Jatinder Mann, Tranquility Market

Thanks to Fresno CDFI for this story!

jatindermanntranquilitymarketTranquility 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.

Daniel Yoshimi and Jennifer Yannella, Brasil Arts Café

Thanks to Women’s Economic Ventures for this story!

danielyoshimiandjenniferyannellabrasilartscafeBrasil Arts Café
Bringing Brazilian culture to Santa Barbara through authentic food, dance fitness, and live music.
Location: 1230 State St Suite C, Santa Barbara 93101
Established: May 2013

What prompted you to start your business?

In 2008 we returned from Brazil and realized there was no Brazilian restaurant in town. At the time we lived with our great friend who is a Brazilian chef and we thought that since we already had the Capoeira studio we could add a small juice bar with Brazilian appetizers and sandwiches. Unfortunately, the Tea Fire happened causing us to lose everything and rebuild from the ground up, but our idea was turning into a dream. In 2010 Jennifer’s father was diagnosed with kidney disease and couldn’t work anymore. On a car ride home one day Jennifer and her dad were talking about this old idea and then the “bing” went off, as he decided he wanted to invest. We decided to go for it, took WEV’s Self-Employment Training Course, and completed our business plan! Staying motivated, we gathered investments, saved money, and turned our dream into a reality.

What aspect of your business are you most passionate about?

That we feed people healthy and organic food, and introduce their palate to something they haven’t had here in Santa Barbara. We’ve always wanted a restaurant in town that has many healthy options especially for our kids.

We also love that the studio in the back offers a true cultural experience as soon as you walk in the door. We like to be different and we are excited about the fact that we pump up the diverse and cultural centers here in town.

What role did WEV play in the opening of your business?

WEV helped us to create goals that were attainable, with a plan to accomplish them. Without WEV I think we could have drifted off to many paths, so it helped keep us focused and organized. We made many connections and every day find out about more people who are part of the WEV community.

What specific goals have you set and achieved as a business owner? What goals will you conquer next?

The fact that we opened this business is a huge achievement. It was a long and rocky road to start but it prepared us for the challenges we face throughout the months.

We of course want to keep this business running smoothly, but would also like to open more just like this!

What has been your most surprising lesson in business?

Cash flow in the business and personally. We have learned how to prepare for the slow months.

Please describe if/how YOU have helped WEV, as well as list other WEV clients you’ve worked with.

We are always spreading the word about the program and how it helped us to acheive our goals. We work with Ethnic breads and Axxess–it seems like every successful small business we work with has been connected to WEV at some point.

Do you have any upcoming events?

Yes. Every Friday we have live music, and the first Thursday of the month we are part of the 1st Thursday art walk and feature Brazilian artists, perform Capoeira, and hand out samples.

Click here to see the special events we host each month.

What advice do you offer others who might want to start their own business?

Make sure you have a good idea! Always have a plan B, C, D… Always remember why you are doing it and let that be your motivation!

Paul LaRocco, LaRocco’s Pizzeria

Thanks to Pacific Coast Regional for this story!

paullaroccolarocco'spizzeriaBorn in New York City’s Little Italy and brought up in Brooklyn, Paul LaRocco learned a time-honored recipe for thin-crust Neapolitan pizza dough. He brought the New York secret to California and in 2008, he and his wife opened the first LaRocco’s Pizzeria, offering eat-in, takeout and delivery service of pizza, calzones and sandwiches made fresh daily.

LaRocco’s was profitable from day one, sales increased every year, and the restaurant was voted Best Pizza in Los Angeles for five years running. Paul LaRocco previously owned two successful restaurants, however, when he approached banks seeking a loan to open another location, a challenge emerged.

“I applied several times, and because I was self-employed, was considered a ‘newbie,’ despite many years in business. It was very frustrating,” LaRocco recalls. Paul and his wife were about to give up on the location they had found when, in December 2013, LaRocco’s wife found the Small Business Development Center hosted by Pacific Coast Regional online.

LaRocco worked one-on-one with Business advisors Harold C. Hart-Nibbrig and Sahar Andrade to fine-tune his business plan, obtain an SBA Community Advantage Loan, add social media to his marketing mix, and took the PCR SBDC Guided Business Plan course.

