Thanks to Accion Southern California for sharing Manuel’s story!
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.
Hope Cafe and Creperie, which he opened in Calexico, California, melds all of his experiences and interests. Manuel opened the doors to his cafe in 2015 and has a menu that focuses on French crepes and specialty espresso drinks.
Manuel received funding from Accion during the summer of 2016 through the Samuel Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program. He used the funds to purchase additional equipment so Hope Cafe can keep up with the demands of its quickly growing clientele.
Hope Cafe has become a community gathering spot where customers can enjoy their delicious drinks and food and feel immersed in the artistic ambiance of the space. The cafe is in a repurposed house and each room is decorated with locally-themed art: Paris, Frida Kahlo, Hollywood, comic books, and hummingbirds.
Incorporating the work of local artists is only one way that Manuel supports entrepreneurs and the local economy. Hope Cafe also hosts ‘Bazaar Hope’ each month, giving the opportunity to more than 25 entrepreneurs to sell their products and reach new customers.
“Supporting other business owners has been hugely rewarding for me,” said Manuel. “My business has provided me with a powerful connection to other community members and this wouldn’t have been possible without the support from Accion.”
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 the indigenous family of a friend in their jungle community.
“The family — they’re just so warm,” Maria recounted, “but they have the problem of economic development… The world has become global, and they just got electricity just five years before I had gotten there.”
“After I was done and I’d finished my thesis, I decided that I wanted to give back.” So in 2008, Maria founded Help Chiapas, a non-profit dedicated to the long-term economic development of the indigenous community. Along with raising funds and providing services, the organization offers English camps to the children every year in the hopes of giving them more opportunity in tourism and other industries.
In 2011, Maria founded Casa de Español, a language school and cultural hub, established in part to fund the development going on through Help Chiapas. The capital they make goes towards building a cultural center in Chiapas, which will provide jobs for locals and exhibit the beautiful Mayan culture. And every summer, Maria brings a group of students there to volunteer in the children’s camps and health services. The impact goes two ways: from the students, who grow in their cultural awareness and appreciation, to the natives, who benefit from the programs.
But the thread of economic development can be traced even further, from Chiapas and Casa to CDFIs like CDC and the Small Business Administration. At an earlier stage of its history, Casa de Español needed outside capital, too.
“We only started with me at the beginning,” laughs Maria, but before long, the business proved successful and grew fourfold. However, that meant getting a loan from CDC to accommodate for the influx of students both with staff and added space.
“With the small business loan we were able to hire new employees as well as remodel the space…,” Maria recounted gratefully. “Being able to have that loan just gave us the peace of mind of not having to worry about that portion when there were so many other things that we had to worry about.”
But she is most thankful for organizations such as CDC and the SBA, and the guidance they provide, especially to idealistic, but non-business educated visionaries like herself: “We love what we do, we’re masters of our craft; for example, I’m a master teacher. But then how do we turn that into a business that’s successful?”
Thankfully, experts from SBA were able to answer that question for her. They walked her through the entrepreneurial process, from developing a business plan to finding the proper lawyer. And now Casa de Español is a successful business and thriving center of cultural education.
Thanks to Opportunity Fund for this story!
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.
Marcia opened her own clothing store, Pinky Rose Boutique, in Los Angeles in 2013. Pinky Rose Boutique features the latest styles in clothes and accessories, as well as Marcia’s original designs. One of her signature designs is the Nadda dress. “It’s not a dress but like a jumpsuit, comfortable with built-in pockets that work as a belt and can be worn five different ways,” said Marcia.
When Marcia first needed a loan for her growing business, she went to a high-interest alternative lender that charged her a 45% interest rate. Rather than help her business, the loan nearly killed her business cash flow. Marcia needed funding more than ever – as well as a trustworthy and transparent lender.
Marcia was connected to Opportunity Fund through a community partner, BusinessSource LA, and found the reliable funding source that she was looking for. In 2015, Opportunity Fund provided her with a $7,500 loan, helping her refinance and keep her boutique’s doors open. “It helped me pay off the loan and get a lower interest rate,” Marcia said. “That helped me stay in business because the loan would have probably put me out of business.”
Over the next three years, Marcia came back to Opportunity Fund for three more loans, of $15,000, $18,000, and $25,000, to help with her wholesale expenses and grow her business. “Opportunity Fund believes in me and I believe in them,” said Marcia. “I see them as a fair lender that cares about small business owners like me. We all need that.”
Marcia uses her experience and wisdom to keep her business thriving in a tough industry while building up her own fashion brand. Marcia envisions establishing her comfort couture brand, by expanding to a second location that houses only her original designs.
