Susan Difuntorm, Smiles & More Photo Booth

Susan 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 own and created Smiles & More Photo Booth.

Corrina Pena, Frosted Bakery

Corrina 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 how to get out there marketing her creations.

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 to make delicious pickles in the comfort of your own home.

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 and understanding and life-giving force that is music, that’s what it was for me. It opened my eyes to what happens when people come together and make music.”

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 making keepsake jewelry for herself and a few family members as a way of dealing with their recent losses and to keep their loved ones close. In loving memory of her mother and son, the name and concept for her business were conceived. 

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 the $100,000 loan.

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 comprised of organic, local foods.

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 on a corner of San Francisco’s Financial District.

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 their friends about “El Borrego,” which means “the lamb.”