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Rising Stars: Meet Carol Lara

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carol Lara.

Carol, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Since I was a kid, I always wanted to own my own business and now I have two. Growing up with immigrant parents from Peru, I was raised with a drive to thrive and blind optimism. I was raised to run wild with my ideas and dreams. I’ve always thought I could do anything I put my mind to. I developed my first passion of photography when I was 19 working in a camera store. I was allowed to borrow the cameras and I loosely listened in the classes they taught. Mainly, I was self-taught. When I was 33 years old I was creating jewelry that I wanted to take pictures of to begin selling. I picked up the camera again after 14 years and haven’t put put it down since. I created a photography business that includes photographing intimate beauty portraits to helping small businesses with their products. I have been doing this full-time since 2012.

Most recently, after my mother’s passing, my father came to live with me. Although it’s been a time of grieving, it’s also been a time of healing together. My father has always been an entrepreneur and recently, he encouraged me to pursue an idea that we came up with many years ago. It was the idea to open a churro business. We knew the churros in Peru were delicious and we had imagined us having a place here in St. Louis where people could enjoy them as well. All it took was for me to bring it up and he said, “Yes Carol, you have to do it!” So, I talked to my husband and we went for it. It picked up so much steam right from the start and we just had our first official Pop-up at Earthbound Beer on May 1st. Our churros are fun and creative! And that’s just the way I like to do things – different.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not always been a smooth road for me. There have been times when I felt like giving up on my photography business for lack gaining clients in certain genres that I wanted to focus on, but there is always room to reinvent yourself. I have done this several times and there’s always something to learn that makes my business better. The food business is a whole new ball game for me and there are a lot of hoops to jump through, way more than I ever expected. But I know what I want and I will get through each and every hoop to get there no matter how long it takes.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My photography business is Carol Lara Photography and my Churro business is El Papi Churro LLC.

For my photography business, I always say I specialize in people. From dramatic artistic portraits to product photography for small businesses that I love to support, the connection with others is what drives me to create images that people can be proud of.

For my churro business, I am proud that I didn’t let anything hold me back from diving into a whole new field of work. We know that there is nothing else like this in St. Louis and we are so excited to be the first!

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love the cultural diversity in our city. I love the people who embrace it as well. I love being a tourist in my own city because there is so much to discover. I don’t love the racism and xenophobia that still exists in some pockets of our area. But when I listen and watch the younger generation like my daughter, my nephews and niece, it gives me hope for a better future here.

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