From Fashion to FlavorMay 22, 2022 07:30PM ● By Angela Davids
Suzanne Delica’s career path is a most unusual one. At the University of Florida, she studied to become an electrical engineer while running her own internet-based clothing boutique. She then took a position with a nuclear energy engineering firm, and after that, became the owner of “an upscale resale” clothing retailer in Columbia. So, what is she up to today? She’s the founder and CEO of BoCa Flavor — a flavoring company inspired by her Caribbean roots.
After graduating in 2011, she spent a couple of years with an engineering firm in Georgia, where she was accepted into a prestigious three-year young leaders program. However, she couldn’t let go of her entrepreneurial passion and started a business consulting firm on the side. Finally, in year three of the program, she said to herself, “I’m ready to make a difference with my time versus punching the clock.”
So, in 2016, she discovered the Clothes Mentor franchise, a reseller of higher-end clothing. Then, with a deep breath and the support of her boyfriend (now husband), she leveraged the sale of her condo and a hefty SBA loan to step out on her own full-time. As a black woman in her twenties, this was a major feat.
During the first two years, it was a challenge to break even, but by 2019, she was on track to achieve over half a million in sales. Then, the unthinkable happened. On August 25th, a gas explosion destroyed several stores, including Clothes Mentor, overfilled with soon-to-be-revealed merchandise for the fall season.
“To see that, to see your hopes and dreams in flames, was soul-crushing,” Delica said. “I went through so much to make that store a reality. From the community, my employees, the franchisor, and my friends and family, the overwhelming support it took to open the first Clothes Mentor in the state was a tremendous effort. To experience something so devastating, I was beside myself.”
Just a few weeks away from delivering her first son, she took time to regroup. In 2020, she began putting a plan in place to reopen, but once again, there was an unpredictable roadblock: COVID-19.
A born entrepreneur, Delica wouldn’t be stopped. Like so many people stuck at home, she cooked…and cooked. She and her best friend from college, Jelece Morris, complained about how hard it was to find Caribbean seasonings to cook the way their parents did. Delica’s parents are from Haiti, and Morris’s are from Jamaica.
“So many other people have the same feelings where there are all these great Caribbean flavorings that are hard for them to access, or if they do try to buy online, it takes forever to get them or are super expensive to ship,” Delica said.
It started with a chuckle, but then they said, “Wait. We can actually do this.” That was the start of BoCa Flavor and the launch of their signature product, Taíno Spice, an all-purpose, all-natural blend with a lower sodium content than typical seasonings. Ingredients are responsibly sourced, and each purchase supports the What If Foundation and Food For The Poor. Both are non-profits that help Caribbean citizens receive the necessary daily nutrition.
With incredible resilience, Delica has found her place in the world once again, as a successful business owner and mother of two.
“Being a mompreneur is a 24/7 job, where in the same hour that you’re packing a Bento box of healthy foods for the kids, you’re also executing a marketing campaign for your business,” Delica says. “Despite all the hurdles in pursuing higher-education, climbing the corporate ladder, and now being a full-time entrepreneur, being a mom has taught me the most about being flexible and adapting quickly. It’s perfectly fine to cry over spilled (plant-based) milk, but in the same breath, take a beat, adjust your crown, and push forward towards the goal in whatever way, inch, or mile, possible! Being successful is about onward and upward movement no matter how small the achievement or daunting the obstacle.”