2015 Success Stories
- Nancy and David Ortiz, Buenaventura Travel Agency
Colombian immigrants Nancy and David Ortiz have been running Buenaventura Travel Agency since 1983, but needed to upgrade their equipment to compete with online booking firms. Thanks to a $5,000 MMS loan from Working Solutions they were able to make the changes they needed.
- Aureliano Lopez, Tacos el Tizon
Women’s Economic Ventures helped Aureliano Lopez formalize his business, and put him on a solid footing so he can expand it new locations.
- Nikki Dailey, HEAT Culinary
This story comes to us from Women’s Economic Ventures. HEAT Culinary was one of WEV’s first applicants under the Microloan Management System (MMS), and has gone on to great success since receiving a loan from the organization.
“MMS has been tremendously helpful for us,” said Devon Johnson, WEV’s Director of Lending. “We’ve been ...
- Jatinder Mann, Tranquility Market
A loan from Fresno CDFI in 2014 helped Jatinder Mann purchase the store that he had been leasing for the previous nine years.
- Daniel Yoshimi and Jennifer Yannella, Brasil Arts Café
Daniel Yoshimi and Jennifer Yannella had the passion and funding to open their own business, but needed help from WEV putting their business plan together and keeping focused.
- Paul LaRocco, LaRocco’s Pizzeria
Despite having run two successful restaurants, banks considered Paul LaRocco’s pizzeria “too new” because he was self-employed. Thankfully, Pacific Coast Regional was there to get him the loan he needed to grow.
- Sandy Patterson, New 2 You
Inspired by a JEDI class, Sandy Patterson launched New 2 You, a community-focused thrift store in Mount Shasta, which has now grown to two locations.
- David Aragon, Araparts
David Aragon loved cars from an early age, and had made enough money from reselling hard-to-find car parts — including one discontinued part that he’d had to re-produce himself — to open his own business. He was ready and eager to grow, but banks weren’t willing to lend to him due to his youth. He ...
- Abraham Lopez, YucaTech Technology Solutions
Abraham Lopez immigrated from Mexico in 1998, and worked hard to master English and earn an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems, all to further his dream of opening his own electronics repair store. Thanks to help from Renaissance Marin and their Small Business Development Center, he is now the proud owner of YucaTech Technology ...
- Toni Ricci, Elite Dance and Performing Art Center
Toni Ricci had achieved her dream of owning her own dance studio, but she hit a wall when she couldn’t qualify for a bank loan. Luckily, VEDC was able to provide her a microloan and the business counseling she needed. Today, Elite Dance has doubled its staff and tripled its students.
- Javad Yaghoubi, City Shade
When a sunglasses cart in the mall went up for sale, Javad jumped at the opportunity. He purchased the business in November of 2014, but needed more capital for inventory. Opening Doors helped Javad create a strong business plan and cash flow projections, and in December approved him for an $8,000 loan.
- Tara Cooper, ‘Ohana Organics
Tara Cooper had the know-how to make fantastic organic butters and salves, but needed help with the business end of things. North Coast SBDC gave her the tools and assistance she needed, and introduced her to a group of local organizations who helped her grow her award-winning company.
- Al and Tamanna Rahman, Garden of Roses
Al and Tamanna Rahman got married and opened a florist shop. They needed $12,500 to buy a cooler, but were turned down by the bank. Luckily, CDC Small Business Finance was there with a microloan to help them grow.
- Xochitl Guerrero, Taller Xochicura
Oakland artist Xochitl Guerrero launched her Taller Xochicura in 2013, and bought the laptop she needed to expand thanks to a $2,000 savings match from AnewAmerica.
- Catarah Hampshire and Shoneji Robison, Southern Girl Desserts
Catarah and Shoneji were trapped in a series of predatory loans, paying 40% of their daily sales just to keep their business afloat. Thanks to an EasyPay loan from Opportunity Fund, they were able to break out of the vicious cycle and grow their business safely.
- Michael Barriere, BarrierEnergy Associates
Inspired by the economic downturn to diversify his development agency, Michael Barriere turned to Women’s Economic Ventures for the training and microloans he needed to launch BarrierEnergy Associates.
