Success Stories – Immigrants

  • Mohammad, Tailoring and Alterations
    Mohammad fled Afghanistan with his wife and three children in 2010. They stayed in Turkey until they resettled in the United States in 2018. Despite the hardship he initially faced in the first two years, he built a successful family tailoring and alterations business in his new home of Sacramento. Mohammad overcame economic, cultural, and ...
  • Reem Assil, Reem’s California
    In 2010, the dream of Reem’s was born at the doorstep of a street corner bakery in Beirut, Lebanon. Founder Reem Assil says, “The scent of za’atar, yeasted bread, and sweet orange blossom syrup right out of the oven and the sounds of laughter and chatter in Arabic all around me conjured up memories of ...
  • Ana Guerrero, FirstGen_Resilience
    Ana Yessica Guerrero is a social entrepreneur who dedicates her life to empowering first-generation Latinx students to reach their full potential. She is a proud immigrant from Mexico City and grew up on a ranch in Goleta, Calif. As a first-generation student herself, she had numerous aspirations and goals.  Ana was an eager and determined scholar, yet she received ...
  • Elfie Weiss, Hotcakes Bakes
    Elfie’s father used to work as a pastry chef when he was a young man in order to pay for his dancing lessons at the Paris Opera. Elfie’s father shared with her his love for preparing the essential bread and “sweets of life.” Elfie trained primarily with her father as well as in Paris’ renowned ...
  • Milagros Escuela, MamaArepas
    Milagros Escuela is the owner of MamaArepas, along with her husband, Fidel Lozada. They have worked tirelessly to bring Venezuelan Arepas to every dining table in South Florida since 2015. Made out of corn dough, Arepa is a typical food in several Latin American countries. It is different in each region and is very important ...
  • Mina Wilcox, Art Mina
    Mina Wilcox comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her grandfather was a printmaker, and her parents ran a restaurant in Japan. So, with her husband’s encouragement of her artistic abilities, and despite the challenges of having English as her second language, she decided to open her own business in 2014. Art Mina features her beautiful hand-printed artwork ...
  • Reina Morales & Agustin Gomez, Tingo’s Plumbing
    Despite the language barrier, Reina Morales and Agustin Gomez have been able to bring their business to success with the help of the New Women’s Business Center.
  • Jorge Ochoa, Leonora Goat Dairy
    Meet Jorge Ochoa, owner of a goat dairy farm called Leonora Goat Dairy. Jorge grew up in Mexico where his family has a rich history of working with animals on a farm. When he came to the United States, he wanted to carry on his family’s legacy and start a farm of his own. He ...
  • Yordanos Asmelash Haile, Asmara Cafe
    Asmara Cafe specializes in traditional brewed Eritrean and Ethiopian coffee and food such as chicken kilwa, foule and sambusas. Owner Yordanos Asmelash Haile is a first-generation American having immigrated to the U.S. from Eritrea in East Africa. She aims to highlight her cultural flavors through the menu at her coffee shop.
  • Lupita Vidals, Producciones Arcoiris
    Dreams like those of Lupita and many more; resilient, brave, hard working women who fight every day in solidarity so that their cooperatives and/or businesses can continue to move forward.
  • Marcos Murrilo, Tapa the World
    Marcos Murrilo came here from Mexico in 1996. His first job in the U.S. was working at Tapa the World restaurant in Sacramento. There, he was the executive chef for 11 years. Marcos created several of the specialty dishes that are still on the menu today. 
  • Sana Javeri Kadri, Diaspora Co.
    Everything about Diaspora Co exudes passion. From the company’s growing line of consciously sourced and sustainably grown spices and its vibrant digital media channels to several creative product partnerships.
  • Lamees Dahbour, Mama Lamees
    Most Americans have sampled hummus, that creamy Middle Eastern blend that is the perfect complement for vegetables and crackers. Well, the Bay Area is now excitedly trying new items like musakhan: pita bread with onions, almonds, and sumac.
