Success Stories – Women

  • Liza Spiridon, Cali Strong Candles Liza Spiridon, Cali Strong CandlesDuring California’s recent wildfires, Registered Vet Technician Liza Spiridon was living on the Central Coast but knew people in the communities impacted. She decided that she needed to use her skills to help, so she got involved by donating her time helping animals to safety and assisting the people who had lost their homes and ...
  • Rosa Guerrero, California Vegan Food Company Rosa Guerrero, California Vegan Food CompanyRosa Guerrero Contreras had a dream of launching her own plant-based food business for the last five years. What started as a hobby soon became a passion, but Rosa wasn’t quite sure of how to convert that passion into a business. Last spring, Rosa joined Centro’s Basic Entrepreneurship Program to launch California Vegan Food Company ...
  • Susan Difuntorm, Smiles & More Photo Booth Susan Difuntorm, Smiles & More Photo BoothSusan Difuntorm is a retired Air Force veteran of 23 years, recent State of California retiree, a mother, grandmother, and a dear friend to many. This fun-loving grandma has had a camera in her hands since she can remember. She combined her love for taking photos with her desire to start a business of her ...
  • Corrina Pena, Frosted Bakery Corrina Pena, Frosted BakeryCorrina Pena was constantly making cakes and cupcakes for family and friends. She decided to turn her baking hobby into a real business called Frosted. Her first step was to visit West Business Development Center, who advised her on the fundamentals: getting her business license, food handler’s certification, and thinking about her brand and ...
  • Andrea Wasko & Meaghan Gilbert, Connoisseur Creations Andrea Wasko and Meaghan Gilbert of Los Osos, California launched their flagship product, the Quick Pickle Kit after starting Connoisseur Creations in 1996. After struggling with weight issues, Andrea wanted to develop a healthy alternative snack that would help people in similar situations. The Quick Pickle Kit is a safe, quick, simple, and natural way ...
  • Meredith Pizzi, Roman Music Therapy Services Meredith Pizzi started playing trumpet in the fifth grade and joined her school’s jazz band. It was after a performance of “Gonna Fly Now” from the motion picture Rocky that Meredith recognized the profound connection she felt to others through the power of music. “We still talk about that concert. Feeling that level of connection ...
  • Zea Sonnabend, Fruitilicious Farm Zea Sonnabend’s organic farming bona fides cannot be overstated. With an MS in Plant Breeding from Cornell University and 35 years of experience as a farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy specialist, organizer, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more qualified. Yet running her own farming operation still came with its challenges.
  • Robin King, Rene TreVor Jewelry Robin King always dreamed of having her own business but never imagined it would come from such tragic circumstances. On the same day that she lost her mother to her battle against cancer, her 25-year-old son’s life was also taken. But part of her healing came through creativity. Not long after their deaths, Robin began ...
  • Brenda Buenviaje, Brenda’s French Soul Food Brenda Buenviaje had worked as a chef for years but lacked business experience. When she wanted to open her own restaurant in 2007, not just banks turned her down but “friends, co-workers, my own parents were like, ‘No thank you,’” she said. Opportunity Fund said yes, taking out a lien against her condo to secure ...
  • Angela Bicos Mavridis, Tribalí Foods Angela Bicos Mavridis, a San Marino, California resident, comes from an entrepreneurial family. Her father owned a drive-thru that served up burgers, fries, and shakes. This, she later realized, was a far cry from the way her grandmother cooked and ate in their homeland of Greece. Mavridis spent childhood summers there, enjoying scratch-made Paleo cuisine ...
  • Jen Musty, Batter Bakery Jen Musty, Batter Bakery Jen Musty launched Batter Bakery in 2008 after two years of working on her plan and recipes. Since then, Batter has grown from a one-woman business to a full-fledged local bakery that’s made a name for itself alongside several iconic San Francisco favorites. During its first years, Batter’s only retail spot was a tiny kiosk ...
  • Rosario Sotelo and Rodnia Attiq, El Borrego Rosario Sotelo and Rodnia Attiq, El Borrego Mother-and-daughter Rosario Sotelo and Rodnia Attiq are the owners of El Borrego, the first restaurant in San Diego to serve lamb barbacoa. While El Borrego is now a full-service restaurant, they started out very small almost fifteen years ago by selling barbacoa under a tent in a driveway on the weekends. By word-of-mouth, Rosario and Rodnia’s customers started telling ...
  • Gabriela Murguia, MercaMex Distributor and Dulceria Alebrijes 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. ...
  • Maria Harrington, Casa de Español Maria Harrington, Casa de Español Before Maria Harrington was a business owner or even a teacher, she was a student at Berkeley exploring a question: How are indigenous cultures changing in terms of language and culture, given mass migration to the US? In her research, she followed a connection to Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico. There, she lodged with ...
  • Marcia Charles, Pinky Rose Boutique Marcia Charles, Pinky Rose Boutique Marcia Charles has worked in fashion for her whole life. When Marcia was 15-years-old, she started working at department store warehouses in the Bronx. Over the next 35 years, Marcia grew into a self-taught fashion designer and merchandiser, and eventually a self-made small business owner.
  • Tyrone Botelho and Tiffany Hoang, Circle Up Education Tyrone Botelho and Tiffany Hoang, Circle Up Education
  • Judi Henderson, Mannequin Madness Judi Henderson, Mannequin Madness After working with business coach Gwen Wright of The Wright Consultants, who also runs Renaissance’s Financing Resource Center, Judi increased her sales by 10 percent and her profit margin by roughly 25 percent. Judi says she’s now well on her way to joining the million dollar club.
  • Bethany Smith, B Team Solutions Bethany Smith, B Team SolutionsBethany Smith, B Team Solutions
  • Rebecca Weston, Sacred Mountain Spa Rebecca Weston, Sacred Mountain Spa Just how well is she doing? Her first year the business brought in $209,000, and at the end of 2015, the business brought in $313,000, almost a 67% increase. The next year, she increased sales by another 33%. In 2017 and 2018, despite the chaos brought on by wildfires in the area, the spa has ...
  • Nancy and David Ortiz, Buenaventura Travel Agency 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.
  • Nikki Dailey, HEAT Culinary Nikki Dailey, HEAT CulinaryNikki Dailey, HEAT Culinary
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Toni Ricci, Elite Dance and Performing Art Center 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.
  • Tara Cooper, ‘Ohana Organics 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, 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 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 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.
  • Irena, Silhouette Custom Design 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 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 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.
  • Bertha Magaña, Magaña Farms 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, 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, 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.
  • Patty Rodriguez, SF Parking 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.
  • Melvina Hill, Melvina Hill Consulting 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 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, 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 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.
  • Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Foodology 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.
  • Karen Bartlett, Veterans Home Team 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, 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 & 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.
  • Valerie Velazquez, Meet Your Makers 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 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 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.
  • Mary Grace Gúzman, Gúzman Legal 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 Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba After returning home from the Navy, Kelly Carlisle started a farming project serving East Oakland youth and their families.
  • Lucas & Marcia, Universal Art Gallery 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 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 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.
  • Tina Ferguson-Riffe, Smoke Berkeley 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, 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 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.
  • Jessica Nowlan, Hope Solutions 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 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 & 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.
  • Jessica McGuinty, Jessicurl 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.
  • Lidia Mendez, Taqueria Lidia 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.
  • Jen & Oscar Carpinteyro, Rewind Audio 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 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 – ...
  • Sarah Dvorak, Mission Cheese 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 McGibben, Perception Construction
  • 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 & Chris Lord, Overtone Productions
  • Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
  • 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.
  • 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. ...