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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Little Village Teen Launches Artisanal Chamoy Company During Pandemic — And Sweet Picante Is Already A Hit

After gifting close friends and family the homemade sweet and spicy Mexican condiment, Xiomara Vargas started fielding orders in the late summer.

With the help from her mother, Little Village resident Xiomara Vargas, 16, unexpectedly launched a businesses amid the coronavirus stay at home order.
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LITTLE VILLAGE — A Little Village teenager used time at home during the pandemic to launch a business making artisanal chamoy with the help of her mom.

Xiomara Vargas, 16, decided to pass the time during the stay at home order by learning how to make chamoy, a sweet and spicy Mexican condiment made with fruits, candies, chiles and lime juice.

Early in the summer, Vargas experimented with finding the right taste before gifting chamoy to close family and friends. Friends of friends and Vargas’ extended family starting making requests for types of chamoy, the Lane Tech junior said.

What started as a hobby quickly turned into a businesses named Sweet Picante.

“Being indoors allowed me to use my free time to create Sweet Picante,” she said. “It’s exciting.” 

Now, a few months after launching, the 16-year-old said her menu has been shaped by many of the requests made early on. Among the products are fruits, including watermelon and mango, covered in chamoy and candies covered in chamoy, called dulce enchiladas.

An 8-ounce container of chamoy is $14, or it’s $24 for 16 ounces. The dulce enchiladas are $8 for 8 ounces or $16 for $16 ounces. With the help of Vargas’ mother, Veronica Vargas, they also added mini chocoflan ($8) and churro cheesecake cups ($9) to the menu.

Veronica Vargas, who taught her how to make a basic version of chamoy, said her daughter took it upon herself to use her time in a positive way. The two were surprised by how people immediately requested more chamoy.

Since August, they’ve sold near 200 products and have been invited to two pop-ups to sell items. Customers have placed orders through the Sweet Picante Instagram account, but the Vargases are working to launch a website soon.

“We are very proud of her and her determination … and [how she’s being] a positive youth, especially during this time,” Veronica Vargas said.

While Xiomara Vargas is just getting started, she has big dreams for Sweet Picante. She wants it to become a household name tied to Chicago — but, more importantly, Little Village.

Xiomara Vargas’ grandmother was a seamstress who ran a small business in Little Village that was largely supported through word of mouth. And just like for her grandmother’s business, Little Village has been supportive of Sweet Picante, the young entrepreneur said.

The community has had a big role in helping launch Sweet Picante, she said.

“In five years, I want my business to be a positive name for our community,” she said.

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