Can tweets, hope and Facebook keep debt-ridden Tampa tortilla maker going?

TAMPA

A social media campaign to save a local tortilla company may be working — at least one business owner hopes so.

After a Web site highlighting the company's financial struggles launched in June, La Bonita Olé has nearly 900 followers on Twitter, more than 400 Facebook fans, and 1,200 petition signatures spreading owner Tammy Young's story online.

Young hoped to avoid the sale of her business to new management by proving her company's worth and popularity to SunTrust Bank. She hired a social media strategist who came up with the idea to engage the public online.

In the months since, tweets and Facebook comments have pleaded for SunTrust to keep La Bonita Olé, at 5804 E Columbus Drive, alive with its current management.

For now, a hearing originally set for Wednesday has been canceled indefinitely in hopes that the bank and company reach a joint plan, Young says.

The ordeal began last year when the $12 million tortilla manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That move put Young at risk of losing the company. She owes SunTrust more than $3 million for loans taken out in 2006 to pay for expansion into a new facility and the growing pains that followed.

Bill Krueger, a SunTrust vice president, declined to comment for this story.

The bank was not happy with the 17-year-old company's online campaign. Officials filed an emergency motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on June 24 seeking the shutdown of SaveTheTortillas.com for its "misstatements of fact and law," according to court documents. A judge ruled for Young to remove some statements, but allowed her to keep the Web site.

The campaign has boosted brand awareness and possibly sales, Young says, but negotiation is what she really wanted.

"Yep," Young said. "But it's not done yet."

Ileana Morales can be reached at imorales@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Can tweets, hope and Facebook keep debt-ridden Tampa tortilla maker going? 08/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 12:41pm]

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