  • Cosimo Allegretta, FoodJets
    FoodJets is a local franchise web and app-based platform that allows you to order food from local restaurants. You can track your delivery driver and enjoy your delicious piping hot food without delays from other orders. FoodJets delivers one order at a time.
  • Patricia Van Der Beek, CreArt Preschool
    Originally from Brazil, Patricia Van Der Beek came to the US to make her childhood dream of starting a preschool a reality. She worked three jobs to put herself through a Master’s program in early childhood education. Then she won a scholarship that allowed her to complete a business management certificate at UC Berkeley. In ...
  • Mariatu Browne, Tu Organics Salon & Spa
    Mariatu “Tu” Browne discovered her passion for hair at the early age of 9. She used to braid hair in her home country of Sierra Leone. Fast forward to California in 2006, where a generous investment from a friend helped her open her first salon, Tu’s Studio Hair Design. A series of personal hardships, coupled ...
  • Tam Le and Richard Lai, Tam’s Restaurant and Sandwiches
    Tam Le is no stranger to making food people can’t get enough of. Her bakery, aptly named Tam’s Bakery, was already a staple for dozens of Garden Grove families, college students, and locals. The immense popularity of an off-menu item, a soup served to royalty in her native Vietnam, prompted Tam and her husband, Richard ...
  • Sofia Lopez, Santo Hermano Pedro Boutique
    Back in Antigua, Guatemala, Sofia Lopez had a small business. She sold items like pocketbooks, belts, and wallets on the vibrant main square. She always wanted to run such a venture and was achieving success. That is, until violence compelled her to leave her homeland a decade ago.
  • Lupe Guerrero, El Pipila
    In 1988, Lupe Guerrero migrated to the US. She was in search of a better life for her and her two young daughters. After arriving in Berkeley, Lupe found a job at a taqueria where she worked 12-hour days, 6 days a week.
  • RVS Technology Group, Faces of Entrepreneurship Winner
    When owner Ricardo Rocha was a teenager, he dreamt that he became a business owner. Years later, after immigrating from Mexico and working in the fields, he made his dream come true by opening a small computer service shop in Watsonville.
  • Pierre and Jenn Davis, Ade Dream
    Ade Dream is a labor of love for husband-and-wife team Pierre and Jenn Davis. They started the business in 2014, a year after their first child, Pierce, was born. Pierre’s sister made some baby accessories for the new parents using traditional African fabric from Pierre’s home country, The Gambia. Jenn constantly received compliments and requests ...
  • Koy Saichow, Stony Point Strawberry Farm
    Koy Saichow grew up in a subsistence farming community in Thailand, where each season relatives, friends and neighbors would come together to harvest in their family’s vegetable and rice fields. When the Saichow family immigrated to the Bay Area in 1989, they brought along their values of self-sufficiency and generosity and continued to grow Southeast ...
  • Koji Kanematsu, Onigilly
    Onigilly is a fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Japanese rice balls, called “onigiri.” Koji Kanematsu founded Onigilly in 2007, after noticing a lack of healthy, affordable food options in the United States. “In Japan, onigiri is everywhere,” says Koji. “I used to eat it every day because it is convenient, healthy, and affordable. Our mission is ...
  • Saul Chavez, El Gran Taco Loco
    “I felt like I had lost everything. When something like this happens, it’s hard to stay positive.” That’s how Mexican immigrant Saul Chavez, co-owner of El Gran Taco Loco with his spouse Angelica Quezada, describes his emotions following the destruction of his commercial space in the Mission and 29th streets fire in June 2016. Chavez’ popular Mexican food ...
  • Gabriela Murguia, MercaMex Distributor and Dulceria Alebrijes
    Gabriela Murguia was born and raised in Zamora Michoacán and comes from a family of merchants. When she was 29 she moved to Ontario, California but found it difficult to find viable work. She moved to Delano, and worked in the fields picking grapes, and in restaurants and a gas station to sustain her family. ...
  • Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas, Faces of Entrepreneurship Winner
    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 ...
