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.

Sandra Ann Harris, ECOlunchbox

ECOlunchbox had a well-established multi-tiered distribution network but the demand for its green consumer products was stronger than the small company could support due to undercapitalization. ECOlunchbox was frequently going out of stock on all its products due to high demand and lack of resources to adequately buy stock. Additionally, the bootstrapped company was seriously understaffed.

Cinthya Flores, Utz Threads

Cinthya Flores is the successful owner of Utz Threads in Oakland, CA. The name Utz Threads comes from the word “good” in Maya Quiché; the language spoken by the women weavers that create their product in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Lindsey Ott, Mama Tong

Ever since she can remember, Lindsey Ott has loved babies and everything that has to do with the miracle of childbirth. In her 20s, she studied to become a midwife. Then, she found herself traveling in Hawaii and settled in an organic farm in Maui. There, she started learning about growing plants for sustenance and wellbeing, turning it into her newfound passion.

Lena’s Soul Food, Faces of Entrepreneurship Winner

Lena’s Soul Food has become a pillar in its community of East Oakland. Not only does owner Calvin Andrews employ dozens of people, including formerly incarcerated folks, but he also gives back by giving away unsold food to locals in need, many of whom are unhoused.

Bonnie Arnwine, National Autism Resources

National Autism Resources was founded by Bonnie Arnwine. It is an e-commerce business featuring products and services for caretakers of people on the autism spectrum. With a son on the spectrum and an award-winning book – Starting Sensory Integration Therapy – Bonnie felt confident that there was a need for her business. Still, she went to the Contra Costa SBDC in 2008 for help determining if her business concept was feasible.

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 for one whenever she was out with her unique diaper bags and backpack.

Rosa Guerrero, California Vegan Food Company

Rosa Guerrero Contreras had a dream of launching her own plant-based food business for the last five years. What started as a hobby soon became a passion, but Rosa wasn’t quite sure of how to convert that passion into a business. Last spring, Rosa joined Centro’s Basic Entrepreneurship Program to launch California Vegan Food Company (CVFC).

Tim Obert & Clint Potter, Seven Stills Brewery

Seven Stills Brewery began as a bootstrapped business in a garage, making whiskeys from craft beers. Tim Obert and Clint Potter, who became friends at UC Santa Cruz, started brewing and distilling for fun at Clint’s parents’ house in Novato. 

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 Asian vegetables in their backyard for themselves and their neighbors.