Bertha Magaña, Magaña Farms

Thanks to California FarmLink for this story!

BerthaMaganaFarmBertha Magaña was one of the first farmers to receive a loan through California FarmLink‘s loan program for her 7 acres of diverse organic vegetables in Prunedale. Along with the $10,000 loan, FarmLink provided technical assistance to help Ms. Magaña parlay her experience as a farmworker, dependable sales outlet in ALBA Organics (a produce distributor affiliated with the Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association), good credit, and outside source of income (from her husband’s job) to obtain financing and move forward with her farm business. Ms. Magaña exemplifies the underserved beginning farmers that FarmLink helps to overcome barriers to financing, such as low income, limited English, and lack of access to capital.

In the last 2 years, Ms. Magaña’s farm has done well. Her husband has been able to quit his job and join her on the farm. She repaid her original operating loan and received a larger operating loan in 2013 which she has also repaid. This fall she is working with FarmLink loan officer Brett Melone to obtain a $60,000 operating loan for 2014 and expand her business. FarmLink’s Central Coast regional coordinator, Eric Winders, is helping her lease additional acreage for the expansion. The long-term relationship we have built with Ms. Magaña illustrates the importance of one-on-one technical assistance for small farmers.

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Kimberly Haines, Pampered Pet Salon & Boutique

Thanks to Opening Doors for this story!

kimberlyhainespamperedpetsalonSome call it posh; Kimberly Haines calls it elegant. The Pampered Pet Salon & Boutique in Folsom is Haines’ unique vision and passion for grooming healthy pets for happy owners. The salon is not clinical or bland with plain white walls, nor does it smell like most pet grooming shops. Instead, Haines has created a safe and relaxing place where pet owners can drop off their furry loved ones for a one-of-a-kind grooming experience.

Haines worked for a chain pet grooming store for about seven years, but after earning a business marketing degree from Sacramento State and with support from her family, she realized she didn’t have to work for someone else the rest of her life.

She combined her skills and knowledge of pet grooming and utilized resources from SCORE to put together a solid business plan for a pet grooming business and retail store. Haines had help from an Opening Doors loan committee member and SCORE mentor, Frank Cuzzo. Haines was unable to secure a loan from banks because her personal capital was not high enough, so Cuzzo recommended she apply for a loan through Opening Doors.

The advice turned out to be revolutionary. Haines applied for a loan in June of 2013 and was accepted the following month. On November 13th, she held the salon’s grand opening, and her business success has been improving ever since. Thanks to the business loan from Opening Doors, Haines became self-employed doing the work she enjoys most.

Haines is truly passionate about pet care and is committed to providing great service. Haines loves to see her customers light up when they leave with their freshly groomed, happy, and pampered pets.

Three months after the grand opening, the salon is doubling its projections. Haines credits her success to her happy customers spreading the word as well as the salon’s great location in a busy shopping center on the corner of Folsom-Auburn Road and Greenback.

With plenty of space and strong encouragement from customers, Haines wants to make the store a retail destination and plans to start a doggie daycare. After helping Haines achieve such remarkable success, we are excited to watch Haines’ business improve and expand in the near future.

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Torrey Douglass, Lemon Fresh Design


Thanks to West Company for this story!

Torrey Douglass designs websites under the name Lemon Fresh Design. And if your business is designing websites, your own website had better sparkle. That was a “no brainer” for Douglass, who studied digital design at S.F. State and worked in the fast-paced Bay Area dot com world before moving to Anderson Valley.

But Douglass soon found that it takes more than talent, training, and hard work to build a successful small business. “The business side was not my strength,” concedes Douglass, who turned to West Company’s Loyd Hambrick for help with her fledgling enterprise.

One of the first things Douglass learned from Hambrick was targeted marketing. “Not everyone on the planet needs a website,” Douglass explains. And even if a website may be a helpful tool for a small business, it has to fit the needs and products of that business.

As Douglass explains it on her own site: “Your ideal website is like your ideal dance partner: light on its feet, responsive to your needs, and easy on the eyes. It accommodates your idiosyncrasies. It behaves itself in different environments. It knows how to attract and keep the attention of its audience. It knows, in short, how to boogie.”

The Lemon Fresh Design philosophy also notes: “There are a lot of applications and interactive features out there. Some of them will be appropriate for your site, some of them won’t. We analyze your needs, match them with suitable online services, identify the appropriate technology, and build them accordingly. Ecommerce, online calendars, geo-locators and mapping services, and customer communications, such as blogs and newsletters, engage users and expand the functionality of your site beyond a simple digital brochure.”

