Mark Saavedra came to the small business world via happenstance. He was working at a market and learning to cut hair when his teacher suggested he take over the Truckstop Barbershop. He was unsure, but when friends and family who knew his talent and skills urged him on, his vision for himself changed. Instead of renting a hair station, he went straight to renting an established barber business.
Dinuka Ranasinghe studied law and passed the New York Bar exam. But after realizing law was not her passion, she decided to pursue her dream: working with young children. She began studying early childhood development and in 2008 purchased a preschool in Long Beach, California called Kid Works Children’s Center.
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.
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.
Hakeem and Remmietta Dolphin launched Brooklyn Deli & Mini Market to provide healthy menu options in a community with few fresh restaurant options.
Incorporated in 1999, AG Machining started as a two-person machine shop that did only milling. Now, it is a thriving family-owned manufacturer with 105 employees and a long list of machining capabilities. In 2009, owner Angel Garcia considered moving the operation to Mexico to cut costs.
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 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).
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.
Pancho Kachingwe founded The Hatch Oakland Bar & Restaurant in 2014 to cater to a booming downtown Oakland. “Everything was self-funded,” he recalls. “It was myself doing the cooking, bartending, cleaning, shopping, everything.” But the business grew fast, and by year two, he had 18 employees.