Marcia is also a leader in her community. Pinky Rose was the first boutique on the street, and she helped establish the business neighborhood around her boutique. “When I started, there was nothing on the street. Along with two other restaurants, we were the first businesses here.” Now her street has a much more established business community, and Marcia is active in developing it. “I work with people in the community to improve the neighborhood for small businesses,” Marcia said.
Thanks to Pacific Community Ventures for this story!
Keba Konte has demonstrated his commitment to creating good jobs for people in Oakland, California. In fact, over the years he’s created over fifty jobs through three enterprises. But, when he went to his bank to secure funding to open a new wholesale coffee roastery and cafe, he was turned down.
He raised almost $90,000 for the venture on Kickstarter, which helped to eliminate the initial financial burden that comes with brick and mortar businesses. But, to get the roasting equipment he needed and to build out the space he’d secured, he needed to raise more. Undaunted, he turned to the CDFI industry to make his vision a reality.
Small business owners like Keba often find themselves falling into a “gap” in funding. They’re successful, yet can’t secure bank loan large enough to grow their business, and the amount of funding available from most microlenders is simply not enough.
Keba has worked with Oakland-based CDFI ICA Fund Good Jobs since 2011, and he turned to them for capital. The team at ICA Fund Good Jobs believed in Keba’s vision and structured a capital stack to meet his needs, partnering with San Francisco-based CDFI Pacific Community Ventures, to get Keba the amount he needed.
Entrepreneurs like Keba create stronger jobs and stronger communities. “We hire folks who have high barriers to employment whether that’s formerly incarcerated, people of color, or folks with disabilities. And that just comes to us naturally, but what comes to us naturally is different from most other coffee companies,” Keba says.
Red Bay Coffee’s business model comes at a crucial time in Oakland’s history when working-class people — and people of color, in particular — are getting priced out of their neighborhoods. Keba hopes that building a successful business and paying livable wages, he can allow them to stay.
Neither CDFI had done a joint small business loan before, but they both saw tremendous opportunity in working together. Both Pacific Community Ventures and ICA Fund Good Jobs are hoping this is the first of many joint efforts together, allowing them to serve more business owners across the Bay Area, and to create many more good jobs working people.
Recently, SFGate wrote a piece on Oakland’s up-and-coming coffee scene, praising Red Bay’s high-quality coffee and their chill atmosphere which “draws patrons for cupping and educational events, plus an eclectic calendar filled with live performances, video release parties, a pop-up brunch series and more.”
Thanks to Main Street Launch for this story!
Before they started their business, Christopher McMichael and Maurion Gaines came together over their shared passion for music. In 2012 when Chris was working security and kept hitting ceilings as he tried to advance in his career, he decided to pursue his clothing line full time. “My clothing line had already had some success. I knew that for it to grow to the next level, I needed to open a store to better serve the business,” remembers Chris. At the same time, Maurion was doing well in his job as an electrician and wanted to invest some of the money he had saved into something he was passionate about. As Chris shared his desire to take his clothing line and expand into a retail store, Maurion knew it was the right time and opportunity he’d been looking for. Together they launched Threadz Culture + Fashion, a retail store featuring the best streetwear and urban clothing styles in Oakland. They offer custom, limited run pieces, enabling their customers to build a look that is truly unique.
In 2017 Chris and Maurion joined Main Street Launch’s Entrepreneur in Residence program to grow their knowledge and expertise on the business part of their business. “We jumped in head first when we opened the store, learning the ins and outs as we went. Now we have a better understanding of why things work and how to take advantage of resources, focusing on longevity,” explains Maurion. “We really understand the details of our business,” adds Chris. “We understand the numbers, our financials, and we know how we can pay ourselves from the business.”
Chris and Maurion credit the Entrepreneur in Residence program with helping them get organized. “We are connecting the day-to-day operations with our vision for the business and foreseeing what roadblocks might come up in the future,” says Maurion.
“The Entrepreneur in Residence program is a real program, and Main Street Launch genuinely cares about our business,” says Chris. “We now have resources and more insight into our business, and everyone here is personable and available to help,” says Maurion.
Threadz is located at 5319 Fairfax Avenue in Oakland’s Fairfax District. Drop by to see the recently added big and tall section for men and also the newly redesigned women’s section, which now includes plus size options! In addition to their existing merchandise, you can also get personalized pieces created.
How do you turn a deep-seated passion for peace, justice and community engagement into a living?