This philosophy has helped Douglass garner a client base that ranges from the Apple Farm and the Boonville Hotel in Anderson Valley, to Wells Dental in Comptche and California Adult Schools. She even has clients as far away as Los Angeles and engages in what entrepreneurs call “income patching” by working on-call for Sonoma Technology, Inc.

Douglass says that the best piece of advice West Company’s Hambrick gave her was to “take appropriate business precautions, as in utilizing contracts with my programmers, and also to trust my instincts.” She is also grateful to West Company for recommending her to their other clients and to local businesses.

“It’s scary to be self-employed,“ says Douglass. “My goal is to provide top-notch graphic and web design services that hit a standard you would find at the best design firms in San Francisco. Business-wise, there are areas in which I am not strong but that are essential to creating a successful company. So when I hit a situation that’s got me stumped, it’s great to have Loyd and the West Company to turn to.”

Lemon Fresh Design is located on the top floor of Boonville’s Farrer Building, 14111 Highway 128, and can be reached at 272-8592 or

Pedro Zerpa, Fusion Peruvian Grill

Thanks to Working Solutions for this story!


Pedro receives his funding with Lending Associate Roberto and Business Services Director Lorena

Pedro Zerpa is used to working hard to achieve his goals. An immigrant from Peru, he worked his way up from dishwasher to head chef of a San Francisco restaurant with no formal culinary education. After 15 years as a chef, Pedro was ready to strike out on his own, and found a space in San Mateo that he was able to rent with his family’s help. He ran his restaurant, Fusion Peruvian Grill, for 3 years, before realizing how much he could increase his profits by expanding his restaurant into a bar. He obtained the liquor license, but lacked the money to build out a bar area. Due to some past credit problems, Pedro was not eligible for a bank loan, and was referred by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to Working Solutions, a nonprofit microlender that works with start-ups and other businesses that do not qualify for traditional financing.

Thanks to the new Microloan Management Services (MMS) system implemented by Working Solutions, Pedro was able to undergo a streamlined process to receive his loan. Until recently, all applicants to Working Solutions were required to present their business plans, projections, and experience for approval in a Loan Committee session, a time-intensive process that could hold up the funding for months. Now that MMS has been implemented, when Working Solutions’ Lending Associate Roberto ran Pedro’s application through the system, Pedro was immediately approved. MMS is a proprietary software developed by CDFI Accion Texas that uses a matrix of criteria — from credit scores to industry experience and historical revenue— to determine whether a client should receive immediate approval or whether more information and consideration is necessary.

In Pedro’s case, his long career in the industry and his restaurant’s profitability outweighed his credit issues, and he had his loan check in hand just 9 days after MMS approved him. “Nothing is easy in this life,” says Pedro about the arc of his career in the restaurant industry. But thanks to MMS and the Working Solutions Lending Team, getting the money to improve his restaurant was—he’s now opened his bar and is using the profits his restaurant is earning to put his son through culinary school. “Nobody can say you can’t do it,” says Pedro of his success—a sentiment Working Solutions definitely shares.

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Alfredo Garcia, Watsonville Diesel

Winner, 2014 Faces of Entrepreneurship award

Alfredo Garcia receives the 2014 Face of Entrepreneurship award from Carmen Herrera-Mansir of El Pajaro CDC and Tyler Blackney from Representative Alejo's office.

Alfredo Garcia (pictured right with Carmen Herrera-Mansir of El Pajaro CDC and Tyler Blackney from Representative Alejo’s office) has an impressive resume of 20 years when it comes to the diesel trucking industry.

  • He started at Harnell College where he studied diesel technology,
  • He graduated to Salinas Valley Ford at 22.
  • After two years he took advantage of a better opportunity at International in Watsonville; they have shops and dealer in a few dozen states and Mexico. He worked there for four years.
  • He spent eight years at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville taking care of their transportation needs, the fleet, and any license needs for school bus drivers.

Sometime in 2009, a friend who owns a building had a tenant that was moving out and asked if Alfredo was interested in the space. He had saved $50,000 over the years and decided to give it a try.

Large trucks are required to be inspected annually and every 90-days. Alfredo believes there was a need for a company that does the inspections and services the trucks, e.g. maintenance, dry train, brakes, small fabrication jobs.  He opened Watsonville Diesel on September 1, 2009.

