Gabby Griffin, 15, supplies community with delicious, authentic tortillas while using her business to help abused women and children.
It takes strong hands to roll out hundreds of fresh tortillas every day. Fifteen-year-old Gabby Griffin definitely has strong hands, but she also has a strong spirit.
After going through something no child should have to endure — being physically and verbally abused by her father — Gabby, her mother and her two brothers moved to Foley from Arizona two years ago to start a new life. Now, Gabby is using her talents and her story to bring her family together and to help others.
Rolling out a business plan
Gabby has blossomed in Foley, and last November, she started her own business as part of the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA!) at Foley High School. YEA! students learn to write a business plan, pitch their idea to potential investors, obtain funding and launch their new companies.
“There were only seven of us in the class, and we were coming up with all these weird ideas,” Gabby says. “My instructor Rick Miller said to think of something bizarre that no one has here, and I thought about how one Christmas, I made 100 tortillas and they were all gone. I threw it out there in class as a joke, and it took off from there.”
Gabby has been making tortillas since she could walk. These handmade tortillas aren’t like the ones you’ll find in a store or even at any local Mexican restaurant. They’re tasty enough to enjoy by themselves — unlike store bought flour tortillas, Gabby’s tortillas are not too doughy, perfectly salted and are downright heavenly when served fresh and warm. Instead of being a bland vehicle for tasty fillings, these tortillas enhance the flavor of whatever fills them.
“My tortillas obviously are way different,” Gabby says. “Mine are a lot thinner, and they aren’t made with lard. I’m having a lot of fun introducing them here.”
YEA! instructor Rick Miller, who is the founder of Pro356 Consulting, a local business consulting company, says Gabby is a natural entrepreneur. Not only did she come up with a business plan, but she fearlessly tackled complex challenges that cripple some business owners, Miller says.
“Gabby is one of the youngest entrepreneurs I have ever met,” he says. “Entrepreneurship is all about taking calculated risks and stepping out and doing the hard work necessary to turn it into a business. Gabby is mature way beyond her years. A few years from now, when people are comparing her to Sister Schubert, we’ll know why.”
A little bit of home
Currently, Gabby makes all of the tortillas by hand in a small kitchen at the Summerdale Flea Market. She mixes the dough, lets it rise for 15 minutes, picks out perfectly sized balls of dough and rolls each one into a thin sheet. Then, she uses a cardboard template to cut the dough into a round disc and places it onto a custom-made cast iron pan that fits on all four burners of the stove.
“But I only put it on the two on the right because I like the way it cooks like that,” Gabby says. “When I have someone helping me, I can cook three tortillas at a time.”
Gabby is in her kitchen nearly every day, usually with her entire family. Weekends are spent rolling tortillas into the wee hours of the morning. During a normal week, Gabby and her family make hundreds of tortillas, and during busy weeks, they get into the thousands. The company’s tagline is “A little bit of home,” and Gabby says the love her family puts into each tortilla makes that ring true.
“My family is really supportive,” Gabby says. “Even my brothers pile in here Friday night and Saturday morning, and my older brother is the only one of the kids with a license, so he drives me everywhere.”
A “for purpose” business model
Gabby’s mother Loraine Ostema says rallying around Gabby’s business has been the perfect way for the family to heal and grow even closer after escaping the abusive situation in Arizona.
“We came from a real difficult time and the business just solidified what our family meant,” Loraine says. “This is our bonding time. It means a lot more than just starting a business. It was a very emotional thing for her to come to me and say, ‘I want to take this to the next level. Let’s use our recipe and make this happen.’ Watching her now is like a mom’s dream come true.”
Gabby says she shares her family’s story as much as possible, with the goal of giving hope to mothers and children who are experiencing similar situations. And as part of her original business model, Gabby describes her business as “for purpose” and is hoping to use her tortillas and her voice to help abused women and children. At the beginning, she pledged to donate two out of every 10 tortillas sold to a nonprofit organization, and she also wants to share her story with others.
“Looking back, we’re able to thank the Lord for even all the bad stuff because it’s led us here,” Loraine says. “Now we’re looking for agencies we can help. Somewhere out there, there’s a kid, a little girl or a mom who went through what we did, and we want to tell them it’s going to be OK.”
NAME: Gabby’s Tortillas
OWNER: Gabby Griffin
FIND HER TORTILLAS: Gabby’s Tortillas Café in the Summerdale Flea Market (Thursday–Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.); Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermen Market (Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
CONTACT: 251-597-4161, firstname.lastname@example.org