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DENVER (KDVR) — The owner of a Denver restaurant is catching the eye of the nation’s second leader in command.

Vice President Kamala Harris invited the owner of Maria Empanada to the White House as a part of a unique celebration of Latino businesses. It was not the first time this Colorado business owner has been selected to be honored by the VP.

Lorena Cantarovici owns Maria Empanada. A little more than a year and a half ago, she got a visit from Vice President Kamala Harris, who was checking in on small businesses amid the pandemic. Chosen thanks to her leadership and success as a minority, Cantarovici said things are better now but challenges still exist in the restaurant industry.

“We are suffering a lot of challenges,” Cantarovici said. “Some people are quitting, some people are saying, you know, enough! I mean, this is not what I want. This is another thing this beautiful country can give us. So having this recognition, it makes me feel that I need to continue.”

Employees ‘incubators of the American dream’

Cantarovici was invited to be part of the celebration of Latino business owners in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. She said this shows that her business is more than a restaurant.

“We feel like a company that isn’t only selling empanadas. We bring hope, and that is very nice. And I do have employees that are Latinos, are sort of incubators of the American dream. So this feels very good,” she said.

While Cantarovici said the recognition is great, she said the conversations around strengthening Latino businesses have to continue.

“What I expect and I hope is that there are more Latinas in any industry and that we continue talking and communicating. Not protesting, but communicating exactly what we need, and I think we will be listened to,” Cantarovici said.

She hopes the White House will continue to reach out to Colorado businesses when they consider people to highlight in the future.