The first and second years were hard. His business development strategy consisted of knocking on doors. By 2012, he had a small shop with two employees, and wanted to grow his company. He asked everyone where he should look for more business, where could he find business assistance. An owner of a small shop told him about Vinicio Vinedes of El Pajaro Community Development Corporation.

“You should talk to these people,” said the shop owner. “Everyone goes to Vinicio.”

Alfredo is constantly in learning mode, so he immediately contacted Vinicio. They worked together to expand the company’s target market and drum up more business. Vinicio also helped Alfredo apply for a loan to expand the shop. That didn’t pan out because the company was new and Alfredo’s credit was low.

But Alfredo saved money and has been working on his financial statements with Vinicio. Now he has lots of customers, opened a second location in Hollister to service the Hollister Fire Department, is working with city to get business loan, and hopes to become an international dealer.

Watsonville is home to 600-700 farms that run trucks, but parts are hard to find. Salinas is 35 minutes away and San Jose is over an hour. If he’s a dealer, he can hold $1.5 million in inventory and add to his staff of 8.

It’s not all business with Alfredo. He wants to give back to his community and provide opportunities for youth in a city. Lots of high school students love cars and want to learn what he’s doing. The teachers send him students and he does a mini-training. Then if they’re interested, they go to technical school for 18 months, learn the systems, get certified and if they’re good enough Alfredo will hire them.  About a dozen students come to his shop annually.  He’s hired two of them.

Patty Rodriguez, SF Parking

Winner, 2014 Faces of Entrepreneurship award

PattyRodriquezSFParkingPatty Rodriguez was studying Public Administration at the University of San Francisco when she was hired by Frank Miranda, the manager of ExecuPark, to assist him with his administrative work. Frank became her mentor, sharing his fifteen years of experience in the parking industry as they served ExecuPark’s many clients. He referred her to a startup parking company, where she helped organize the back end of business, setting up employee files and accounts receivable and payable. She enjoyed the work, and started to think about starting her own parking business. Toward the end of her first year, a few of the business’s contracts were coming to an end, so in October 2011, she started operating SF Parking in October 2011 and secured the expiring account, retaining the old employees who would have otherwise lost their jobs.

Patty and her parents emigrated from El Salvador to San Francisco’s Mission District, where she grew up. She knows people – friends, neighbors, and family members – who chose the wrong path and served time. Jobs are hard to find when they try to pick up their lives. One of her motivations to start her business was to give people a second chance, to provide economic stability and to teach a solid work ethic. If they’re willing to work and learn, she’s willing to hire them. Some of her employees hadn’t graduated from high school when she hired them, but have been able move on and get other jobs thanks to their time with SF Parking. Both her brothers were looking for work when she began running SF Parking, but because of their records no one would hire them. One brother still works for her; the other one became part of the Ironworkers Union.

Patty Rodriguez 7Every small business owner knows it’s difficult to own a business, that’s especially true in San Francisco’s parking industry. The Tax Collector Office requires that all parking business have Revenue Control Equipment (RCE). Every year business permits increase, valet licenses increase, and in 2011, Patty needed to spend a thousands of dollars per location on new equipment – money she didn’t have after taken money out of her 401K and borrowing from her mom to start the business. She went to the Office of Small Business at City Hall for help, who told her about Working Solutions. She met with Lorena Roman, and was approved for a microloan in the fall of 2012.

“They were able to give me a $25,000 lump sum to invest in the equipment so I could be compliant with the city,” said Patty. “If it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t still be here, never mind doing well. Lorena broke everything down and gave me different ideas on how to manage the cash flow and increase profit.”

Patty continues to meet with Lorena on a quarterly basis to look at her profit and loss statements and her cash flow. Business is great; she has a great relationship with the #1 parking company in the nation and manages one of the employee parking garages at the airport. She is planning to become a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) so that she can go after larger statewide contracts. She hopes that within five to ten years from now, she will be able to buy a building in San Francisco and own her own parking garage.

Chiefo Chukwudebe, Chiefo’s Kitchen

Thanks to La Cocina and Opportunity Fund for this story!

chiefochukwudebechiefoskitchenChiefo Chukwudebe launched her West African catering business – Chiefo’s Kitchen – in 2009 at La Cocina‘s Street Food Festival. It was one of the busiest booths! But in order to sell so much food, Chiefo also had to spend quite a lot of money to prepare for it – so much, in fact, that when 2011′s Street Food Festival rolled around, Chiefo was apprehensive about whether she would have enough capital to secure a booth and purchase the necessary ingredients.

