(HARLINGEN) – From serving as president of the Texas State Technical College Student Government Association to being president and chief executive officer of her own coffee and food catering business, Café Canasto, Johanna Lozano has come a long way.
Lozano recently catered
the SGA Open House for TSTC’s Spring 2019 Welcome Week and provided specialty
Colombian coffees, hot chocolate and cuisine to the delight of visitors,
students, faculty and staff.
“It feels so surreal
being back as a business owner,” said Lozano. “All my dreams are coming true,
and I credit the education I got at TSTC for a large part of my
The 33-year-old, with a
background in bilingual education, came to the United States from Colombia and
settled in Massachusetts in 2004.
With an entrepreneurial
spirit and a dream, Lozano earned an associate degree in marketing and business
analytics from Johnson & Wales University in 2012.
“A coffee shop is
something I’ve always wanted,” said Lozano. “Management and business for me is
Having grown up in
Colombia on a coffee farm, opening a specialty coffee shop just made sense to
When she and her husband
relocated to Harlingen, Lozano enrolled in TSTC’s Business Management
Technology program. She ended up getting a lot more than she bargained for.
“TSTC not only taught me
business, but also leadership,” she said. “I was given so many opportunities to
get involved on campus and in my community that it all laid a foundation for
what I’m doing now.”
As a student at TSTC,
Lozano served as secretary and president of the SGA; served in the TSTC Service
Squad, earning a President’s Volunteer Service Award for more than 500 hours of
community service; and served in the TSTC Leadership Academy and in Leadership
“I am so grateful for
the support I continue to receive from TSTC,” she said. “All of these
experiences allowed me to meet new people and make new friends. It has all
opened so many doors for me.”
Lozano graduated from
TSTC with an associate degree in 2015, and because of her leadership roles on
campus, she had the opportunity to sit on the boards of Keep Harlingen
Beautiful and the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation.
Shortly after graduating
and saving up some money, Lozano took her education and leadership experience
to begin the planning phase of opening Café Canasto with the help of the
Women’s Business Center in Brownsville, the Small Business Administration in
Harlingen, and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Adopt a Startup
“It still feels like I’m
dreaming,” said Lozano. “All of the research, planning, every business trip to
Colombia, and blood, sweat and tears are beginning to pay off.”
Lozano said she is proud
of her Colombian heritage, which is the reason her business is named Café
“Canasto is the basket
the coffee farmers put the coffee beans in when they’re picked. And since I’m
importing my coffee from Colombia, I want my business to pay homage to their
hard work,” said Lozano.
business is gaining popularity among folks in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond.
Besides the specialty
coffees Lozano serves, she also has a menu of Colombian cuisine consisting of
chicken and beef empanadas, chorizo and beef arepas, and desserts.
“We want to offer our
customers more than just a menu — we want to offer them a Colombian
experience,” said Lozano. “We want them to feel, if even just for a moment,
like they’re in Colombia.”
Although starting a
business hasn’t been without its challenges, Lozano said it is her support
system that keeps her going.
“I have received so much
support from my community, family and husband in this endeavor that even when I
come upon challenges, they’re not so bad because of the people I have by my
side,” said Lozano. “And I hope to continue catering at TSTC because I’m so
proud that it’s my alma mater, and I hope that my story can help other students.”