“The business plan course was very helpful,” says LaRocco. “I didn’t know the ins and outs of how to look at a business plan – how brief it should be, how intelligible, how someone will read it and what’s important to include.” Once LaRocco completed the course, Hart-Nibbrig edited the plan and provided input. “Their help was very timely and they had a lot of input – they helped me dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.” In January 2014, LaRocco’s received a $150,000 direct loan through Pacific Coast Regional’s SBA Community Advantage Loan Program.

Sandy Patterson, New 2 You

Thanks to JEDI for this story!

Sandy Patterson, of New 2 You, giving donation checks to JEDI, Meals on Wheels and Mercy Hospice, Mount Shasta

Sandy Patterson, of New 2 You, giving donation checks to JEDI, Meals on Wheels and Mercy Hospice, Mount Shasta

Sandy Patterson became active with JEDI in 2006. As the owner of Alternative Health Solutions, Sandy offers herbal consultations and supplements made by Nature’s Sunshine. In addition, she has served our communities for years in a number of volunteer capacities. She graduated from Making Your Money Work for You and became a Building Assets matched savings participant. She took numerous JEDI workshops to strengthen her business skills. Early in 2011, she met with JEDI counselor Renee Getreu to discuss her new vision, which she now calls New Humanity United. Sandy had a dream to establish a not-for-profit thrift store that would donate proceeds back to other worthy non-profits in the Mount Shasta area, while also serving the community in a variety of ways. As the discussions unfolded, Getreu became convinced that her idea was sound. Sandy was stepping out to practice one of the principles Getreu teaches in Making Your Money Work for You: to align your business with a greater purpose that will help to generate a sustaining trend toward success.

Sandy proceeded to launch the New 2 You project with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers who shared her vision. This team had already been involved twice before with successful thrift store efforts. They were experienced, and they knew they could do it. The New 2 You team began by holding a series of yard sales to generate enough cash to anchor their project in a store front location. Then they found support from another JEDI business owner, Atara Melo, owner of A Melo Place. Atara believed in their effort and generously offered to collaborate with the team so they could hold their sales in an ongoing location in her large back parking area during the summer. As fall drew on, Atara decided to move her business closer to downtown and Sandy was able to strike a deal with the building owner to take over the space Atara had been using. Now New 2 You is happily established at 412 South Mount Shasta Boulevard, and A Melo Place may be found at 417 Chestnut Street.

9 months ago, New 2 You was able to make the first of their planned quarterly donations. The three non-profits that the group decided to support included Meals on Wheels, Hospice and JEDI. At the first gifting, each organization received $1000 apiece. The following two quarters, each received $3000! With little more than a wing and a prayer, Sandy and the New 2 You team have turned the community’s donations into a delightful shop that supports the community, as well as the people who shop and work there. The team’s spirit of generosity and genuine caring lift the hearts of many who pass through their doors, and JEDI takes this moment to publicly acknowledge and thank Sandy and her crew for the many ways their effort is strengthening our communities.

David Aragon, Araparts

Thanks to California Capital for this story!

davidaragonarapartsDavid Aragon is a small business owner who runs Araparts, an auto parts company. Recently, California Capital asked him a few questions.

Can you give us a brief bio?
My name is David Aragon. I’m 25 years old, and I was born in Oakland, California. I grew up in the Bay Area, and lived in Orlando, Florida for 4 years. I’m an avid car enthusiast who loves everything about anything with a motor that moves, gasoline or electric. I like working on things, and making them better. I think cars and engineering are like art. My favorite example of this is the Tesla Model S.

What got you started in your particular area of business?
I’ve always loved cars, and I’ve always wanted to own a performance racing shop since I was about 14. I bought my first car when I was 16 for $3,000 and I totaled it 7 months later in a rollover accident. I only had liability so I had to beg my parents to let me keep in in the driveway and part it out so I can get my money back. I ended up making almost $7,000 off of it. I would get my paycheck from work and think “I just made $700 this week on the side. Why am I working 20 hours a week for 450 bucks a month?”

There was a part on the car shade that several people kept asking me to separate from the entire shade. Toyota didn’t sell this part separately, and the shade was discontinued. I decided that I was going to re-engineer the part myself.

At 19 years old, I successfully completed the reproduction of the product and started selling them. It even ended up at some of the local Toyota dealerships through some resellers. I only broke even on this product, but I was hooked. I started looking for other ways to make money in the auto industry, and found out that ignition coils were a hot product, and I decided to do the traditional buy and sell in my own private label brand Araparts. In the future I will continue to re-produce new products to market when I have more money to create molds, but this was the perfect start I’ve been looking for.