“It came down to: ‘Should I pay rent or should I be in the Street Food Festival?’ I thought I would have to skip the festival and lose the chance to grow my business,” recalls Chiefo. Opportunity Fund and La Cocina have a strong working relationship, so the team at La Cocina knew they could put Chiefo in safe hands when they referred her to Opportunity Fund for a loan. “I couldn’t believe it at first. It seemed too good to be true! It was the right loan that came at the right time.” With her $3,000 loan from Opportunity Fund secured, Chiefo’s Kitchen was even more successful her second time in the Street Food Festival, grossing $12,000 in sales.

Since then, Chiefo has gone on to launch her own catering business, serving delicious West African dishes to private parties and corporate events throughout the Bay Area. The next time you need catering for a business or personal event, please consider Chiefo’s Kitchen! With her $3,000 loan, Opportunity Fund was able to help Chiefo invest in her business at just the right time. We’re in the business of saying “yes” and we love to see what happens to these Opportunity Funded businesses as they thrive.

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Ninette Paloma, Santa Barbara Centre for Aerial Arts

Thanks to Women’s Economic Ventures for this story!

ninettepalomacentreforaerialartsNinette Paloma started aerial dancing for sheer pleasure, but she soon wanted nothing more than to make it a full-time endeavor. Now, she invites others to “honor the past and explore the uncharted” with her at her thriving studio, Santa Barbara Centre for Aerial Arts.

What prompted you to start your business?
I was prompted by the innate belief that my passion can be translated into something tangible. For years, Aerial Dance was a way for me to balance the left and right side of my brain, something I did for the sheer pleasure and release it brought me after a hectic quotidian schedule. When it became clear that I wanted nothing more than to make this a full-time endeavor, I knew it was time to sit down and build a solid platform that delineated my vision for this new chapter in my life.

What did you learn or gain from the Self Employment Training class at WEV that helped you in businesses you started after graduating?
I once heard an incredibly successful business man in the twilight of his career offer sage advice to entrepreneurs: don’t grow, change. He was speaking of the traditional adage that more is more, that expansion somehow makes a good business great. I took to heart his urging instead to be a fluid business owner–to evolve as your environment evolves– and it has truly shaped my approach to all of my business endeavors.

I can think of no greater way to gauge the effectiveness of a business idea than to sit down and write a solid business plan. And to me, that’s what SET does best. Being handed a sizeable binder filled with wonderfully concise tools on how to tackle the business plan writing process, and then tasking you with the actual execution of it, was an effective balance of support and accountability.

What specific goals have you set and achieved as a business owner?
These days I approach my goals from a forest and trees perspective. My trees might be the addition of a new class or the purchase of an integral piece of equipment. My forest goals have included performing overseas, and building an additional studio to accommodate our growing number of students. I find that by consistently tackling your tree goals, the forest seems so much less daunting, and very achievable. This has been a big year for us, we’ve added five more classes to our roster, built a new reception area and dance studio so our aerialists can spread their wings without poking each other in the eye, and are heading to France for a summer performance. Whew, I’m exhausted just writing that down!

What advice do you offer others who might want to start their own business, and what advice do you have to stay in business?
Be honest. About your desires, expectations, and timeline, and be thoughtful about setting realistic goals for your business. As for how to stay in business: a fresh perspective and fluidity is key.

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Luz Orozco, Qi Hair Salon

Thanks to the Inland Empire SBDC for this story!

luzorozcoqihairsalonThe Inland Empire SBDC successfully assisted Luz Orozco in a step-by-step process to start her business, and open Qi Hair Salon.

Luz Orozco was attending the Inland Empire SBDC’s workshop “How To Start Your Business” in October 2012 in preparation to start her own hair salon. Al Gohary of the Inland Empire SBDC was teaching the workshop, and Luz had many questions regarding her lease, and complications with the permits with the city, she also needed information on how to create a business plan, how to project the cash flow, how to start her business, and how to get funded. Al Gohary answered the questions regarding the lease and the permits, and advised Luz to come and meet with him in the Inland Empire SBDC office to work together on the business plan and financials.

