Tim Obert & Clint Potter, Seven Stills Brewery

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. 

Karim Kaderali, Santa Barbara Axxess

Santa Barbara Axxess was founded by Karim Kaderali and a friend in Santa Barbara, California in 1999. By creating an upscale local Membership Program that was unique and trackable, they figured out how to bring local businesses the right local customers. Shortly after launch, they received a startup loan from WEV to print the physical books for their members.

Don & Jake McPeck, Mess Hall Canteen

Don McPeck started his business with only an idea. His gourmet food truck, Mess Hall Canteen, got started thanks to The Food Network. An appearance on the show Food Truck Faceoff gave Mess Hall Canteen a vehicle — in more ways than one.

Pancho Kachingwe, The Hatch

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.

Matt Maxwell, BoltAbout

The idea to start BoltAbout came to Matt Maxwell in November 2015, when he was frustrated by public transportation options. He found the perfect alternative in the form of electric bikes. In April 2016, he decided to turn this passion into a business by launching a pilot program to lease a small fleet of e-bikes on a monthly basis. The feedback he received from his customers, largely Cal Poly SLO students, was extremely positive. Through simple word of mouth, his waiting list to lease an e-bike grew to several hundred names. In June of that year, BoltAbout joined the Summer Accelerator Program at the Cal Poly CIE SLO HotHouse, at which point they became SBDC Clients.

Donald Jacko Sr., DAD Services

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.

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 to spread healthy fast food nationwide and to improve people’s diet lifestyle,” he says. 

Daniel Palacios, Berkeley Pizza

In the fallout of the 2008 Great Recession, Daniel Palacios — then a real estate investor in San Diego — wanted to reinvent himself in another industry. During this phase, Palacios recalled the hearty stuffed pizzas he regularly craved from establishments like Zachary’s when he studied at UC Berkeley. Then it dawned on him: There was nothing quite like it in San Diego.

Manuel Guerrero, Hope Cafe and Creperie

Manuel Guerrero grew up surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs. He embraced this spirit and chose to pursue his entrepreneurial passion through his love of food. After attending culinary school in Mexico where he focused on international cuisine, Manuel furthered his learning by completing a barista training program in Seattle, Washington.

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 eatery was located on the first floor of the Graywood Hotel, which suffered severe damage in the conflagration.