Neyda Carballo-Ricardo left a socialist regime, arriving at the doorsteps of New York from Cuba with two young children, a suitcase, and a few dollars in her pocket.
Because her foreign degrees and diplomas were not transferable, she began from square one to attain her GED, Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor of Medicine degrees, all while raising two children. While most would call her an immigrant confronting a challenging set of circumstances, Carballo-Ricardo called herself an entrepreneur in a land of opportunity. Excited to start a new life that would provide better options for her children, she rigorously worked to start her own business.
“When you want something, you go and get it,” says Carballo-Ricardo. “That’s just how I work because there’s no time to make excuses.”
Today, Carballo-Ricardo has a thriving family business that sells health and nutritional supplements called L.A. Farmacia Natural. In addition to selling supplements, she also speaks on multiple Spanish radio programs daily, and offers free consulting sessions and clinics at her community spa. Built on genuine hopes to educate and inspire the Hispanic community to adopt healthier lifestyles, this East West Bank client’s success points to the importance of defining a target audience and understanding how to best address their needs.
L.A. Farmacia Natural had humble beginnings in New Jersey, two years after Carballo-Ricardo immigrated to the U.S. in 1973.
“We bought a dilapidated house, which we collectively worked on as a family to rebuild,” recalls Carballo-Ricardo. “We were so poor back then that we had to use recycled nails and paint.” Over time and after a considerable amount of work, the house eventually transformed into a spa, gym and nutrition store.
While Carballo-Ricardo worked on the house, she tuned into the radio and became familiar with a radio host named Gary Null. His program not only helped her practice English and medical knowledge, it also spurred the idea of having her own radio talk show one day. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to do this one day in Spanish,’” says Carballo-Ricardo. She enrolled in Gary Null’s school of nutrition and was invited to speak on his radio talk show for the vast, Spanish-speaking community throughout greater New York. After a few years, Carballo-Ricardo came to understand the market penetration and reach that the radio program provided, and decided to start her own Spanish radio talk show discussing health, nutrition and many other lifestyle topics.
"Successful people take that extra step to listen to their audience and to make their interaction with the product or service as best as possible."
At first scheduled to air only once a week, popularity and demand for her talk show grew, and her presence within the Latin community also grew in proportion. “Many of my listeners don’t speak English well, many of them don’t have healthcare, and many of them are afraid to go to the hospital,” says Carballo-Ricardo. Having understood the situation and needs of her audience, her personal mission became teaching them how to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle, self-diagnose any medical conditions, and offering free clinics. The more she engaged with her audience and helped them in a positive light, the more her audience base grew. “I mentioned my products on the talk shows and the health benefits of combining health supplements with a stable lifestyle. As sales increased, I inaugurated more stores and held free counseling clinics.” Today, L.A. Farmacia has eight stores in Southern California and one in Las Vegas, Nev., and recently moved into a new corporate headquarters building in Burbank.
“It’s inspiring to see that the company had outgrown their leased space,” says Alex Kim, East West Bank senior vice president and sales manager for Small Business Administration Loans (SBA). “SBA loans let borrowers acquire a building for as low as 10 percent down, and I’m not aware of any other loan program that allows that.”
Los Angeles became a more permanent location for Carballo-Ricardo and her business after she was invited to speak at a radio show for a 30-minute interview segment and ended up speaking for the entire program, which was more than four hours long. “The phones kept ringing off the hook,” recalls Carballo-Ricardo. “People had so many questions and were so grateful to have them answered.”
Inspired by this experience, Carballo-Ricardo came back to Los Angeles to hold a free conference in 1996 to discuss common health conditions and nutritional kinds of preventative strategies. Held at the local Holiday Inn in Commerce, Los Angeles, the conference was quickly filled over capacity, as Carballo-Ricardo recalls more than 3,000 people attending.
Carballo-Ricardo proudly says, “We then realized Los Angeles’ market potential, and we moved to the West Coast shortly after. Since then, I’ve been on air as a radio talk host on KWKW 1330 Radio AM and KTNQ 1020 AM with my program, ‘Nutricion al Dia,’ while also expanding my L.A. Farmacia Natural business out here.” Demand for her educational health programs and advice remains strong within the Hispanic community, as most are without proper healthcare and are non-native English speakers.
“I was lucky to have found my calling,” says Carballo-Ricardo. “Helping people in my community has always been a priority. Once you identify your passion, I believe that the money simply follows.”
According to customer loyalty statistics, 77 percent of people are considered brand loyal, and of this number, 37 percent are repeat customers. Consumers want to be loyal to brands, but establishing rapport with your audience is only step one; maintaining their interest and trust are much more challenging endeavors for most businesses. L.A. Farmacia Natural thrives, however, on returning customers and loyal fans of Carballo-Ricardo.
“You have to make it personal,” Carballo-Ricardo advises. “One size doesn’t fit all, and everyone has unique situations that need to be addressed with genuine care.” Simple lip service will discourage people from coming back to seek advice. 86 percent of consumers say that loyalty is driven by likeability, and 83 percent believe that their loyalty is built on trust. “Successful people take that extra step to listen to their audience and to make their interaction with the product or service as best as possible,” she adds.
Retaining a loyal consumer base has been possible in part because of Carballo-Ricardo’s consistent presence within the Hispanic population, perceived trust and expertise through word of mouth, and active participation in the community. These factors have built Carballo-Ricardo’s brand throughout the years. When she recently opened a holistic health center called Happy & Relaxed that offers everything from reiki to meditation clinics, Carballo-Ricardo made it a point to make all services affordable and accessible to her customers. “My biggest goal with this wellness center is to guide people and have them realize that self-help and self-care are within their means,” says Carballo-Ricardo. “It’s an extension of my gratitude toward my community. I want people to take the best care of themselves to live a happy and healthy life.”