Behind The Dream: Maizal In Vancouver

Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building great local businesses, are sustaining the vibrant local communities we call home.

Rodrigo and Nana Vela, Owners of Maizal

From a young age, Rodrigo Vela knew exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up: open up his own restaurant.

While growing up in Mexico City, Mexico, Rod would spend countless hours learning how to perfect recipes from his mother and then testing out new creative dishes to serve to his family and friends. “I feel like that’s where many people learn how to cook, from their mom,” he said with a laugh.

At the young age of 26, inspired by his passion for the culinary arts, Rod set out to Montreal, Canada to further his education. He spent 8 months there and during his stay met his wife, Nana. Originally, Rod wanted to continue his culinary education in France, but after meeting Nana, his plans quickly changed. Together they moved back to Mexico City.

While in Mexico, Rod and Nana started their own catering company. While the company was successful, Rod knew that his true passion was to open up his own restaurant. He received a call one day from his former boss in Montreal who said he had an opportunity for him in Vancouver.

I did not know anything about Vancouver, but I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity of a lifetime. So, we shut down the catering company and moved back to Canada.

After arriving in Vancouver, Rod was given many different restaurant opportunities which provided him with the proper experience to finally open up his business. Eight years after moving to Vancouver, Rod and Nana finally opened up Maizal in May of 2017.

As a new business owner, Rod wanted to create a team who believed in his restaurant, in his recipes, and in him. He wanted to create a small menu which he and his team were able to excel and perfect, rather than have a larger menu of mediocre items. He wanted to continue to showcase and create authentically flavoured Mexican dishes that he can share with the Vancouver community and beyond.

He credits Yelp and their loyal customers for their instant success. “We barely did any marketing. We were too busy to do any marketing. It was all word of mouth, honestly.”

With a lifetime of culinary experience, Rod has a few pieces of advice for those wishing to start their own business:

  • Don’t wait to start your business. There is no perfect time to do so. If you keep waiting for the perfect time, you will never do it. So just do it.
  • Find a mentor and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s totally okay to ask questions and chat with like-minded business owners. Especially in a community like Vancouver, everyone wants to see local businesses succeed.
  • It’s a lot easier to start a business when you have a business plan laid out. Trust him on that one.

Having your own business is hard. The hours are long and you’re tired all the time, but every single moment is worth it knowing you’ve followed your dreams.

Want to know more? Check out Maizal on Yelp and if you find yourself in the Vancouver area be sure to check in on the app to claim a free handmade churro.