2014 Success Stories
- Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats
In 2012, Working Solutions client Ryan Farr, founder of 4505 Meats, sought advice from a Working Solutions mentor for his rapidly expanding business. Two years later, Ryan has graduated from his Working Solutions microloan, obtained conventional financing, and opened a new barbecue restaurant in San Francisco! Ryan had created a whopping 70 jobs in San ...
- Max Aram & Chris Blevins, PickMySolar.com
PCR SBDC Business Advisors Martha G. Castro and Harold C. Hart-Nibbrig helped Max Aram figure out how to monetize his idea, conduct market research, develop a business plan with financial projections, incorporate the business and develop a partnership agreement once Chris Blevins came on board.
- Irena, Silhouette Custom Design
Ten years ago Irena was eight months pregnant and fleeing her home country of Ukraine with her husband and two small children. Today, with help from Opening Doors’ Prosperity Project, Irena is a thriving entrepreneur who supports her family doing the work she loves.
- Candance Pilgram-Simmons, All That & MORE Boutique
Pacific Coast Regional SBDC helped Candance Pilgram-Simmons restructure her business when she was ready to move to sole ownership. She almost doubled monthly sales in her first year as sole owner.
- Rhonda Wiedenbeck, Beck’s Bakery
“I had so many ideas and concerns around starting and running my business, and my SBDC business advisor helped me to focus and prioritize them so that I could achieve great success.” -Rhonda Wiedenbeck on North Coast SBDC.
- Jeremy LeBlanc and Chad Berkey, Tin Play
After four years of development, Jeremy and Chad were ready to launch their line of speciality bartending tools, but needed a small loan to get started. Thankfully, Accion San Diego was there to fill the gap with a $25,000 microloan.
- Bertha Magaña, Magaña Farms
Bertha Magaña had experience as a farmworker and good credit, but struggled to find the financing she needed to support her 7 acre organic farm. California FarmLink helped her find over $70,000 in loans to expand her business, and ALBA helped get her vegetables into stores.
- Kimberly Haines, Pampered Pet Salon & Boutique
Kimberly Haines had a solid business plan and a love of pet care, but couldn’t find the loan from a bank she needed to start her own business, CAMEO member Opening Doors stepped in with a microloan, and her pet salon opened in Novemeber 2013.
- Torrey Douglass, Lemon Fresh Design
Torrey Douglass designs websites under the name Lemon Fresh Design, and had a stellar website, but few customers. “The business side was not my strength,” concedes Douglass, who turned to West Company’s Loyd Hambrick for help grow with her fledgling micro-business.
- Pedro Zerpa, Fusion Peruvian Grill
An immigrant from Peru, Pedro Zerpa worked his way up from dishwasher to head chef of a San Francisco restaurant with no formal culinary education. After 15 years as a chef, Pedro was ready to strike out on his own, and opened Fusion Peruvian Grill in San Mateo. He needed a microloan to expand his ...
- Alfredo Garcia, Watsonville Diesel
Alfredo Garcia had twenty years of experience in diesel trucking, but needed some business development training to grow Watsonville Diesel. Thanks to the firm foundation of strategy and financial management training that CAMEO member El Pajaro CDC provided, he was able to open a second location and make progress toward becoming an international dealer.
- Patty Rodriguez, SF Parking
Patty Rodriguez opened SF Parking in order to support jobs that would have otherwise been lost when her employers lost a parking contract, and continues to support job seekers in her community that would otherwise be unable to find work due to criminal histories or lack of education. She received a $25,000 microloan from Working ...
- Chiefo Chukwudebe, Chiefo’s Kitchen
Chiefo Chukwudebe’s small business did well at the La Cocina Street Food Festival in 2009, but wasn’t sure she could afford to return in 2011. Thankfully, Opportunity Fund was able to provide her with the $3,000 microloan she needed to return and push her business to the next level.
- Ninette Paloma, Santa Barbara Centre for Aerial Arts
Ninette Paloma launched a successful aerial arts school and performance center after receiving self-employment training from Women’s Economic Ventures.
- Luz Orozco, Qi Hair Salon
Luz Orozco built her own hair salon on a solid foundation thanks to the knowledge and assistance she received from Inland Empire SBDC, and created six jobs in her community.