What challenges did you face when starting your business?
There were many challenges. The biggest one was with myself. There were times that I would think that it would never work, but I had to fight it off. Money was a big one. I crunched my money as much as possible to save as much as I could for a better launch. I could have bought a nicer car, but I didn’t. Making it in business sooner rather than later was the only thing on my mind. I had to find a product that I could drop like fire. Eventually I found one product that was selling like hot cakes: ignition coils. I bought $10,000 worth of coils at cost, and in 30 days I sold out completely. I ended up making just under $200,000 in sales that year and used 100% of the profit to add more products and grow revenue. That has been the plan since; all while I was working as a mechanic at Les Schwab. In 2013, I doubled revenue, left Les Schwab, and got a small office/warehouse, and have been growing ever since.

How did you hear about California Capital?
I was transitioning from spark plug wires to ignition coils, and I needed a little more capital for the ignition coils. I spoke with several lenders who thought I was a joke (I still kinda look like an 18-19 year old). I was denied for every reason in the book. Nobody even wanted to hear me out. When I spoke with Anthony Rucker from California Capital, we set up an appointment and he let me come in to explain everything so they could understand it better. I was concerned with having too many unnecessary inquiries on my credit so I wanted them to look at everything from my end, decide if they were going to go forward with it, and then run my credit after they’ve made the decision (just to make sure everything lines up). Anthony Rucker was all for it, and was pushing to get the loan. It was the best experience I’ve ever had with any loan company, ever.

Abraham Lopez, YucaTech Technology Solutions

Winner, 2015 Faces of Entrepreneurship award

Abraham arrived in San Rafael, California in 1997 from Mexico. His first job was washing dishes.  Through his willingness to learn and hard work, he moved from busboy, to waiter, to supervisor at Rickey’s Restaurant in Novato.

But Abraham had a dream of owning a business – maybe a fine dining Mexican restaurant or computer repair shop as he liked technology.  He tried his hand at business ownership and opened a small catering company in 2007.  The recession hit and he had to close.

Abraham Lopez YucaTech 1He loved to fix his own gadgets and has a passion for technology, so he promised his 10-year old son, Johny: “Someday, we’re going to open an electronics business.” For an immigrant from. Yucatan, Mexico, with little English at the time, no formal technical skills or money, it was a tall order.

In his spare time, he studied English, earned his GED and took courses to get an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems at College of Marin. With all this new knowledge, he started repairing electronics for his neighboring friends and family around 2011.

Abraham was in transition; he lost his house and got a divorce.  With nothing to lose, he decided to start fresh.  And start with something better.  It was time to pursue the dream.

He started by working on his finances.  He enrolled in a workshop with EARN that taught ways to save and come out of debt.  The EARN program offered a matched Independent Savings Account to start a business.  In order to be able to qualify for the match, Abraham needed a business plan and a business counselor.   The counselor referred him to the Renaissance Marin in 2011.

Abraham took Renaissance’s Como Empezer Tu Propio Negocio/Start and Grow Smart class to work on his business plan and received one-on-one advising through the Renaissance-hosted SBDC to finalize his plan.  His instructor, Fermin Alvarez, gave him an understanding of what it takes to open a business.  And his business counselor Luis taught him Quickbooks, budget management, and inventory management.

While starting his business, he continued to work 16 hour days: five nights a week at the restaurant and daytime doing maintenance for a hotel.  That left him three-to-four afternoons to work on his electronics business.

In May of 2013, he decide it was time to fulfill his promise to Johny.  His studio apartment was becoming overcrowded with computers and parts with no room to work on them. And he was eligible to withdraw the money he saved through the EARN program to put a deposit on a physical location.  He opened YucaTech Technology Solutions — a dedicated, customer-focused electronics service business on Fourth Street in San Rafael.

Abraham Lopez YucaTech 3In 2014 Renaissance recognized Abraham with the Emerging Entrepreneur of Year Award. Abraham continues to stay involved with the Center by receiving ongoing consulting and participating in Renaissance’s events.

YucaTech practices environmentally conscious business operations – the business recycles and reuses tech devices and electronics. Today, it employes 2 people, in addition to Abraham.

He has given up his maintenance job at the hotel, but still works two nights at the restaurant.  He is reinvesting in the business to create a solid business foundation with the goal of drawing a salary and opening a second location.

