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.

Xochitl Guerrero, Taller Xochicura

xochitlguerrerotallerxochicuraAccording to AnewAmerica:

Xochitl has developed the confidence to launch her businesses as an artist, and has transformed in front of our eyes into someone who has figured out how to make a living out of her passion. She is positioning herself to successfully make a living out of her art — from unpaid community projects to an artist with professional standing that can command a price for her talent.  

She spent a lot of time in the planning phase before officially launching Taller Xochicura at the AnewAmerica EXPO in August of 2014.  Many people get stuck in the planning phase because they are so afraid to get out of their comfort zone.  She is a good example of where people start with AnewAmerica — they have a lot of talent and a vision but a lack of business development skills.  AnewAmerica is in the process of helping her develop her online presence and grow her business.

Xochitl (SO-sheel) Guerrero is an Oakland artist-activist-teacher whose creations include studio fine art, murals, gourd decoration, and mosaic/tile art. She has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.

Her career in Oakland began over 35 years ago working with youth, and she has re-invented herself by opening Taller Xochicura in 2013. To find new patrons, she uses social media and displays her work at festival booths, cafes and galleries. She has also contracted with communities and the City of Oakland to undertake mural projects. Besides the Bay Area, Xochitl has patrons and interested buyers quickly expanding to other areas including Los Angeles, New York, Florida and Hawaii.

AnewAmerica & Taller Xochicura

Xochitl sought out AnewAmerica to guide her to a successful transition after starting Taller Xochicura. She says that AnewAmerica has not only given her the confidence she needs to sell at fairs, but also keeps her accountable for the goals she sets in coaching sessions.

Xochitl participated in our Savings Match Program, funded by Y&H Soda Foundation. Once she hit her target of $2,000 saved in December 2014, AnewAmerica matched her dollar for dollar so that she could put a total of $4,000 toward purchasing a laptop, camera and printer. These business assets increase her opportunities to sell her work online and showcase her portfolio. Xochitl plans to use them to grow her social media capabilities.

Inspiring Future Women Entrepreneurs

As a woman business owner, Xochitl is proud to stand up for herself and let everyone know that she owns Taller Xochicura. She has younger artists work by her side on her murals while she teaches and guides them. She hopes to inspire other women to find ways to do what they love, follow their dreams, and not give up!

Catarah Hampshire and Shoneji Robison, Southern Girl Desserts

Thanks to Opportunity Fund for this story!

SouthernGirlDessertsI’m not sure if you and your team understand the difference your organization is making in the survival and longevity of small businesses like ours. It means so much to have real people who care and who are concerned about your success on your side. It means the world and it’s definitely a relief knowing we are finally out of the shark infested waters of cash advances and knowing we have been given a chance to succeed. So again, THANK YOU.” –Southern Girl Desserts

Catarah Hampshire began baking southern-style cupcakes as a hobby, until she realized how much people loved the comforting, delicious taste of southern hospitality. Who isn’t curious about trying a Hennessey and Coke cupcake? Or having a chicken and waffles treat for dessert? Indulging in a tiny pecan pie-cake?

Catarah began serving these creative treats to the public in 2007, when she officially opened the doors of her gourmet cupcake boutique, Southern Girl Desserts in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, she was joined by co-owner Shoneji Robison. Business took off quickly and it wasn’t before long until the “Dessert Divas” needed financing to purchase extra equipment so that they could keep up with demand and start selling their popular cupcakes nationwide. Catarah and Shoneji needed cash fast for their rapid expansion and turned to a merchant cash advance company (MCA), Wide Merchant Investment, for help. Even though the MCA would not give them the full amount they needed, Catarah and Shoneji accepted the high terms and got extra financing from alternative lender OnDeck Capital. Without realizing it, Southern Girl Desserts had fallen victim to predatory lending and quickly found themselves caught in a vicious cycle of debt.