- Penny Baldado, Cafe Gabriela
Penny Baldado moved to the United States from the Philippines and opened her own cafe thanks to training and financial assistance from CAMEO member AnewAmerica.
- Harvey Ledesma, Ledesma Optometry
Thanks to a $25,000 microloan from CDC Small Business Finance and business training from Inland Empire SBDC, Dr. Ledesma was able to retain five jobs, increase inventory and generate an additional $200,000 in revenue at his small optometry business.
- Bernardo Ayala, Napa Valley Bistro
Already a successful chef, Bernardo Ayala got the technical assistance and one-on-one support he needed to open his own restaurant from Napa-Sonoma SBDC.
- Davin Vculek and Joe Blanton, Krush Burger
Krush Burger has expanded to two brick and mortar locations plus a fleet of food trucks thanks to high-quality food, a robust social media presence, and a small business loan from CAMEO member SAFE-BIDCO.
- Melvina Hill, Melvina Hill Consulting
After being laid off, Melvina Hill built her fledgling consulting business with a microloan from Accion San Diego and Kiva.
- Connie Fledderjohann, Happiness Cards
Thanks to support from West Company, encore entrepreneur Connie Fledderjohann was brave enough to change her business model and launch Happiness Cards, her growing micro-business.
- Melissa Elia, Mayssa Fragrance
Melissa Elia started working with Women’s Initiative in 1999, and today her microbusiness, Mayssa Fragrance, sells its products across the country.
- Christy & Al Kroell, ChristyAl Plaques
Thanks to training from an SBA SCORE chapter and a timely loan from Fresno CDFI, veterans Christy and Al Kroell were able to purchase the laser engraver they needed to launch their small business.
- Gregory King, Postcards
Gregory King had an MBA and years of experience in the corporate world, but the help he received from Pacific Coast Regional helped take Postcards, his soul food truck micro-business, from idea to reality.
2013 Success Stories
- Kristin Long, MIGHTYminnow
Kristin Long went from being a solo freelancer to developing a strong consulting business by forming strategic relationships with other freelance consultants. Then she went from freelancing to having a brick and mortar space with employees. Her story is a great example of how ‘self-employment is the labor market trend.’
- Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Foodology
Leslie Labowitz-Starus used funds and training she received from VEDC to sustain her organic and natural food small business through the recession.
- Beny Benjamini, License2Bling
Thanks to help from Pacific Coast Regional, Beny Benjamini was able to obtain a $200,000 business loan for his small business creating crystal studded license plate holders.
- Karen Bartlett, Veterans Home Team
Karen Bartlett participated in Veterans Business Outreach workshops and trainings to develop Veterans Home Team, her award-winning Sacramento-area business.
- Suely Ngouy, Woman for Woman
Suely Ngouy’s Central Valley business was able to secure the licenses and permits they needed to operate as a social enterprise serving Cambodian-American women thanks to help from PACE.
- John & Maria Harrison, Tea Gallerie
John and Maria Harrison’s San Diego-based small business was able to double its revenues and hire two new employees thanks to a loan from Accion San Diego.
- Luis Abundis, Nieves Cinco de Mayo
Luis Abundis’ Oakland-based small business grew to include multiple stores thanks to help from Centro Community Partners.
- Fredy Gamez, Mission Street Oyster Bar
Small business owner Fredy Gamez opened the Mission Street Oyster Bar thanks to technical assistance from MEDA and a microloan from Working Solutions.
- Larry Knowles, Rising Tide Sea Vegetables
Larry Knowles, owner of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables, identified problems and opportunities for his small business thanks to help from West Company.
- Valerie Velazquez, Meet Your Makers
Valerie Velazquez, owner of Meet Your Makers, discusses her small business and the support she received from Women’s Economic Ventures of Santa Barbara.
- Myra & Jacqui, Star Partners Security
Sister Myra and Jaqui opened Star Partners Security together, and grew their small business thanks to training and support from CAMEO member Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center.
- Sarah and Louise, The S’Cream Truck
As moms of middle-school children, Sarah Reinhardt and Louise Browne-Gonzalez saw the treats being served from ice cream trucks near schools and thought there should be a healthier alternative. Thus was born the S’Cream Truck.
