Artisan cheese shop, Las Nubes, is the brainchild of Danitza Santiago, a private practice family lawyer of more than 12 years, who discovered her real passion: cheese.
Her husband owned a cheese factory that produced solely white cheese in which Santiago began to collaborate in her free time. The peace that working in that environment gave her, regardless of the hours spent, was much more gratifying to her than practicing law.
“I wanted to start cheese making in a much more different and creative way than that of my husband. I began researching about a year before the pandemic began. I researched every detail — the textures, flavors, aging terms, and materials like cow’s milk, goat’s milk and many more,” said Santiago.
All investments have come from their pockets. They did not receive any aid from the Agriculture Department. Their most significant investment comes from the purchase of milk, which runs at a couple of thousand dollars a month. In addition, another large investment is human capital.
“In the beginning, we paid our employees the minimum wage. However, as time went on, we provided official training to have them become certified artisans, this would ensure the quality of our product. It also meant that their salary needed to go up due to their qualifications and to ensure their permeance,” added Santiago.
Almost the entire staff of Las Nubes Artisan cheese shop is made up of women who were unemployed after the pandemic. Santiago found it necessary to contribute to solving unemployment in the island. She seeks to create around 20 more jobs with the opening of their next cheese factory.
“Our next factory will hopefully have funding from the Municipality of Aguas Buenas, because it will also include agritourism areas, cabins to rent, and sales of distinct local products,” said Santiago.
Currently, her cheeses are sold through the website, social media, and in Mojitos Café in Cayey. Furthermore, this month, she is waiting for the final approval from the Health Department to be able to sell her products wholesale in different supermarkets that have already pre-approved her products.
“Once the last health permit is issued, the Agriculture Department offered us to be part of the island’s brand. This is very important for us, as many more clients will gravitate toward our product if it has the sticker certifying that our product is 100% made in Puerto Rico,” said Santiago.