His main inspiration is his son, who turns 18 in July.  For the last three years, Johny worked alongside his father, and learned the technical skills and ropes of running a business.  Johny will enroll in Pomona College in the fall of 2015 to study business and environmental science.

Toni Ricci, Elite Dance and Performing Art Center

Winner, 2015 Faces of Entrepreneurship award

Toni Ricci Elite Dance 1Toni Ricci grew up in Maine in a small town, in a poor family. Even though the didn’t have a lot of money, she started dancing when she was five years old. She fell in love with dancing and yes, at the age of five, she knew that she wanted to own her own dance studio.

Dancing saved Toni’s life and kept her driven, despite a difficult childhood. She refused to let anything get in her way.

Toni became the student director of her high school’s dance company; the high school, Thornton Academy was known for its amazing performing arts program. She also took 9-10 classes a week at a local dance studio.

She was the first person in her family to go to college. She put herself through the University of New Hampshire and majored in dance.

While a junior in college, she saw an audition notice for Sesame Street Live and was hired onto the tour as Cassie in Dragon Tales Live. She left college and toured for two years. She made it to every state in the country, including a stop in California. When she visited Los Angeles, she knew that she wanted to go back. She packed up all her belongings into her car and drove to California with $500 in her pocket.

Toni wanted to finish school and re-enrolled in California State Fullerton. She put herself through school working everywhere – Target, Bath and Body Works, birthday parties, babysitting, and teaching at a few dance studios.

Eventually she landed at a dance studio in Tarzana and within 2 years went from teaching 3 or 4 classes a week to 30 classes a week. She made the schedule and lots of the artistic decisions. In 2012 the owner decided to sell the business. Toni couldn’t purchase it at that time because she was unable to qualify for the lease due to a low credit score and low cash flow. Toni had such deep relationships with her students that she thought “this is the time.” She felt that she needed to open her own studio then because couldn’t lose ‘her’ kids.

The first thing she did was to use her tax return money to incorporate the business. A few parents of students backed her with a loan, but it wasn’t enough.

She had no money, a terrible credit score, but a lot faith, hope, and persistence.

After looking for a big enough studio, she found a building on Independence Avenue in Woodland Hills that was an Iranian TV station. She showed up every day for two weeks and convinced them to rent to her. “They believed in me and finally said yes.” She signed a lease, co-signed by her cousin.

One student’s father suggested the Jewish Loan Federation. She did the same thing, returning every day until she convinced them to give her a loan. Because of her bad credit, she had three friends co-sign the loan and three friends co-sign on the financing for the dance floor.

Elite Dance and Performing Arts Center was built on a lot of faith and a lot of people believing in Toni. It finally opened in September, 2012 with 60 students, most of them having gone to her classes since they were 2 or 3 years old and and now they’re 14.

The theme for the studio is ‘living on a prayer’, taking it one day at time. But she eventually hit a wall; all the money she had went to construction. Her account was overdrawn. She wasn’t getting paid. Her managers worked for free the first year. The business got to a point where it couldn’t do that anymore.

She researched her options. Bank financing was out; she knew that her credit score was not even close to qualify her for a loan. She found VEDC. “They’ve saved us from going under over the past three years.” And she’s taken their business seminars. She says, “It’s a really good service to have. It’s really hard when you’re in business to stay in business.” She also has improved her credit score and is in good standing.

After a little over two years during this Christmas, word got around and the studio saw an influx of students, bringing it to another level. It went from juggling bills to breaking even in a month.

Today, the school has 270 students. Elite’s secret sauce is that it’s a family environment. “We went through everything together. The kids kept pushing me. I believe in the kids. I love them. My staff loves them. Parents and kids want to be there. They come here after school to be around people who love them. And they work hard.”

Elite offers a wide range of classes for those two years to adults including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, acrobatics and contemporary. The students dance September through June with some taking more than 10 classes a week. Elite has nine award-winning competition teams.

Elite has three dance rooms and will undergo construction in June 2015 to double the smaller room (thanks to another loan from VEDC). Toni teaches over 25 classes per week and oversees the operations of the business, which employs 3 full-time and 15-part-time staff members.

Elite has more than doubled their staff, tripled their students and are making a positive impact in the community.

“There are people like me who deserve a chance. Making your dreams come true shouldn’t always come down to having money. Sometimes enough faith, hope and belief can change it all; that’s what I want to teach my students.”

