In 2007, Angelica Noyola was on top of the world. She was a general manager for one of Houston’s leading iconic Ninfa’s Restaurants.
Her business acumen and available investment capital were the perfect combinations to be recruited away to start her dream, a seafood restaurant and catering service she called Snapper Jack’s.
Noyola’s story had all the elements of another rag to riches immigrant story. That eventful day in 1991, she applied on pre-opening at Ninfa’s Restaurant in The Woodlands.
She was excited just to have a job, and it mattered not that her position was washing glasses in the back bar.
Noyola’s work ethic, dedication and willingness to go the extra mile quickly became noticeable to management and she quickly rose through the ranks of the restaurant’s hierarchy.
The retail restaurant business is a competitive, demanding and grueling field, where chaos is managed behind the scenes every day to create a new customer and retain a repeat patron.
In this mix of clientele, employees, equipment, and food preparation, Noyola lost herself in the Zen of the pursuit of superb Tex-Mex cuisine and customer service.
After mastering the restaurant management side, her employer raised the stakes to handle the catering mix of the business simultaneously.
This process is the equivalent of the Olympics of food service due to the compounded risks of things going wrong when a complex operation goes mobile and you have hundreds of customers.
Of course, Noyola used her people skills in conjunction with her obsession for excellence and she always had backup plans when things didn’t turn out as scheduled to pull this challenge off.
With the passage of time, she became an artist at her craft. Week after week corporate and institutional clients requested her product and service. Her business volume and unsolicited accolades were her curricula that got the attention for her partners, a married couple, who in their own right, were equally successful restaurant owners.
When Noyola accepted the offer to transition and launch her business, there was nothing Ninfa’s management could do to change her mind.
This departure was no longer about income, but about owning her operation and building a legacy for her future generations like Ninfa Rodriguez had done for her family.
So with two loyal employees, a 10-year-old commercial kitchen, and investment capital her rags to riches saga would be washed and rinsed to repeat all over.
The selected business location was in Jersey Village on Highway 290, as this was the only site available on short notice, to service the catering customer base that chose to stay with Noyola.
Through hard work and a commitment to do whatever it takes, the business quickly sped past the start-up phase in a relatively short time and into an established company with revenues of over a million dollars a year and an extensive staff.
Once again Noyola was on top of the world and at the top of her game. Things, however, began to take a turn with the expansion of the highway disrupting the traffic flow.
The construction drastically affected the retail side of the restaurant and to make matters worse, Noyola’s married partners decided to divorce and divide the restaurant’s assets.
Noyola’s fairy tale was quickly unraveling into a nightmare, and after a year of negotiations, her partners decided in the winter of 2015 to liquidate the property.
If things couldn’t get any worse, in the processes of shutting down, Noyola discovered that she had no legal ownership in the business. She was just a key employee.
She trusted the verbal agreement of a shared partnership, but she never received a recorded legal claim.
Then came the final blow, Noyola was involved in a severe auto accident that made her bedridden for several months.
As she was going through this, she prayed that this nightmare end so she could wake up. However, with the passage of time reality set in and she plunged into a deep depression.
It was in those dark days that her character coalesced and her destiny defined. An inner voice told her she could do it again and encouraged her to keep going.
She could never go work for anyone after tasting entrepreneurial success, even if was all in her mind. She had obtained a degree and graduated with honors from the school of hard knocks.
She pulled herself out of bed and with mostly grit, she started all over again. In litigating her rights, a judge awarded her the restaurant name as sweat equity for her years of sacrifice.
That name embodied her personal brand and essentially a dream yet to be realized.
In 2016 with a small loan, she rented a tiny restaurant with a small kitchen to rise from the ashes.
She and her husband Fernando quickly cleaned up, painted, and decorated the micro-restaurant to welcome her faithful followers.
Through this process, the adrenalin and excitement lessened the pain she was still feeling from the accident.
The neck brace she wore was a daily reminder to keep her head up and keep going.
That was the easy part but now came the Herculean task of bidding on large catering contracts to large corporate accounts and agencies to win them back after they had moved on.
Overcoming adversity, always learning and a burning passion for never giving up is what now drives Noyola to rebuild her business and leave a legacy behind.
Her inspiration comes from her immediate and extended family. When asked what Mama Ninfa, (as she was affectionately known) would say to her if she was alive? Noyola responded with a conviction of inspiration, “DON’T GIVE UP MIJA.”