Catarah and Shoneji were unable to keep up with the high payments and within three months from signing with OnDeck, they were forced to take on two additional cash advances from Yellowstone Capital and Pearl Cash. With more than 40% of sales being pulled by these four predatory lenders, costly overdraft fees began racking up quickly, further suffocating the business’ cash flow.

It wasn’t until Catarah received a flyer about Opportunity Fund’s EasyPay merchant cash advance refinance program that she was able to find someone to help. An Opportunity Fund business advisor explained to them that they had deserved something much better than what they were receiving. Opportunity Fund refinanced Catarah and Shoneji’s merchant cash advance debt with a $40,000 EasyPay loan, cutting their monthly payments by ninety percent, thanks to a longer term and a lower interest rate. Loan repayment is tied to sales at their business. They pay more when business booms and less (or none) on slow days. They repay the loan with a fixed percent of all debit and credit card sales to automatically repay the loan, a far lower amount than what their merchant advances were taking. This loan also helps them to build their credit, since it is a real, regulated business loan.

With cupcakes flying out the door and financing that fits their business, Catarah and Shoneji can return their attention to planning for the future, instead of worrying about tomorrow.

Michael Barriere, BarrierEnergy Associates

Thanks to Women’s Economic Ventures for this story!

michaelbarrierebarrierenergyassociatesLocations: Santa Maria & Santa Barbara
Established: 2011
Business Description: Energy efficiency and alternative energy consultancy specializing in State of California Title 24 Energy Code verification and certification for Federal, State and Local new and existing residential construction and programs.

What prompted you to start BarrierEnergy Associates?
My father was an architect, and, since college I had studied and worked with rehabilitating residential real estate, building and community. Having never lost interest in the challenges of housing, and then also energy, I had the opportunity to become a real estate agent and developer years later. When the economy turned down around 2008, I discovered the emerging “green economy” afforded me the chance to pursue both housing and energy. Within that emerging economic segment, I have created a niche combining several skills and abilities that are in high demand, marketable and pay a better than average wage.

What aspect of your business are you most passionate about?
As I am, California is committed to the principle of “Zero-Net Energy”. That is, by a combination of energy efficiency measures and alternative energy technologies our homes, like our workplaces, businesses, and other aspects of our economy and life, produce as much energy as they use. I am making a difference today by supporting State and Federal efforts to reduce energy waste, energy costs and improve the quality of our housing stock.

What role did WEV play in the opening of your business?
About 4 years ago, after I had completed my Rater and Analyst training, I briefly considered working for a contractor but decided instead to pursue starting my own consultancy. A dear friend, Camille Dominguez at EDD in Santa Maria recommended I pursue WEV’s SET program. Wow! I learned so much I had never even considered important! Having received positive feedback from my instructor and classmates, I submitted my resulting business plan for consideration of a business startup loan. A little more than 2 1/2 years ago I was awarded a WEV loan which I used to purchase my own test equipment and start my business. Now having enjoyed solid, continuous growth, WEV has once again assisted me, through a business expansion loan which I will use to add 1 1/2 employees, a second vehicle, and additional equipment. WEV has really made all this possible.

What specific goals have you set and achieved as a business owner? What goals will you conquer next?
In addition to pursuing a meaningful career in a field I truly enjoy and believe in, my first goal was to create a sufficient income stream to be entirely self-supporting by my own contributions. My business is now well established in the new construction and special energy programs segments of the housing market. The next challenge is to grow and support the new 2013 Title 24 Energy Codes that took affect July 1, in the area of existing housing. I am also interested in growing the non-residential segments of this business. Having worked to save energy in a commercial high-rise, a hospital and shopping center, I hope to become involved in the State’s Proposition 39 program this coming year.

What has been your most surprising lesson in business?
Flexibility! I needed to learn much more than I knew to be successful. Accepting my limits, drawing on ideas and support from WEV, being willing and open-minded enough to try new things was as much a key to success as the hard skills I had learned.

Please describe how you have helped WEV, as well as list other WEV clients you’ve worked with.
Not as much as I would like! I am currently exploring the Thrive in Five program as I pursue alternative growth opportunities. I am also actively seeking accounting/bookkeeping support from within the WEV family. I have certainly recommended the SET program many times.