Javad Yaghoubi, City Shade

Thanks to Opening Doors, Inc for this story!

javadyaghoubicityshadeJavad Yaghoubi, an Afghan refugee who came to America with his family three years ago, is the proud owner of City Shade, a sunglasses cart in Arden Fair mall. When he first arrived in Sacramento, Javad found a job at a phone accessories shop. The entire time, he was considering opening his own business to better support his family.

When a sunglasses cart in the mall went up for sale, Javad jumped at the opportunity. He purchased the business in November of 2014, but needed more capital for inventory. Javad heard about Opening Doors from his brother, and came to us for technical assistance and a loan.

Opening Doors helped Javad create a strong business plan and cash flow projections. By December, Opening Doors approved him for an $8,000 loan, which he used to purchase a variety of inventory right before the holiday rush.

He now manages the cart with the help of his brother and sister. In addition to Javad’s position as business owner, the cart has created two new jobs. Javad appreciates the help Opening Doors provided to ensure he was prepared to run a business.

Tara Cooper, ‘Ohana Organics

Thanks to North Coast SBDC for this story!

TaraCooperOhanaOrganicsNorth Coast SBDC client ‘Ohana Organics beat out 100 companies to win the 2014 NEXTY Popular Vote Award in the Beauty and Natural Living category for their innovative Tattoo Butter, a vegan blend of organically-grown herbs and shea butter, which naturally decreases tattoo healing time.

The award was presented by New Hope Natural Media and Sterling-Rice Group, and the winner was chosen by consumers, manufacturers, and retailers in the natural products industry.

“We are so honored by this award and share it with everyone who voted for us and helped us grow: Headwaters Fund, Humboldt Made, the Small Business Development Center, and Redwood Acres, who has given local producers like us a beautiful space to work,” said Tara Cooper, the owner and creator of ‘Ohana Organics.

Cooper was born in Hawaii and moved to the area to attend Humboldt State University. She started ‘Ohana Organics in 2000 and her line of hand-crafted Hawaiian perfumes, botanically-scented organic shea butters and herbal salves are infused with organic herbs grown on the Cooper’s small farm.

“Because I graduated with a Natural Resource degree, business was not a strength for me. Having help from the SBDC gave me the tools and assistance I needed to successfully grow my business to the level we wanted,” Cooper said. “It is so wonderful to have people believe in you locally to help be successful globally.”

‘Ohana Organics was featured in the Winter 2014 issue of Certified Organic magazine.

Al and Tamanna Rahman, Garden of Roses

Thanks to CDC Small Business Finance for this story!

alandtamannarahmangardenofrosesAl and Tamanna Rahman met in 2012 when Tamanna was working as a floral arranger for Roger’s Flower Shop. They were married a year later, and Tamanna decided to open Garden of Roses, her own florist shop. Al believed they could make it a success, and quit his job as marketing manager at Verizon to devote his time to launching the business. In late 2013, they decided to use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to aggressively promote their new business, but they needed to purchase a cooler and inventory for the holiday rush.

They applied for a loan from Wells Fargo, but were declined. Al had left his job, so they didn’t have his salary to fall back on, and they had been in business for only a few months. Wells Fargo, like most banks, requires two years of financials to provide a small business loan. With few other lending options in Moreno Valley, the Rahmans were stuck. They considered using a personal credit card to purchase the equipment, but didn’t have a high enough credit limit.

Luckily, the Wells Fargo loan officer had a relationship with CDC Small Business Finance. CDC offers SBA microloans specifically tailored to newer businesses, and doesn’t require the established history that bank loans do. Instead, CDC loan officer Carla Ulloa looked at the Rahman’s banking history and savings to make sure they had the reserves to make the loan payments and still cover all their bills. Inland Empire Small Business Development Center walked them through the application process and made sure all their documentation was in order.

Thanks to an online loan application and the MMS underwriting system, CDC was able to approve them for a loan in five weeks. Al and Tamanna had asked for $20,000, but MMS underwriting offered them $10,000 due to the newness of their business and the size of their cash reserves. The cooler they needed cost $12,500, though, so Carla negotiated a deal with her underwriter to use the cooler as collateral against the loan.

Garden of Roses bought the cooler and haven’t looked back. Customers rave about their service, and especially love the text messages they receive with a picture of the flowers their loved ones will receive. Today, the business that started as a husband and wife team employs five employees and delivers floral arrangements throughout the Moreno Valley and beyond.