Filipino Food Company Plans Expansion, Courtesy of Catapult Grant

Pinoy Cravings crew

Two local Asian-focused food businesses, Pinoy Cravings and Omusubee, recently won launch micro grants from Catapult Lakeland. Pinoy Cravings is a Filipino-inspired pop-up food company while Omusubee sells Japanese rice balls.

Pinoy Cravings will use the $10,000 it received to purchase a food trailer so it can increase its weekly pop-up events to five days a week, according to its owners, Josephine Colorina, 31, and Florencio “Jun” Dobrea Jr., 36.

Winning the grant “was unreal! My heart was filled with joy and I was so grateful!” Colorina said. “All the hard work is starting to pay off … It was a reward for facing my fear of public speaking and all the hard work we put [in] from the beginning.”

The Pinoy Cravings crew. From left, Florencio “Jun” Dobrea Jr., Josephine Colorina and RJ Moral.

“I always put [in] 102%, and it finally paid off. With no sleep, no days off, and body-aches now everything is starting to pave its way to our goal,” Dobrea said.

Dobrea and Colorina are friends who are originally from the Philippines but live in Lakeland currently. Colorina is a registered nurse and Dobrea has experience working in the food industry.

“I relocated here 2013 when I found a nursing opportunity in Florida, while Jun moved here about 17 years ago with his family,” Colorina said.

They created Pinoy Cravings in October 2020. They believed Lakeland lacked Filipino food offerings and wanted to create a company where they could share their food and culture with the community. The duo joined Catapult’s Kitchen Incubator in February of 2021, believing it would help them get their business up and running.

“Jun attended one of the classes Catapult offered in the past and learned that it [helped newer businesses] like us and they also [had] a commercial kitchen we could use. Being a Catapult member [has] opened a lot of [doors] for us and we gained a mentor, Maggie, who [has encouraged] and [guided] us since the beginning,” Colorina said.

Colorina describes the food they serve as “sweet and savory Filipino fare,” including street-style foods like Filipino BBQ on stick which they refer to as “sexy skewed,” lumpia (a fried spring roll), and pancit (stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and mixed veggies).

Colorina’s favorite meal is their fried chicken sandwich and adobo, a  garlic and soy-vinegar stew served with rice. Jun’s favorite is the sexy skewed and lechon, a pork belly roasted for six hours and filled with aromatics.

“We are both [self-taught] and influenced by our loved of Filipino foods. I also watch a lot of different cooking shows and enjoy cooking for my friends and family while Jun has been inspired by his grandmother,” Colorina said.

Pinoy Cravings is at the Lakeland Downtown Farmers Curb Market on Saturdays from 8-2 p.m., Buena Market, and also hosts pop-ups at Catapult, the Rec Room, Quinteassence Kava Bar, and the Poor Porker.

“Buena Market is one of the busiest markets we are a part of. We love the crowd at Buena and have great support every time we are there,” Colorina said. “We’ve seen a lot of support from the community. We believe that Lakeland is ready and open for diversity, which Pinoy Cravings is aiming to promote as well to Lakeland.”

They hope the food trailer will help them reach their goal of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant one day.

The Catapult Launch Micro-Grant helps small businesses gain access to capital who may typically have trouble qualifying for a bank loan. The grant is earned through an application process and pitch competition. Some of the requirements include the business must be between six months and five years old, have sales, be located in Lakeland, and a concept that’s new to Lakeland.

Since the program’s inception, 26 companies have earned grants and more than $205,000 has been awarded, according to the Catapult website. There’s also an opportunity for students attending local colleges and universities to receive a Student Launch Grant of $2,500. This money has been used in the past for things such as patents and prototypes.