Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork | UncommonGoods

Hipatia Lopez with the Empanada Fork in her New Jersey Kitchen

While preparing for a holiday feast, Hipatia Lopez found herself facing 100 empanadas that needed closing. She may have finished the project with sore hands, but it gave her the idea to invent the Empanada Fork, a tool that closes empanadas, turnovers, and pastries in no time.

While many of our Studio Tours give readers a look inside creative spaces of makers of handmade goods, Hipatia’s story is a little different-and must-read for anyone who’s ever thought-up a problem-solving product, but isn’t sure what to do next. Hipatia wasn’t trained as a product designer and didn’t have a line of inventions to her name, but she was motivated. She knew she was on to something, and decided to take the next step and turn her idea into the real deal.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to physically travel to Hipatia’s home in New Jersey to learn about her process, but through phone calls, emails, and snapshots, Hipatia helped me create a virtual tour of her creative space (and kitchen).

Empanada Fork with Dough | UncommonGoods

The Empanada Fork in action

What are your most essential tools?

My most essential tools, that I use on a daily basis, are my computer and iPhone.

Once you knew you wanted to create the Empanada Fork, what steps did you take to make it happen?

I contacted a product architect to help me put my design to life on paper.

Top: Hipatia's Office

Hipatia’s office

Where do you find inspiration?

The inspiration to start my business began around the kitchen table. It was during the holiday season and we were hosting a party at our house. My husband is the main cook in our household. We had empanadas on the menu. They are usually a big hit at our parties. We were making 100 of them. As I was sealing the empanadas, I became frustrated because this last step was taking so long to do. I had all three of my children helping me close the empanadas. I jokingly stated, “I am going to invent a utensil to help me.” I found myself thinking about this idea 24/7. I decided to do some research online. Eventually, I finally decided to contact a patent lawyer and the journey began.

Hipatia knew she was on to something special, and patented her idea

Hipatia's patent for the Empanada Fork

Where does downtime fit into your day?

My real downtime is Sundays only. Owning a business is like being on call every day, but [when] you love what you do, then it’s fine.

What was the toughest lesson you learned as a young designer starting a business?

I have learned that it is perfectly okay to ask others for their opinion and help if needed. I tend to control it all and realized that is not good all the time.

Hipatia with finished empanada's

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?

The advice I would give is to stop overthinking things and worrying so much. Fear tends to get in the way of things you really want to do. I would say try everything once; crazy ideas can turn into something great. As long as you work hard, success will follow.

How do you set goals for yourself?

I do weekly goals. I make a list of three things I want to accomplish that week and as long as I cross things off that list then I feel great!

A painting in Hipatia's space

Storage and decorations in Hipatia's space

Hipatia keeps some reminders of her cultural heritage in her creative space, include the above painting and a poster featuring Latina superhero, Borinquena

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?

I celebrate any victory with my family. It can be an outing for dinner or overnight somewhere. I have three kids that are my fuel in life to keep going. I absolutely love family time, bonding, and making memories!

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?

“Appreciate the things you have now and every day is a blessing.” The quote keeps me focused and makes me remember to be grateful and thankful. I take nothing for granted.

Appreciate the things you have now

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to help your business?

My marketing social media skills help my business so much. I would like to learn more about the process of licensing a product.

How do you recharge your creativity?

I recharge my creativity by surrounding myself with like-minded individuals. We feed off each other’s energy to create.

Where does collaboration come into play in your work?

I do collaborations with cooks, chefs, foodie bloggers, etc. I love pictures of their creations done by using Empanada Fork Utensil.

The Empanada Fork, invented by Hipatia Lopez | UncommonGoods

Get the Empanada Fork Now | UncommonGoods

Cassie

Cassie spends most of her time at work writing and editing things. She loves books (including comics), sketch comedy, and sci-fi. She’s inspired by art and science. As a former Minnesotan, she longs for an afternoon on a lake, Grain Belt in hand. The New Yorker in her is happy spending that afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History instead.