Al Gohary, business consultant with the Inland Empire SBDC, worked with Luz to develop her business plan and financial projections. Al also advised her on how to deal with the landlord permits situation, and also explained the options of equity financing from friends and family.

Qi Hair salon opened in June, 2013 in Moreno Valley, and is currently seeking to hire their sixth employee.

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Penny Baldado, Cafe Gabriela

Thanks to AnewAmerica Community Corporation for this story!

pennybaldadocafegabrielaPenny Baldado moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1999 to reunite with her father who had been living in the states for many years. She viewed the move as a way to expand her opportunities. However, Penny found the transition to life in America difficult, and she felt powerless after leaving her support system in the Philippines. Eventually, she found a job bussing and waiting tables at a Filipino restaurant. Then, she took the opportunity to work in the kitchen as a sous-chef. Gradually, she gained a grasp of cooking and working in the kitchen. Before long, she was promoted to Head Chef.

However, Penny found it difficult to work in an all-male Filipino kitchen where, she states, “there was a lot of machismo.” In addition, Penny became frustrated by the restaurant’s lack of environmental consciousness. She states, “The restaurant had a lot of wasteful practices. I wanted to use more sustainable ingredients, and compostable to-go containers.” Penny envisioned a green café, which would give back to the community and help protect the environment. After seven years of working as the Head Chef, she states, “I realized I had the talent, discipline, background, and drive to open my own cafe.”

Penny left her job to start her own restaurant more in touch with her environmental ethic. She enrolled in classes at Berkeley City College and began educating herself about restaurant business practices. Penny discovered AnewAmerica while browsing the internet, looking for business classes in the Bay Area. Excited to find a program designed for immigrant entrepreneurs, she enrolled in AnewAmerica’s twenty-five week college certificate program in Business Planning. Through the intensive training provided in the business classes, she learned how to write marketing, business and asset plans, and how to be a successful, socially-responsible entrepreneur. She also formalized the concept of her dream business: Café Gabriela.

With the help of AnewAmerica, Penny found the perfect site for Café Gabriela*, at Broadway and 10th Street in Downtown Oakland. She was the recipient of an AnewAmerica Business Grant, made possible by the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Job Opportunities for Low-income Individuals program, designed to expand businesses and create jobs in low-income areas and for low-income people. Penny used the grant to cover permits for construction, and marketing expenses. Penny also participated in AnewAmerica’s Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program, through which she earned $6,000 in combined savings and matching grants to use toward her business. This funding helped her secure the deposit and first month’s rent for the café space, as well as equipment (such as espresso machines) and other necessary permits. In addition to these funding programs, AnewAmerica helped Penny to secure a business loan to cover her start-up expenses.

Penny credits the work of AnewAmerica in helping her dream café become a reality. She states, “AnewAmerica is very instrumental in bringing Café Gabriela into fruition. They have supported me through the whole endeavor. They’ve provided me with incredible classes, and contacts that are vital in the business preparation stages, such as legal services, grants, loans, and teaching me how to manage my budgets. I am definitely lucky to be a part of AnewAmerica. They have been with me from the very beginning, and are a constant support for me as I work toward opening the café.”

Penny worked with contractors to update the café space in the most environmentally-friendly ways possible. She purchased second-hand equipment and materials, and formed relationships with local suppliers that share her commitment to green business practices. Her dedication to using local, fresh, and organic products guides her menu. The café serves locally-roasted coffee, local, organic and hormone-free milk, and pastries from a local worker-owned cooperative. The menu changes with the seasons to reflect local growing patterns, featuring a selection of American-style dishes, with the addition of a new twist on the famous Filipino dish, adobo.

When asked what it’s like to start a business during an economic recession, Penny states, “There are some advantages. There are more open retail spaces, and the rent has lowered. However, you have to be very sensitive about how much your target market is willing to pay for your products, given the economy.”

Penny’s commitment to green business practices is in alignment with AnewAmerica’s dedication to creating socially-responsible businesses. Café Gabriela is an official AnewAmerica Certified Green Business. Penny will continue her efforts in the area of social responsibility by being a model green café, and by using her business to support local artists and community groups who would like to exhibit their work in the space.

Visit Café Gabriela Today!
988 Broadway Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
(510) 763-2233

*Café Gabriela is named after Maria Josefa Gabriela, a Pilipino hero who fought against the Spanish in the 1800s. She has inspired a lot of Filipinos, women in particular, to fight against oppression.

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