Success Stories – Immigrants

  • Koy Saichow, Stony Point Strawberry Farm Koy Saichow grew up in a subsistence farming community in Thailand, where each season relatives, friends and neighbors would come together to harvest in their family’s vegetable and rice fields. When the Saichow family immigrated to the Bay Area in 1989, they brought along their values of self-sufficiency and generosity and continued to grow Southeast ...
  • Koji Kanematsu, Onigilly Onigilly is a fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Japanese rice balls, called “onigiri.” Koji Kanematsu founded Onigilly in 2007, after noticing a lack of healthy, affordable food options in the United States. “In Japan, onigiri is everywhere,” says Koji. “I used to eat it every day because it is convenient, healthy, and affordable. Our mission is ...
  • Saul Chavez, El Gran Taco Loco “I felt like I had lost everything. When something like this happens, it’s hard to stay positive.” That’s how Mexican immigrant Saul Chavez, co-owner of El Gran Taco Loco with his spouse Angelica Quezada, describes his emotions following the destruction of his commercial space in the Mission and 29th streets fire in June 2016. Chavez’ popular Mexican food ...
  • Gabriela Murguia, MercaMex Distributor and Dulceria Alebrijes Gabriela Murguia was born and raised in Zamora Michoacán and comes from a family of merchants. When she was 29 she moved to Ontario, California but found it difficult to find viable work. She moved to Delano, and worked in the fields picking grapes, and in restaurants and a gas station to sustain her family. ...
  • Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas, Faces of Entrepreneurship Winner If several years ago you would have told Alicia Villanueva that she would be making over 40,000 tamales a month, she would not have believed you. By day she cleaned houses and did home care. Every night she dreamed of starting her own business. Since arriving in the United States in 2001, she had a ...
  • Tyrone Botelho and Tiffany Hoang, Circle Up Education
  • Javier Zamora, JSM Organics
  • Andrei Sobolev and Serhiy Misiruk, Creative Millworks, Inc. When banks wouldn’t give Andrei Sobolev and Serhiy Misiruk a loan, they found a solution with Opening Doors. Now, they get frequent loan offers from those banks and can choose where they’ll take their business.
  • Vicente Quintana, El Nopalito Produce Vicente Quintana started El Nopalito Produce in Watsonville, CA with a 30-pound box of cactus paddles. In six years, he turned his kitchen-table business into a thriving concern with six employees, processing 10,000 pounds a week and distributed in more than 30 markets across central California.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ...
  • 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 ...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kamal Mansoor, K.A.S. Auto Sales Kamal Mansoor opened his own micro-business thanks to a microloan from CAMEO member Opening Doors.
  • 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 ...
  • 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 – ...
  • Simonida Cvejic, Bay Area Medical Academy When Simonida Cvejic came here from former Yugoslavia in 1996, she never thought she’d find herself wanting to start her own business. She had a job in the financial industry when, in 2004, she became a single parent. She realized she would have to make some changes in her life to accommodate her new situation. ...