This is the question Tyrone Botelho, 31, and Tiffany Hoang, 26, were asking themselves in 2014, huddled over a computer and educational materials in Botelho’s rented room in Oakland.
The two former Peace and Conflict Studies majors at the University of California, Berkeley, hit it off during a restorative justice training session Botelho was helping run and Hoang was attending. They were desperately trying to find a way to earn a living while promoting and maintaining their ideals.
Help came from an unlikely source – Botelho’s landlord, Robin Nasatir, who just happened to be the program director for Youth Business USA (YBUSA), an organization dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs succeed.
“It was almost magical,” said Botelho. He and Hoang admit that initially they were completely lost when it came to the business side of things. “We didn’t even know what a business model was.”
With help from YBUSA, the ambitious duo learned to put together business plans, create budgets, plan strategies, submit proposals, start and maintain a business – Circle Up Education. What’s more, they were given access to a network of fellow entrepreneurs to call on for advice and support.
In 2014, they made just $1,900, but the next year they brought in $94,000. Thanks to a real demand for their workshops and consulting services, revenue grew to $245,000 for 2016. This year they have already earned about $250,000 and are projecting a phenomenal $600,000 by years end. Major clients include the City of Oakland and Fremont Unified School District.
Hoang says a huge part of the challenge was the unexpected emotional toll of being a start up business owner, and without the steadfast support of a mentor like Nasatir, the two may never have been able to make it. “Believing in us is the biggest thing she’s given us,” said Hoang.
The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Hoang’s family wanted her to be a successful doctor or engineer, but largely because of her parents’ experiences as refugees and immigrants, she was drawn to justice and diversity issues.
Likewise, Botelho, who went through 14 foster homes before aging out of the system, believes his early life struggles gave him the extra drive to help others by working to create healthy, diverse communities where each person is a vital, respected stakeholder.
Circle Up Education provides clients with tools for inclusivity and relationship building, diversity and equity, and conflict resolution, with the goal of making businesses, communities, schools and cities thrive.
They’ve grown and thrived by tailoring programs to each client’s needs and focusing on interactive activities and conversations instead of lectures and presentations.
Circle Up Education currently has four consultants, but thanks to this increase in revenue and contracts, plans are underway to add three employees by fall. They’ve expanded their client base from the San Francisco Bay Area down to Southern California.
If business continues as it is, they would like to expand nationally and perhaps even form a spin-off non-profit or B corporation to offer free or very low-fee trainings to small community and civic groups currently unable to afford these kinds of trainings and workshops.
It’s hard work, but worth it.
“After a 70 or 80-hour work week I just want to sleep,” said Botelho, “Then I remember the smiles on people’s faces.”
Thanks to Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center for this story!
When Judi enrolled in Renaissance in 2000, she thought she would join the 21st century version of the San Francisco Gold Rush and build another dot com start-up. While many dot-commers lost fortunes when the bubble burst, Judi credits the class with preventing her from “making a bad dot com business decision.”
She says, “Renaissance helped to train my mind to recognize an opportunity and how to act on it when it arose.” When she replied to a Craigslist ad for a mannequin she wanted for a backyard art project, she found not one, but 50 mannequins for sale. Judi jumped on the opportunity to buy the lot and decided to launch a mannequin rental business.
This great idea started as a side-gig, renting mannequins to customers out of her garage and growing her inventory by acquiring mannequins that large department stores would otherwise dump in landfills. As the business grew, so too did her ambition. In 2015 Judi decided she was ready to join the ‘million dollar club.’She has observed that most women tend not to try to reach that level. She wants to aim higher than ever and be a role model for other women in business.
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.
If you could place a dollar amount on the pride she has for Renaissance, the Oakland community and giving back, it would exceed a million dollars by a long shot. “I see myself as an Oakland ambassador,” Judi beams. Motivated by her million dollar club ambition and guided by The Wright Consultants, Mannequin Madness now has a storefront people from all over the Bay Area visit. On occasion she hears from potential customers that they are reluctant to visit Oakland because of its bad reputation, but she knows better and sells people on Oakland just as much as she sells them on her mannequins.
Judi sees businesses like hers as part of the solution to making Oakland a more welcoming place. Her business creates jobs (three employees and five contractors thus far), increases foot traffic in the area, and adds vibrancy to the community. She also gives back by providing a temporary pop-up retail space to smaller start-up fashion businesses.Every three months her business prevents approximately 100,000 pounds of mannequin waste from entering landfills.
