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Brenda Buenviaje, Brenda’s French Soul Food

Brenda Buenviaje had worked as a chef for years but lacked business experience. When she wanted to open her own restaurant in 2007, not just banks turned her down but “friends, co-workers, my own parents were like, ‘No thank you,’” she said. Opportunity Fund said yes, taking out a lien against her condo to secure the $100,000 loan.

“It felt miraculous because the failure rates for restaurants are so notoriously high,” Buenviaje said. She used the money, along with a small business loan, to buy and renovate a restaurant on Polk Street that became Brenda’s French Soul Food.

Three years later, she’d repaid the loan when the space next door became vacant. She borrowed from Opportunity Fund again to expand, and then again in 2014 to open a third location on Divisadero Street.

She and her wife run three San Francisco restaurants (Brenda’s French Soul Food, Brenda’s Meat & Three, and Libby Jane Cafe), which employ about 100 people (up from four when she started), and are eyeing a fourth spot in Oakland’s Temescal district.

“It’s been an all-around lovely experience,” she said, adding that Opportunity Fund’s “mission is to help small businesses grow communities, and that’s exactly what they did.”

Excerpt from “Small loans make big difference for businesses owned by women, minorities,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2019.