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Faces of Entrepreneurship

8th Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2018

Andrew McDowell was laying on the beach in Cancun, reading My Business, My Mission – the story of businessmen and entrepreneurs partnering together to find solutions for economic growth to restore and impact lives. The immense impact of social enterprises in third world countries detailed in the book, and two years of collecting ideas, brought clarity to his vision. That day he made the decision to exit the world of digital advertising and start his own business.

If several years ago you would have told Alicia Villanueva that she would be making over 40,000 tamales a month, she would not have believed you. By day she cleaned houses and did home care. Every night she dreamed of starting her own business. Since arriving in the United States in 2001, she had a passion for sharing her Mexican culture and the best way to do that was through cooking tamales.

7th Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2017

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. The two former Peace and Conflict Studies majors 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 Botelho’s landlord, Robin Nasatir, who was the program director for Youth Business USA (YBUSA), an organization dedicated to helping young entrepreneurs succeed.

As a working student and a father with a family to support, things were so tight financially that Zamora sometimes had to scrape together change to put gas in his car. Eventually, hard work began to pay off again and in 2011 he was able to lease an acre and a half of land. Through California FarmLink, an organization dedicated to supporting the kind of small, independent farmers most banks ignore, Zamora was able to get a $5,000 loan, just enough to get his farm started. JSM Organics did well that year, bringing in $46,000 from his organic strawberries and fresh flowers.

6th Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2016

Vicente Quintana started El Nopalito Produce in Watsonville, CA with a 30-pound box of cactus paddles and in just six years turned his kitchen-table business into a thriving concern with six employees, processing 10,000 pounds a week and distributed in more than 30 markets across central California.

How well is Rebecca Weston doing? Her first year the business brought in $209,000, and at the end of 2015, the business brought in $313,000, almost a 67% increase. This year she is on track to increase sales by another 33%. The training she got through JEDI not only taught her the business and computer skills she needed, it also gave her access to a matched-savings program that allowed her to buy a pricey piece of equipment for facials that raised her revenue by about 20 percent.

Bethany B Teams

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.

5th Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2015

Abraham Lopez YucaTech 4

Abraham Lopez immigrated from Mexico in 1998, and worked hard to master English and earn an Associate’s Degree in Computer Information Systems, all to further his dream of opening his own electronics repair store. Thanks to help from Renaissance Marin and their Small Business Development Center, he is now the proud owner of YucaTech Technology Solutions.

Toni Ricci Elite Dance 1

Toni Ricci had achieved her dream of owning her own dance studio, but she hit a wall: her finances were strained to breaking, and her credit didn’t qualify her for a bank loan. Luckily, she found VEDC, who were able to provide her a microloan and the business counseling she needed. Now, Toni’s credit is improving with every payment she makes, and Elite Dance has doubled its staff and tripled its students in the last three years.

4th Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2014

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 had twenty years of experience in diesel trucking, but needed some business development training to grow Watsonville Diesel. Thanks to the firm foundation of strategy and financial management training that CAMEO member El Pajaro CDC provided, he was able to open a second location and make progress toward becoming an international dealer.

Patty Rodriguez 7

Patty Rodriguez opened SF Parking in order to support jobs that would have otherwise been lost when her employers lost a parking contract, and continues to support job seekers in her community that would otherwise be unable to find work due to criminal histories or lack of education. She received a $25,000 microloan from Working Solutions in 2012, and continues to work with their staff to grow her small business.

3rd Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2013

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Dawn Verdick spent 25 years advising mid-to large corporations on turnaround strategy. In 2008, she decided that she wanted to give back. She was at a stage in her life where her work needed to have substance and meaning. She wanted to contribute her talents to making the world a better place.


Jorge and Oscar Flores opened Don Polvoron Bakery in 2005. They offer expanded hours to better serve their predominately Latino neighborhood, and are always looking for ways to improve their service. After five years in business, Jorge took a class with Renaissance to help push them to the next level, and calls it “the best thing I did for the business.”

2nd Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2012

M & B at Weeks system

Bruce Erickson and Maggie Watson were employed by Mendocino Solar and then bought out the owner in 2005. To transition from employees to the boss, they met with West Company consultants who assisted them with financial planning, employee management, social media, and funding that included a $12,00 stimulus grant and a $95,000 business loan.


A MIHO Experience provides locally sourced, natural, healthy, good food. One of the biggest hurdles they crossed was financing. They weren’t successful in securing financing through traditional means and were referred to Accion San Diego who lent them $15,000 to buy and fix up an old lunch truck.

1st Annual Faces of Entrepreneurship – 2011

Simonida Cvejic, Bay Area Medical Academy

When Simonida Cvejic came here from former Yugoslavia in 1996, she never thought she’d find herself wanting to start her own business. She had a job in the financial industry when, in 2004, she became a single parent. She realized she would have to make some changes in her life to accommodate her new situation. “I was looking for some way that I could be more available to my kids and have a flexible schedule and the ability to generate income,” she says. She was scared of the uncertainty until her mother said something that made her look at things from a new perspective. “Now you can do anything because you’re not tied to anything.”