women owned business, latina owned, business beginings, puerto rico, family owned, family ties, heritage, gourmet snack, the panza, guava snacks, chococlate sea salt, coconut, fig, panza sticks, coffee, wine, tea, ice cream


Gianna looking at a chocolate sea salt Panza Stick


Metamorphosis [from a muffin pan to a Panza stick]

Making desserts is therapeutic for me, although I must admit I do not possess much of a ‘sweet tooth’. On a particular day I needed to de-stressed, so off to the kitchen I went. There I was, fully sunken into my ‘dessert therapy’. Bored of making the usual guava tart, I found a muffin pan and started to experiment. Those became the ‘guava bites’ and in a short time, they were sold to coffee shops and restaurants in Puerto Rico. The ‘guava bites’ were even featured as part of an article in Coastal Living Magazine.

Fast forward to January 2019. It had been seven years since my husband and I had moved to Colorado. He sold his company, which led to a legal case that’s still in the courts and became a stay at home day to our baby girl. Meanwhile, I’m working full time as a CO Real Estate Agent. Life was good, but crazy at the same time. A roller coaster ride, that you really don’t know where it starts or ends. But you’re riding it regardless. By then we were itching for more. For something that is not only fully ours and can provide for our entire family, but also represents who we truly are. As well as set an example for our daughter. Show her to believe in something, to work hard and that will lead to success. Regardless of the million missteps along the way.

For some reason, my husband’s ever-running entrepreneurial mind would always go back to the ‘guava bites’. He was always certain that “there’s something special in those little things”. And as much I might dislike telling him that “he’s right”, this time he really was. After months of molding, rolling dough and baking at every hour of the day (and night). Searching through infinite baking videos/articles and never-ending sampling. One day we had finally reached our goal. Enter Panza sticks, a thin, crispy, unique product that anyone can enjoy and would want more and more of. The Panza officially launched in March 2019 as a proud 100% Women Owned Business and we haven’t stopped growing and evolving since.

Undoubtedly, the struggle has been very real. Starting something from basically nothing has numerous challenges, multiple hurdles and the learning curve can be extremely rough. But the future is bright and full of opportunity. I feel that the love and hard work placed into Panza will allow us to bring some togetherness and cherished memories to all those who enjoy them.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

Turning an idea into a reality is never easy, the struggle is real and the new challenges never stop coming one’s way. But every hurdle is a learning experience and failing means you tried. It is what we learn from the struggle and how we recover that teaches us the most. If we don’t analyze what went wrong and figure out a new way, we have truly accomplished nothing and will be bound to fall into the same trap.

My background is in design and art history. At a professional level, food manufacturing is a whole new world. A new ‘language’, terminologies, processes and a million different things that I’ve had to learn. But in the end, this is all for my daughter’s and family’s future, so I’m determined to learn it all. 

I’m an over-thinking introvert and just the thought of walking up to someone with my product is borderline mortifying. This has been the biggest struggle, but mind over matter. The confidence I have in The Panza and that it’s all for my family, makes me push through even more every day.

The Panza – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?

The Panza specializes in unique thin gourmet sticks. We gave a modern twist on an old family recipe that pays homage to our Euro-Caribbean heritage and culture. Light sweetness, both crispy and chewy, but always bursting with flavor. Our signature sticks are guava sticks. An ideal companion to coffee or tea, or to enjoy as a flavorful snack low in calories. Available combinations include guava/coconut, plain sugar, chocolate chip and peanut butter/guava, among others. Panza’s sea salt collection was designed to be paired with wine, beer or spirits. We also have a non-guava selection, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I couldn’t be prouder of the incredibly positive response we’ve had from everyone that has tasted Panza. It is an amazing feeling to hear back from our customers, and especially those that write back “I just can’t stop eating Panza sticks!!”

What is “success” or “successful” for you?

For me, success is defined by how we overcome the struggles and challenges that life places upon us. The paths we choose to take, how we learn from mistakes and pick ourselves up afterward. How we pass down the knowledge gained and help others in need. To always be humble, thankful and have empathy for all around us. To be a leader that empowers others to be their best and tries to make the world a better place for all.


(edited excerpt from VogageDenver interview Jan 2020)

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