What advice do you offer others who might want to start their own business?
When considering a business start-up stick with what you know and like – starting and operating a business is a good deal more complex than the good or service you offer. Realize that you know only a small portion of all that you will need to know to be a success. Accept your limitations and reach out for help – you cannot possibly do it all yourself! Be willing to modify or change your business plans on the fly because you will likely be overcome by events – circumstances are always subject to change!

Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats

Thanks to Working Solutions for this story!

ryanfarr4505meatsIn 2012, Working Solutions client Ryan Farr, founder of 4505 Meats, sought advice from a Working Solutions mentor for his rapidly expanding business. Ryan was matched with Sean Hutchinson, Founder of Strategic Value Advisors and Working Solutions Financial Mentor. Two years later, Ryan has graduated from his Working Solutions loan, obtained conventional financing, and opened a new barbecue restaurant in San Francisco! Between his many endeavors (packaged food sold in Whole Foods, his butcher shop, and the new restaurant), Ryan had created a whopping 70 jobs in San Francisco and plans to keep on growing!

Working Solutions recently caught up with Ryan and Sean to talk about their experience:

Ryan: The first meeting with Sean was like a smack in the face. Sean’s point of view from outsider looking in was an eye-opening experience.

Sean: From when we first met, Ryan is well on his way to a 4-5X increase in revenue and a dramatic increase in profit. All the fundamentals are there now. It’s a great story – and it’s because of Ryan’s willingness to listen, lead, and act. My advice may have helped – but he did all the work.

Going into the meeting, I knew that Ryan and 4505 Meats had a terrific following and very loyal customers. There was a lot to like about the company and Ryan’s leadership. The business was growing fast – a good sign – but the growth was causing some challenges. We talked in detail about those challenges and the need to streamline the business.

Ryan: By taking Sean’s advice I realized that as a leader I needed to grow and focus on my skill set as a manager. I needed to focus on specific areas instead of trying to do it all.

Sean: Getting an honest assessment from a relative stranger helped him focus. I think much of what I suggested simply reinforced what he already knew.

Ryan: Last time Sean and I worked together was roughly a month ago when he introduced us to one of his peers that can help us plan our future at a higher level. I plan on staying in touch with Sean as long as I can. He has been a great resource and friend. We are just getting started.

Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!

Max Aram & Chris Blevins,

Thanks to the SBDC at Pacific Coast Regional for this story!

maxaramandchrisblevinspickmysolarAs passionate advocates of solar technology, Max Aram and Chris Blevins want to help residential consumers make smart choices about installing solar energy systems. Their company,, is an online marketplace where solar providers bid against each other on residential installations, lowering the cost to homeowners by 25 to 30 percent.

The chaotic state of the solar market hampers widespread adoption of the technology. Residential customers do not know what factors to consider when deciding to go solar. Aram compares the marketing strategy of solar power installers to that of a “used-car-salesman,” which he believes ultimately dissuades homeowners from solar power installation. “I had the idea to create an online platform to help consumers search for the best deal on solar installation,” Aram says. “But it was just an idea I didn’t know how to execute.” He needed help in early 2013, Aram took a course held by the Small Business Development Center at Pacific Coast Regional.

PCR SBDC Business Advisors Martha G. Castro and Harold C. Hart-Nibbrig helped Aram figure out how to monetize his idea, conduct market research, develop a business plan with financial projections, incorporate the business and develop a partnership agreement once Blevins came on board.

Castro showed Aram how to do extensive market research to make sure there was a demand for his idea. “After doing more research in-depth and looking into competitors in the space, we [modified] the business a little bit,” says Aram. Doing research inspired Aram to add more features to the service, such as the ability for homeowners to upload bids they already have from solar installers outside the PickMySolar system. PickMySolar then provides up to two hours of free consultation to assess whether the bids are fair. “At this point, our service is unique-no one else is doing what we’re doing,” states Aram proudly.

