistence, and never giving up.


What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while growing your business? 

Always make a plan, and break your goals down into smaller steps.


_57A2699Is there anything else you want people to know about your or your food?

The best tamales are stuffed with love and the best people are stuffed with my tamales! All our food is gluten-free, free of preservatives, clean, high quality, and handcrafted. Thank you so much for your support.


Edited by Leena Chitnis