25 years – a quarter of a century – may seem like a long time. But to those of us who have focused on the work and challenges that come with supporting entrepreneurs, time goes by in a flash. That rings true to many people who have been involved with CAMEO; memories of our inception still fresh in their minds. To honor those memories and lay a path for what comes next, CAMEO held its 25th Anniversary Celebration on December 5, 2019.
Ready, set, celebrate
Before the clock hit 6:00 pm, CAMEO members and friends poured into the Wells Fargo Community Space in downtown San Francisco. We welcomed our guests with drinks and canapes. Some of these yummy treats were provided by previous Faces of Entrepreneurship Award winners Alicia Villanueva and Jorge Flores, and other CAMEO clients. People made themselves at home, mingling with old friends from fellow organizations and new faces from across the micro-business space. Many took the opportunity to have pictures taken in front of CAMEO’s banner. Others found Carolina, Heidi, Emily, Mark, and Susan to chat and catch up.
Once everyone had settled in, Carolina welcomed everyone and reflected on this meaningful occasion. She spoke about the origins of CAMEO and how it grew from an idea of four women to a diverse network that spans California and is expanding beyond its borders. She captured the amazing accomplishments of our members over the past 25 years in a few milestones:
- More than 300,000 clients were served.
- Nearly 500,000 jobs were supported or created.
- More than $18 billion earned by clients in gross sales.
- CAMEO members have deployed 30,000 loans for almost half a billion dollars.
These numbers are not micro. Our impact is not micro. And we will keep thinking big for all the ones we’ve served and the ones that we will.
Carolina then delved into CAMEO’s plans for the next three years. These include strengthening our role as the voice of California’s micro-enterprise industry, launching a Learning Management System, and establishing an incubator for microlenders. “Exciting times are ahead, reinforcing the movement that started 25 years ago for women’s economic security and stability and expanding it to include all underserved communities.”
Carolina thanked our sponsors – eBay, Square, Cathay Bank, Lyft, FHL Bank of San Francisco, Bridge Bank, CDC Small Business Finance, MEDA, Emergent Research – and Wells Fargo for hosting and supporting the celebration. She thanked the CAMEO staff as well as its Board members. This year we’re saying goodbye to Oscar Dominguez and Leila Mozaffari who are finalizing their term. We are also welcoming Juan Aquino and Yery Olivares to our board.
Forescee Hogan-Rowles, one of CAMEO’s co-founders, shared her excitement for what CAMEO has become. “When we started this, it was a labor of love. We wanted to figure out how to impact legislation, grow the industry… And it is so refreshing to see that we have been alive all these years because it was started around this idea that we could make a difference.” Forescee then presented CAMEO with a Resolution from the California Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy congratulating CAMEO on its 25th anniversary. Carolina then invited to the stage her three predecessors: Laurie Pantell, Catherine Marshall, and Claudia Viek. They read parts of the State Assembly Resolution.
Finally, it was time for the 2019 Faces of Entrepreneurship Awards. The first award, presented by CAMEO co-founder Sheilah Rogers, went to Ricardo Rocha of RVS Technology Group. He was nominated by El Pajaro CDC, who coached Ricardo through its Business Incubator Program. RVS has prospered and become a leader in the tech industry of the Watsonville region.
The second award of the night was presented by CAMEO co-founder Mimi Lufkin and went to Calvin Andrews, owner of Lena’s Soul Food. Main Street Launch nominated Calvin, a three-time loan recipient. He has grown Lena’s into a destination restaurant in East Oakland and gives back to his community every day. He offers job opportunities to young people and formerly incarcerated folks, and gives away unsold food to people in need every night.
Business owners like Calvin and Ricardo are the reason CAMEO and its members do what we do.
As the night neared its end, we held our raffle for La Cocina’s cookbook, We Are La Cocina: Recipes in Pursuit of The American Dream. Congratulations to the lucky winner, Anna Marie Cruz of ICIC! And though the speeches and awards were over, the party continued and the venue had to encourage us to leave.
CAMEO will remember this special night for years to come. We are thankful for everyone who celebrated with us and, most importantly, for every one of our members and their clients. They all the sweat and tears of the past 25 years more than worth it. We look forward to the next 25 years and the thousands of entrepreneurs who will be able to see their dreams come true because of you – our network.