SBA Partner and Minnesota Rural Community Rallies Around Immigrant Business Owner
Ruby Tungseth-Dowden, originally from the Philippines, grew up in the restaurant business. With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and while working in the health care industry, she began her small business journey in 2018 by selling eggrolls at festivals in Ottertail County, Minn. Even before that she was following her passion for cooking by feeding her coworkers at Lake Region Health Care. Soon, they started ordering her eggrolls, which she used to raise money for poorer families in the Philippines.
After two years selling eggrolls at special events around the area under a tent, Ruby’s community rallied around her and she created Ruby’s Pinoy Foods, which focuses on serving Filipino foods in the Fergus Falls area. Among others, Mayor Ben Schierer, owner of Union Pizza and Brewing, offered his pizza kitchen for her to make her eggrolls when they were closed on Sundays and Jaime Price-Anderson, owner of Variant Digital, helped Ruby create her first business plan and website at no charge.
With the support of her community behind her, Ruby connected with the Small Business Development Center for further assistance to grow her small business. Connecting with SBDC consultant Ryan Tungseth, who happens to be her first husband’s cousin, Ruby received support with licensing, business planning, finding and financing a food trailer for events and more. He also helped her get an SBA COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
According to Ruby, "I am so grateful to Ryan for helping me to start this business, connecting me to those people that are capable of helping me. He is a blessing to everyone." She went on to share that Ryan calls her regularly to see how’s she’s doing and “it’s like someone is walking with me on this journey. If I have questions, like about putting my eggrolls in the grocery store and Ryan is right there helping with the application forms.”
Ruby’s efforts and the help of her community and the SBDC have allowed Ruby’s Pinoy Foods to expand into two locations, one located in the City Bakery Building and one that’s mobile. It’s also allowed her to expand her product line to include pork adobo and to travel to more County Fairs to sell her products. She is hoping to get a bigger food truck and travel to large events like the state fair in the future.
With the help the SBDC and her community, Ruby has a thriving food business that allows for a good quality of life, including time away from the kitchen, in rural Minnesota.