Arkansas Small Business Success Story -Rafael Rios

Arkansas District Office

u s small business administration

Army Cook Finds Purpose Serving with International Chefs

Rafael Rios, CEO Yeyo’s Mexican Grill

 

Serving in Germany, Korea and Afghanistan was no walk in the park for Army Veteran Rafael Rios, but after the dust settled, he found his passion serving up farm-to-table ingredients alongside his family on their farm. Rafa, as his friends call him, decided to turn his military experiences into a business. 

Rios says, “I’ve been passionate about cooking since I was a kid, but I also wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, which led me to enlist in the Army.” While on active duty, partnerships with Turkish and Afghan chefs gave him a deep appreciation for local, traditional cuisine and cooking techniques.

After 15 years in the Army, Rios’ passion for artisanal food eventually led him to Arkansas, where he and his brother worked on their father’s farm. As the farm’s growth outpaced the family’s needs, the surplus led to creating a food truck, Yeyo’s Mexican Grill. Rios belief believes that the most flavorful cuisine is “made with the best, highest quality products.”  Naturally, he sourced ingredients locally from the Rios family farm, founded by his father Hector Rios, who they called “YeYo.”

Customers immediately fell in love with Rios’ vision and the food, and the food truck was a smashing success. Over the next few years of growth, Rios and his brother worked with SBA resource partners Arkansas Small Business Technology Development Center and participated in SBA’s Scale Up accelerator Scale Up Ozarks with Start-Up Junkie Consulting to perfect their business. Within a few years, the food truck turned into a brick-and-mortar restaurant at the new 8th Street market, where Rios worked with Legacy Bank in Springdale to secure an SBA 7(a) loan to help fund the expansion. 

Today, Rios is the CEO of Yeyo’s Mexican Group, LLC which boasts three locations in Northwest Arkansas. Rios is proud to work alongside his family. Rios’ authentic Mexican cuisine touches more than our palettes. The business currently employs more than 25 people and has plans for additional expansion.  Rafael’s vision is to continue to grow by offering chips, tortillas, salsas, and a frozen food line so he can bring authentic Yeyo’s cuisine into homes around the globe.

 

Each year the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates, connects, and empowers service members during National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW). This marks the sixth annual NVSBW.

Join SBA district offices, resources partners, and other organizations as we celebrate the veteran- and military-owned business community at events near you.

Follow us on Twitter @SBA_Arkansas where we will highlight the tools and resources used to help


  • The information contained in this publication does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.