- Tom Ball, Orland Meat Processors
After being laid off, Tom Ball opened Orland Meat Processors. Thanks to a loan from 3CORE, his micro-business was able to replace its roof and refinance at a much lower interest rate.
- Mary Grace Gúzman, Gúzman Legal
After working her way through law school, Mary Grace Guzman opened her own practice in the Bay Area with help from CAMEO member Women’s Initiative for Self Employment.
- Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba
After returning home from the Navy, Kelly Carlisle started a farming project serving East Oakland youth and their families.
- Kamal Mansoor, K.A.S. Auto Sales
Kamal Mansoor opened his own micro-business thanks to a microloan from CAMEO member Opening Doors.
- Lucas & Marcia, Universal Art Gallery
Lucas and Marcia Da Silva, owners of the Universal Art Gallery in Los Angeles, have been in the custom art framing business for 16 years, and were facing an all too familiar problem: the need to expand versus the fear of an uncertain economy. With the help of VEDC and a Citywide Small Business ...
- Unita Parnell, Caribbean Day Spa
From a young age, Unita Parnell knew that she wanted to take a different path. “I had no footprints to follow,” Unita shared about her childhood. “Many people around me lacked the motivation to boost their own economic situation, choosing to not further their education nor pursue avenues of self-improvement.”
- Masaki’s Mongolian Grill
Eric and Jeni Masaki had a business problem—albeit a good one—their Kyoto Japanese Restaurant was so popular, the owners had a hard time meeting customer demand. After a few years of running this successful business, the Masakis decided to expand, thanks to a loan from CAMEO member Arcata Economic Development Corporation.
Dawn Verdick spent 25 years advising mid-to large corporations on turnaround strategy. In 2008, she decided that she wanted to give back. She was at a stage in her life where her work needed to have substance and meaning. She wanted to contribute her talents to making the world a better place.
- Nick Romero, Rawknykz Barber Shop
Thanks to a loan from Accion San Diego, Nick Romero’s Rawknykz Barbershop is flourishing today.
- Don Polvoron Bakery
Tired of driving, in 2005 Jorge Flores sold his house and approached his brother Oscar about opening their own place. They bought a donut shop and Don Polvoron Bakery was born. Jorge would run the sales side and Oscar would run the baking. The shop was in a mostly Latino area, so instead of donuts, ...
- Tina Ferguson-Riffe, Smoke Berkeley
Tina opened Smoke Berkeley’s doors in October 2011 with the goal of cooking the kind of food she grew up eating, made with fresh, local ingredients. She’s also committed to hiring staff from employment training programs, like The Bread Project. But despite garnering rave reviews, the restaurant needed additional financing to become more profitable. Opportunity ...
- Verity Somers, Raw Workouts
Verity Somers learned the skills she needed to be her own boss thanks to the instruction she received from CAMEO member Women’s Economic Ventures and the support from other WEV graduates.
- Skincare by Feleciai
Skincare by Feleciai – micro-businesses in Oakland supported by CAMEO members Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment, Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Centro Community Partners and Oakland Business Development Center.
- John Falcon, Falcon Builders
Falcon Builders has 10 employees. John is known as the “go-to” person on government contracting issues and is a leader in his local Disabled Veteran’s organization. He received vital training from CAMEO member Central Valley Business Incubator.
- Jessica Nowlan, Hope Solutions
Jessica Nowlan got her business, Hope Solutions, off the ground thanks to help from CAMEO member Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment.
- Vonita Murray, Mariposa Valley Farm
Gulf War veteran Vonita Murray got the help she needed to make her farm a success from CAMEO member Farmer Veteran Coalition.
- Bruce Erickson & Maggie Watson, Mendocino Solar
Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson were employed by Mendocino Solar and then bought out the owner in 2005. To transition from employees to the boss, they met with West Company consultants who assisted them with financial planning, employee management, social media, and funding that included a $12,00 stimulus grant and a $95,000 business loan.
- Kevin Ho & Juan Miron, MIHO Gastrotruck
MIHO Gastrotruck provides locally sourced, natural, healthy, good food. One of the biggest hurdles they crossed was financing. They weren’t successful in securing financing through traditional means and were referred to Accion San Diego who lent them $15,000 to buy and fix up an old lunch truck.
