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.
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 to spread healthy fast food nationwide and to improve people’s diet lifestyle,” he says.
“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 eatery was located on the first floor of the Graywood Hotel, which suffered severe damage in the conflagration.
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. After a lot of hard work and dedication, she was promoted to full time at the gas station, with benefits and better pay. Meanwhile, she was preparing herself for the field she liked most – sales!
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.
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 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.
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.