Penny Baldado moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1999 to reunite with her father who had been living in the states for many years. She viewed the move as a way to expand her opportunities. However, Penny found the transition to life in America difficult, and she felt powerless after leaving her support system in the Philippines. Eventually, she found a job bussing and waiting tables at a Filipino restaurant. Then, she took the opportunity to work in the kitchen as a sous-chef. Gradually, she gained a grasp of cooking and working in the kitchen. Before long, she was promoted to Head Chef.
However, Penny found it difficult to work in an all-male Filipino kitchen where, she states, “there was a lot of machismo.” In addition, Penny became frustrated by the restaurant’s lack of environmental consciousness. She states, “The restaurant had a lot of wasteful practices. I wanted to use more sustainable ingredients, and compostable to-go containers.” Penny envisioned a green café, which would give back to the community and help protect the environment. After seven years of working as the Head Chef, she states, “I realized I had the talent, discipline, background, and drive to open my own cafe.”
Penny left her job to start her own restaurant more in touch with her environmental ethic. She enrolled in classes at Berkeley City College and began educating herself about restaurant business practices. Penny discovered AnewAmerica while browsing the internet, looking for business classes in the Bay Area. Excited to find a program designed for immigrant entrepreneurs, she enrolled in AnewAmerica’s twenty-five week college certificate program in Business Planning. Through the intensive training provided in the business classes, she learned how to write marketing, business and asset plans, and how to be a successful, socially-responsible entrepreneur. She also formalized the concept of her dream business: Café Gabriela.
With the help of AnewAmerica, Penny found the perfect site for Café Gabriela*, at Broadway and 10th Street in Downtown Oakland. She was the recipient of an AnewAmerica Business Grant, made possible by the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Job Opportunities for Low-income Individuals program, designed to expand businesses and create jobs in low-income areas and for low-income people. Penny used the grant to cover permits for construction, and marketing expenses. Penny also participated in AnewAmerica’s Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program, through which she earned $6,000 in combined savings and matching grants to use toward her business. This funding helped her secure the deposit and first month’s rent for the café space, as well as equipment (such as espresso machines) and other necessary permits. In addition to these funding programs, AnewAmerica helped Penny to secure a business loan to cover her start-up expenses.
Penny credits the work of AnewAmerica in helping her dream café become a reality. She states, “AnewAmerica is very instrumental in bringing Café Gabriela into fruition. They have supported me through the whole endeavor. They’ve provided me with incredible classes, and contacts that are vital in the business preparation stages, such as legal services, grants, loans, and teaching me how to manage my budgets. I am definitely lucky to be a part of AnewAmerica. They have been with me from the very beginning, and are a constant support for me as I work toward opening the café.”
Penny worked with contractors to update the café space in the most environmentally-friendly ways possible. She purchased second-hand equipment and materials, and formed relationships with local suppliers that share her commitment to green business practices. Her dedication to using local, fresh, and organic products guides her menu. The café serves locally-roasted coffee, local, organic and hormone-free milk, and pastries from a local worker-owned cooperative. The menu changes with the seasons to reflect local growing patterns, featuring a selection of American-style dishes, with the addition of a new twist on the famous Filipino dish, adobo.
When asked what it’s like to start a business during an economic recession, Penny states, “There are some advantages. There are more open retail spaces, and the rent has lowered. However, you have to be very sensitive about how much your target market is willing to pay for your products, given the economy.”
Penny’s commitment to green business practices is in alignment with AnewAmerica’s dedication to creating socially-responsible businesses. Café Gabriela is an official AnewAmerica Certified Green Business. Penny will continue her efforts in the area of social responsibility by being a model green café, and by using her business to support local artists and community groups who would like to exhibit their work in the space.
Visit Café Gabriela Today!
988 Broadway Street
Oakland, CA 94607
Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
*Café Gabriela is named after Maria Josefa Gabriela, a Pilipino hero who fought against the Spanish in the 1800s. She has inspired a lot of Filipinos, women in particular, to fight against oppression.
Have a success story of your own to share? Email us!