Career Alternatives, Food

Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Tamale Maker

nancy andrade.jpgWould you swap corporate securities work for chipotle seasoning? Nancy Andrade did. The Catholic University ’93 grad quit her job at Katten Muchin in 2001, to start a family tamale-making business called Mexifeast. Their tamales are sold at Walmart, Whole Foods and Jewel.
So how did Andrade go from handling derivative claims to hawking corn-husked deliciousness? She tells the Chicago Tribune that her tamale-loving colleagues at Katten were part of the push in the frozen food business direction:

When I started at Katten (Muchin Rosenman) and people discovered I was Mexican-American, they’d ask me where to get good tamales.

Thank goodness for ethnic food stereotypes. Did Justice Sotomayor’s new colleagues ask her where to buy burritos in D.C.?
So how did Andrade respond to the tamale inquiries from her co-workers?

I told them my mom and dad, who had a small catering business, made the best. Then they’d ask if they could order some. So I created my own market day at the firm from Thanksgiving through Christmas. The first year we sold 200 dozen, the second 300 dozen.
That was an eye-opener. I realized we, as a family, should investigate expanding the business. A restaurant was too much work. So we decided to launch a tamale distribution business, outsourcing manufacturing.

The Tribune innocently asked her whether leaving law was hard. She explained that she wanted be a partner, but knew she could never be a rainmaker:

At the time we decided to start the company, I was evaluating my professional goals. I wanted to be fast-tracked to become partner. But I knew a big part of practicing law is bringing in clients.
As the child of Mexican immigrants, my parents just didn’t move in the social or business circles to help me. I loved law, but faced with that reality, I decided to take a chance and try something new.

Her immigrant background may have been a disadvantage in law, but her legal experience is an advantage in the food brokering business:

Because of [my legal experience], we made inroads faster at Whole Foods. Having worked with corporations, I speak the same language as the higher-ups. It was easier to get the product evaluated and down a faster track for distribution.

She also uses her legal experience in a more substantive way. In addition to being the company’s president, Andrade is Mexifeast’s general counsel.
We’ve written before about entrepreneurship being a viable career alternative for Biglaw types, and you don’t even have to have a killer tamale family recipe.
Attorney makes entrepreneurial leap [Chicago Tribune]
Earlier: Career Alternatives for Attorneys: Entrepreneur / Small (or Not So Small) Business Owner

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