Arepa is a staple dish in South America, but not many companies in the US can replicate the authentic taste. Venezuelan sisters Maria Fernanda and Maria Corina Cabezas found this out when they migrated. The two Maria’s are reintroducing the food they love with TOAST-IT and secured a deal with Daniel Lubetzky on Shark Tank. As of 2023, TOAST-IT is worth an estimated $2 million.
About the Founders
Maria Fernanda “Mafe” and Maria Corina “Coco” left their home country to study in the United States. Mafe studied corporate finance, and Coco got a master’s degree in data science at UC Berkeley.
After graduating college, Mafe worked at major companies like CitiBank, Pepsico, and Pfizer. Coco also took the corporate route initially, but always wanted to become an entrepreneur.
The Cabezas sisters had busy lifestyles in Miami but one thing that united them was their longing for Venezuelan cuisine. They found a few stores selling one of their favorites, arepas, but it didn’t taste the same as back home.
The ingredients used were unhealthy, and it was rare to see original recipes. Mafe conducted market research and became aware of the massive gap for authentic Hispanic cuisine. She planned to launch a business venture and her sister was keen to join.
Founding TOAST-IT Arepas
The dos Marias got their mom’s recipes, and TOAST-IT was born in 2020. Coco was hands-on in making the arepas, while Mafe was in charge of packaging. At the time, she had to juggle her job with Pepsico.
They launched the Venezuelan food item that was as genuine and as healthy as possible, but also tailored it for an American audience. It was frozen, pre-cooked cornmeal flour that can be toasted in an air fryer, toaster, or oven.
Mafe and Coco excelled in advertising, and within three years got TOAST-IT into over 800 retail stores. The sisters are long-time Shark Tank fans and practiced pitching in front of friends and family non-stop. The episode was filmed on June 13 2023 and had to wait less than four months for it to air.
After Shark Tank
Although the episode has just aired, the girls have noticed a big uptick in website traffic and emails from interested customers. The publicity alone should help them sell at least $100,000 of products in the next week as just under 3.5 million people will watch the episode live. The deal with Daniel should close within the next four months.
Viewers will be enticed to try out their arepas, and if you’re one of them, you can order online at ToastItFoods.com. You can also buy them in-store at Walmart, Whole Foods, Milam’s and Central Market. In 2021, the authentic arepas also became available in 500 Publix locations. The girls are selling a Shark Tank bundle deal for $55.99! In the long-term, the business will need to lower their cost of goods to improve profitability.
Currently, they sell three flavors: Original, Cassava, and Chia Flaxseed. On their website, the Chia Flaxseed flavor has a 5-star rating, while the other two average 4.5 stars. Recently, the company has expanded beyond just arepas and now sells Pandebono Bites.