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Pasta Dal Cuore Owner Uses UCEDC Resources to Take Her Jersey City Restaurant and Pasta Factory to the Next Level

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From left: Erich Peter, UCEDC Director of Training & Technical Assistance; Elena Cartagena, Pasta Dal Cuore; Tim Lizura, EDA President & Chief Operating Officer

TRENTON, N.J. (April 11, 2018) – Entrepreneur Elena Cartagena could think of no more appropriate name for her fresh pasta factory and restaurant than Pasta Dal Cuore, which means “pasta from the heart” in Italian. The venture is, after all, a labor of love.

Today, Pasta Dal Cuore sells a variety of ravioli, cut pastas and gnocchi, all made fresh daily, in the heart of Jersey City. Patrons can also have dinner there every night except Monday, as well as brunch on Sunday.

Pasta Dal Cuore started out as a dream and a vision. In 2010, Cartagena, the daughter of an Uruguayan mother and a Puerto Rican father who met in Jersey City, quit an advertising job at the age of 30 to study pasta making at the International Culinary Center (ICC) in New York City. Her coursework at ICC provided her the opportunity to study in a tiny town outside of Parma, Italy. From there, the Sfoglina, as female pasta makers are called, worked at two well-known Italian restaurants in New York City before venturing out on her own as small business owner, choosing to bring her culinary talents back to Jersey City.

After opening Pasta Dal Cuore in 2014, Cartagena realized that the business side of pasta making was more challenging than she had imagined. Last year, she enrolled in Next Level Business Planning, a six-week workshop for small business owners  available through a partnership between the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and UCEDC, a nonprofit economic development corporation.

The program helps established entrepreneurs identify the barriers to success and create a practical, real-world plan to overcome them. Participants work closely with instructors during class and in off hours to create or refine their business plan.

“I’d been running Pasta Dal Cuore for three years when I realized I could use some help kicking it up a notch,” Cartagena said. “The Next Level Business Planning Course armed me with the practical tools I needed to navigate the world of business ownership.  And I acquired a new ‘tribe’ – other business owners going through the same things I was. It was an invaluable experience!”

Since UCEDC’s inception more than 40 years ago, 11,000 small business owners and fledgling entrepreneurs have participated in UCEDC’s various training programs. Last year alone, over 1,700 people participated in UCEDC training programs. Approximately 65 percent of the participants were women and over 50 percent were minorities.

“What’s great about our Next Level Business Planning Course is that, unlike the many resources we offer to help companies get off the ground, this one is designed for small business owners like Elena, who are already running their businesses and are looking for guidance on specific issues,” UCEDC Director of Training & Technical Assistance Erich Peter said. 

In addition to the training programs, UCEDC approved 61 small business loans in 2017, totaling $9.6 million. Minority-owned businesses accounted for 54 percent of those loans, while women-owned operations represented 69 percent. 

Accompanied by Peter, EDA President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Lizura visited Pasta Dal Cuore today, to raise awareness of resources available to small businesses throughout the state. The EDA offers a range of lending programs to provide access to low-cost financing for small and mid-sized businesses in New Jersey, and through its partnership with UCEDC, supports entrepreneurial development by providing access to training and mentoring programs.

“Pasta Dal Cuore’s success is a testament to the training sessions available through the longstanding partnership between the EDA and UCEDC, to the Jersey City community, and to Elena’s drive and determination,” Lizura said. 
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