Rosa 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 (CVFC).
Seven Stills Brewery began as a bootstrapped business in a garage, making whiskeys from craft beers. Tim Obert and Clint Potter, who became friends at UC Santa Cruz, started brewing and distilling for fun at Clint’s parents’ house in Novato.
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 Asian vegetables in their backyard for themselves and their neighbors.
Pancho Kachingwe founded The Hatch Oakland Bar & Restaurant in 2014 to cater to a booming downtown Oakland. “Everything was self-funded,” he recalls. “It was myself doing the cooking, bartending, cleaning, shopping, everything.” But the business grew fast, and by year two, he had 18 employees.
Carmel Honey Company (CHC) grew out of a passion for bees and earning good grades. As a 5th grade student at Carmel River Elementary, Jake was given a real-world homework assignment to research the education and daily duties of a website designer. During his research, Jake designed a website about honey bees and shared his site and knowledge with his classmates. The students were so impressed, they thought Jake was in a business and asked to purchase honey. His research and classmate interest stimulated Jake to purchase honey bees, continue his extensive research/study and ultimately, start a real for-profit business with his parents. Today, Jake personally services over 100 bee hives along with maintaining more than 100 wholesale accounts which are primarily specialty stores and professional restaurant chefs. On weekends and holidays, Jake and his family (mom, dad and sister) routinely sell at local events throughout Monterey County. CHC honey is now branded and widely recognized as a premium honey brand being all natural, raw, and unfiltered. CHC’s unique selling proposition is, “honey straight from the hive”.
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 the $100,000 loan.
DAD Services of Oakland, California is a janitorial company that specializes in providing top-notch commercial cleaning for San Francisco Bay Area businesses. The company was established in 1998 by Donald Jacko Sr., a native Oakland resident, and has always been a minority-owned, family-run business. DAD Services serves a diverse group of clients including medical institutions, investigative services, and security companies at their various locations. As part of his business philosophy, DAD Services aims to employ disadvantaged people, particularly formerly incarcerated individuals.
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 to spread healthy fast food nationwide and to improve people’s diet lifestyle,” he says.
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 on a corner of San Francisco’s Financial District.
“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 eatery was located on the first floor of the Graywood Hotel, which suffered severe damage in the conflagration.