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.

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.

Liza Spiridon, Cali Strong Candles

During California’s recent wildfires, Registered Vet Technician Liza Spiridon was living on the Central Coast but knew people in the communities impacted. She decided that she needed to use her skills to help, so she got involved by donating her time helping animals to safety and assisting the people who had lost their homes and businesses.

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).

Susan Difuntorm, Smiles & More Photo Booth

Susan Difuntorm is a retired Air Force veteran of 23 years, recent State of California retiree, a mother, grandmother, and a dear friend to many. This fun-loving grandma has had a camera in her hands since she can remember. She combined her love for taking photos with her desire to start a business of her own and created Smiles & More Photo Booth.

Corrina Pena, Frosted Bakery

Corrina Pena was constantly making cakes and cupcakes for family and friends. She decided to turn her baking hobby into a real business called Frosted. Her first step was to visit West Business Development Center, who advised her on the fundamentals: getting her business license, food handler’s certification, and thinking about her brand and how to get out there marketing her creations.

Andrea Wasko & Meaghan Gilbert, Connoisseur Creations

Andrea Wasko and Meaghan Gilbert of Los Osos, California launched their flagship product, the Quick Pickle Kit after starting Connoisseur Creations in 1996. After struggling with weight issues, Andrea wanted to develop a healthy alternative snack that would help people in similar situations. The Quick Pickle Kit is a safe, quick, simple, and natural way to make delicious pickles in the comfort of your own home.

Meredith Pizzi, Roman Music Therapy Services

Meredith Pizzi started playing trumpet in the fifth grade and joined her school’s jazz band. It was after a performance of “Gonna Fly Now” from the motion picture Rocky that Meredith recognized the profound connection she felt to others through the power of music. “We still talk about that concert. Feeling that level of connection and understanding and life-giving force that is music, that’s what it was for me. It opened my eyes to what happens when people come together and make music.”

Zea Sonnabend, Fruitilicious Farm

Zea Sonnabend’s organic farming bona fides cannot be overstated. With an MS in Plant Breeding from Cornell University and 35 years of experience as a farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy specialist, organizer, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more qualified. Yet running her own farming operation still came with its challenges.

Robin King, Rene TreVor Jewelry

Robin King always dreamed of having her own business but never imagined it would come from such tragic circumstances. On the same day that she lost her mother to her battle against cancer, her 25-year-old son’s life was also taken. But part of her healing came through creativity. Not long after their deaths, Robin began making keepsake jewelry for herself and a few family members as a way of dealing with their recent losses and to keep their loved ones close. In loving memory of her mother and son, the name and concept for her business were conceived.