After investing $40,000 of their own money in their startup, Aram and Blevins were able to raise $100,000 in convertible debt financing from friends and family. They plan to seek additional capital in the next few months to finance marketing, advertising and hiring key personnel. References from the PCR SBDC also helped PickMySolar earn a coveted space in the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator. Without marketing, PickMySolar has grown solely on word-of-mouth. Since the beta website launched in January 2014, the company has actively expanded its network of solar installers. Currently, PickMySolar has installers in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties, with plans to expand to all seven Southern California counties by the end of June 2014. Future plans include establishing direct partnerships with financiers to facilitate sales, bringing on taxequity investors to provide their own internal financing options to customers, and expanding to serve the entire state of California by 2015.

Green Concept Group LLC, dba
(888) 454-9979

Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!

Irena, Silhouette Custom Design

Thanks to Opening Doors for this story!

irenasilhouettecustomdesignTen years ago Irena was eight months pregnant and fleeing her home country of Ukraine with her husband and two small children. Her family’s safety was threatened because they disagreed with the government’s communist ideals, and despite being a talented tailor, the unstable economy impeded her sewing business and hope for prosperity.

Once her family resettled in Sacramento, Irena felt enormous relief and hope for their future. Despite feeling intimidated about adjusting to American culture, Irena began the process of rebuilding her life and making new connections.

To support her family, Irena worked at a dry cleaning business, but her passion for tailoring never abated, and she completed simple dress and suit alterations from her home. It was not until 2008 that she began reaching out to Sacramento lenders to launch a business called Silhouette Custom Design.

After meeting with an Opening Doors business specialist in 2009, Irena learned that she qualified for technical assistance and financing through our special loan program for refugees. With the help of a $15,000 loan, Irena purchased specialized equipment, including a sewing machine that allowed her to take on more complex projects.

Irena worked hard for three years, established a stronger and larger customer base, and took out a second loan. She used the money to open a boutique in downtown Sacramento where she fits clients and does most of her sewing.

After working diligently to establish Silhouette Custom Design as a reputable small business within the Sacramento community, Irena now creates mostly custom work for her clients, including bathing suits, evening and cocktail dresses, and business attire. Recently, Irena signed a long-term contract to recreate historical military uniforms to be featured in museums in Germany and Austria.

Before leaving her home in Ukraine, Irena struggled to make a living despite being a highly skilled tailor. Today, with help from Opening Doors’ Prosperity Project, Irena is a thriving entrepreneur who supports her family doing the work she loves.

Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!

Candance Pilgram-Simmons, All That & MORE Boutique

Thanks to Pacific Coast Regional SBDC for this story!

candancepilgrimsimmonsallthatandmoreboutiqueCandance Pilgram-Simmons and a partner opened All That & MORE Boutique, a women’s clothing and accessories store, in Culver City, California more than three years ago. The boutique features contemporary fashions, accessories, handbags and men’s accessories. She also takes consignments from fashion and jewelry designers.

Candance came to Pacific Coast Regional’s Small Business Development Center in March 2012 looking for advice and counsel on management issues and possible loan financing. At that time she and her partner were in discussions about ending their partnership venture, requiring her to refashion her plans in order to continue.

PCR SBDC first helped Candance deal with the hard business of dissolving the partnership, helping her and her partner get a mediated settlement agreement. We also helped her deal with the lessor of the store premises resulting in her getting a new lease.

In this new beginning, with our assistance, Candance began a successful debt reduction plan, incorporated the business, hired a part time employee and has taken on two interns. Candance has also expanded the marketing reach of her boutique, attracting more customers including some from the arts and entertainment industry.

The Culver City News voted All That & MORE boutique as 2013 Best of Culver City for “Special Occasion Dress.” Most importantly, during her first year as sole owner she has almost doubled her monthly sales.

All That & MORE boutique is located at 10754 Jefferson Blvd Culver City, CA 90230 (310) 559 7332 Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @atmboutique, and instagram.

“We all deserve an All That & MORE boutique experience.”

Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!