  • Tyrone Botelho and Tiffany Hoang, Circle Up Education
  • Javier Zamora, JSM Organics
  • Andrei Sobolev and Serhiy Misiruk, Creative Millworks, Inc.
    When banks wouldn’t give Andrei Sobolev and Serhiy Misiruk a loan, they found a solution with Opening Doors. Now, they get frequent loan offers from those banks and can choose where they’ll take their business.
  • Vicente Quintana, El Nopalito Produce
    Vicente Quintana started El Nopalito Produce in Watsonville, CA with a 30-pound box of cactus paddles. In six years, he 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.
  • Nancy and David Ortiz, Buenaventura Travel Agency
    Colombian immigrants Nancy and David Ortiz have been running Buenaventura Travel Agency since 1983, but needed to upgrade their equipment to compete with online booking firms. Thanks to a $5,000 MMS loan from Working Solutions they were able to make the changes they needed.
  • Daniel Yoshimi and Jennifer Yannella, Brasil Arts Café
    Daniel Yoshimi and Jennifer Yannella had the passion and funding to open their own business, but needed help from WEV putting their business plan together and keeping focused.
  • Abraham Lopez, YucaTech Technology Solutions
    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 ...
  • Javad Yaghoubi, City Shade
    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. Opening Doors helped Javad create a strong business plan and cash flow projections, and in December approved him for an $8,000 loan.
  • Irena, Silhouette Custom Design
    Ten years ago Irena was eight months pregnant and fleeing her home country of Ukraine with her husband and two small children. Today, with help from Opening Doors’ Prosperity Project, Irena is a thriving entrepreneur who supports her family doing the work she loves.
  • Bertha Magaña, Magaña Farms
    Bertha Magaña had experience as a farmworker and good credit, but struggled to find the financing she needed to support her 7 acre organic farm. California FarmLink helped her find over $70,000 in loans to expand her business, and ALBA helped get her vegetables into stores.
  • Pedro Zerpa, Fusion Peruvian Grill
    An immigrant from Peru, Pedro Zerpa 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 opened Fusion Peruvian Grill in San Mateo. He needed a microloan to expand his ...
  • Patty Rodriguez, SF Parking
    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 ...
  • Penny Baldado, Cafe Gabriela
    Penny Baldado moved to the United States from the Philippines and opened her own cafe thanks to training and financial assistance from CAMEO member AnewAmerica.
  • Suely Ngouy, Woman for Woman
    Suely Ngouy’s Central Valley business was able to secure the licenses and permits they needed to operate as a social enterprise serving Cambodian-American women thanks to help from PACE.
  • Luis Abundis, Nieves Cinco de Mayo
    Luis Abundis’ Oakland-based small business grew to include multiple stores thanks to help from Centro Community Partners.
  • Fredy Gamez, Mission Street Oyster Bar
    Small business owner Fredy Gamez opened the Mission Street Oyster Bar thanks to technical assistance from MEDA and a microloan from Working Solutions.
  • Kamal Mansoor, K.A.S. Auto Sales
    Kamal Mansoor opened his own micro-business thanks to a microloan from CAMEO member Opening Doors.
  • Lidia Mendez, Taqueria Lidia
    Thanks to advice from the El Pajaro Community Development Corporation, Lidia Mendez was able to recover a $20,000 loss and find a new location for Taqueria Lidia.
  • Chai Lee, Chai’s Cleaning Service
    Escaping the harsh realities of life in a refugee camp was a victory for Chai and his family, but he had to re-build his life. Chai liked the idea of owning a business. He had no credit history and very little collateral, but wanted to buy a janitorial franchise. Because of an $8,000 loan ...
  • Cortland Avenue Corridor
    San Francisco – An unprecedented number of small businesses in the Cortland Avenue Corridor are utilizing an important asset in the San Francisco small business community. Working Solutions, a local nonprofit microlender is providing much-needed capital to businesses that need small loans that traditional banks won’t touch. And creating jobs in the process – ...
  • 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. ...