- Jessica McGuinty, Jessicurl
Jessica McGuinty was able to grow Jessicurl, her Humboldt-based hair product business, thanks to extensive coaching from the North Coast SBDC and a loan from the Arcata Economic Development Corporation.
- William Ortiz, Gentle Parking
William Ortiz was able to found and grow Gentle Parking thanks to training and support he received from CAMEO member Mission Economic Development Agency.
- Jason T., Semper Fi Security
Marine Jason T. launched Semper Fi Security with the help of Goodwill of Orange County.
- Lidia Mendez, Taqueria Lidia
Thanks to advice from the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation, Lidia Mendez was able to recover a $20,000 loss and find a new location for Taqueria Lidia.
- Chai Lee, Chai’s Cleaning Service
Escaping the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp was a victory for Chai and his family, but he had to re-build his life. Chai liked the idea of owning a business. He had no credit history and very little collateral, but wanted to buy a janitorial franchise. Because of an $8,000 loan ...
- Jen & Oscar Carpinteyro, Rewind Audio
SIPA helped Jen and Oscar Carpinteyro clarify their plans and goals for Rewind Audio, their vintage audio store.
- Cortland Avenue Corridor
San Francisco – An unprecedented number of small businesses in the Cortland Avenue Corridor are utilizing an important asset in the San Francisco small business community. Working Solutions, a local nonprofit microlender is providing much-needed capital to businesses that need small loans that traditional banks won’t touch. And creating jobs in the process – ...
- Galen Garretson, Town Cutler
San Francisco – Galen saw beautiful sushi-grade fish lose their clean line, vegetables chopped in non-uniform sizes, and butchers turn red because of rough cuts. Finally fed up with this problem, he put down his chef’s hat and replaced it with a whetstone.
- Sarah Dvorak, Mission Cheese
San Francisco – Sarah Dvorak knows cheese. Whether it be the sweet and nutty Estero Gold, the smooth and earthly Boho Bel, or the notoriously fragrant bleu cheeses from Northern Califiornia, this cheesehead breaks it down for you.
- Chris & Jennifer Saint, Sweet Treats
San Diego – One day at a friend’s party, Chris, Jennifer and some others were reminiscing about the ice cream truck when they were kids – the excitement they had when they heard the music, the breathlessness from running in the house, scrounging for change and hoping you didn’t miss the truck, eating the peanuts ...
- Kara McGibben, Perception Construction
Kara and her husband came to CAMEO member Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) in Santa Barbara after a long period of unemployment. The two decided take their economic future into their own hands and launch a business.
With a background in project management for construction companies, Kara completed the WEV 2009 Spring Self-Employment Training course and soon ...
- Ted Sheets, Advanced Signs
Ted Sheets has been making signs in Eureka since 1984. In 2006, he began to look at the possibility of moving out of his garage, which was full to the rafters. Ted wanted to expand his sign business and started looking at sign franchise opportunities. But he didn’t know how to tell if it was ...
- Lucy Ludwig
Lucy Ludwig received a $3,000 microloan from Accion San Diego to launch her law practice.
- JJ Lee & Chris Lord, Overtone Productions
JJ Lee and Chris Lord enrolled in the Individual Development Account program with CAMEO member Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC) in Los Angeles with the goal of launching a music production company. Upon completion of their required savings and education trainings, they were able to secure capital for equipping their home-based production studio.
Overtone Productions ...
- Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
Fascinated with chocolate and its beautiful and complex characteristics, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn had always dreamed of opening her own chocolaterie.
A formally trained American chocolatier, Ginger Elizabeth began learning her craft at age 16 at a truffle class in Sacramento at the Learning Exchange. From there, she took classes at the Culinary Institute of America in ...
- Elizabeth Pond, Financial Health Services
Elizabeth Pond received training from UCSB to get her small business off the ground, then joined Women’s Economic Ventures in order to help other entrepreneurs.
- Johneric Concordia, The Park’s Finest
The Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program helped Johneric Concordia find the $12,000 he needed to open The Park’s Finest.