Judi went down many other career paths before becoming a confident entrepreneur. She studied journalism in college, but never applied it to her career. She worked in corporate sales and technology during the dot com boom. She had a business in her thirties that failed. After that she thought she just “sucked at business.” But Renaissance helped her shift her mindset and grow the confidence she needed to be a business owner again. In her own words, “It gave me the opportunity for a new life.”
(510) 444-0650 / email@example.com
1031 Cotton St., Oakland, Ca 94606
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but if you ask any inventor, they may say the real devil is noticing that need. Then, of course, you have to do something about it.
That’s how it was for Bethany Smith of B Team Solutions, LLC, who turned a concern for worker safety into a booming $250,000 business projected to grow even bigger thanks to a recent national distribution deal and another in the works.
Smith and her husband, Bob, run a small catering company in Bermuda Dunes, California. When workers mentioned back pain after long gigs preparing food on the portable work tables commonly used in their industry, Smith decided to find out what she could do about it. She did a little research confirming awkward surface heights to back pain and went searching for something that seemed so simple – an inexpensive, easily portable way to raise work tables up to a more ergonomic height for standing workers. Instead Smith couldn’t find any affordable commercial solutions, and certainly nothing that seemed professional and – most importantly – safe. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to think of things that go wrong when you mix sharp knives with wobbly work surfaces.
Instead of throwing up her hands, Smith got into the garage. Eventually she and her husband created a simple, stable riser that fits on the bottom of table legs – an inexpensive solution for small businesses that care about their workers health.
In 2014 she sold about $3,400 worth of risers – mostly soft sales to other caterers, vendors and trade show exhibitors, small businesses that rely all on the same kinds of folding tables. Smith knew she was on to something. Her big problem was figuring out how to get her product out of the garage into people’s hands.
“Sales 20 years ago and sales now are so different, and being online is the difference. It’s how people shop now,” said Smith. “When you have a great product and you find the way to sell it you have a winning combination.”
So Smith got a website, liftyourtable.com, and began listing her table risers through online retailers like Amazon.com and EBay. She found an American manufacturer to start making her risers, freeing her up to take care of real business.
In 2014 Smith began to realize that if she could get just a little help, this sideline project could outgrow her catering business and become her real breadwinner.
That’s when she turned to the Coachella Valley Women’s Business Center (CVWBC), enrolling in their signature entrepreneurial program, “It’s Your Time.” It gave her access to mentors, classes and workshops and helped her create a working business plan.
“The business plan I made through that class made all the difference,” said Smith. Her plan won her a best-in-cohort award in CVWBC’s signature entrepreneurial class. “I still use that plan. We keep it updated, but it’s still the same basic plan.”
That’s pretty good considering the company’s exponential growth from an extremely modest $3,400 in 2013 to $50,000 in 2015, just two years later.
This year’s projected revenue is $250,000 thanks to a distribution deal with Grainger, a leading distributor of commercial and industrial products. She now employs two to three part time workers in addition to her husband and herself.
Smith is currently expanding her product line to include other ergonomic devices including cushioned standing mats and kits that turn regular tables into standing desks and surfaces suitable people with wheelchairs since most armrests don’t fit under standard tables.
While she comes off as an unstoppable force of nature, Smith is quick to say she couldn’t have done this alone. Not only does she have a husband whose skills compliment her own and that she works so well with, she also got a lot of personal support along the way from business mentors.
“When you work for yourself if something is daunting you, you just don’t do it,” said Smith. “But with a mentor helping you, they push you. They keep you going.”
In fact, Smith believes the mentorship she’s received was so crucial to learning things vital to her particular business – like wholesale pricing structure and online marketing – that she now serves as a peer advisor at CVWBC and regularly contributes to workshops.
“I’m excited about being able to give back,” said Smith, who grew a concern for worker welfare into a booming business in just a few short years, proving once again, you can do well by doing good.
Written by Cassandra Stern, a freelance writer from Albany, CA.
Thanks to Fresno CDFI for this story!
Tranquility Market is a neighborhood grocery in Tranquility, a rural town West of Fresno with less than 1,000 people. The store serves the surrounding towns and farms with meat, produce, household products, and other groceries. It has been a great benefit by providing access to fresh foods and allowing residents to save on gas by not having to drive to other towns to shop.
A loan from Fresno CDFI in 2014 helped Jatinder Mann purchase the store that he had been leasing for the previous nine years. He now pays the same monthly cost to buy the property that he was once paying his landlord. Jatinder’s ownership of the property ensures that Tranquility Market will be a permanent fixture in the town for many years to come and he is already working on expansion plans to build a kitchen to serve hot meals.