For 20 years we have been building a community of clients, supporters and donors. Over the past two decades, together, we have helped thousands of Californian families reach financial stability through entrepreneurship and education. Here are some of their stories.
Jaime | Mountain View | Savings Goal: $6,000
Jaime Rodas, an immigrant from El Salvador, is the first in his family to attend college. Raised by a single mother, Jaime started college last fall at San Jose State University with a dream to become a pediatrician. "I enjoy working with children and my passion is to help people."
Jaime won four scholarships, but he knows it’s not enough to pay for tuition and school supplies. In 2013, he joined Opportunity Fund's Microsavings program, which will help him and his mother save and pay for college.
Opportunity Fund helped Jaime learn about budgeting, credit, setting goals, and how to manage his money. "I still have the dream board from my first financial class to remind me of my goals and priorities."
Outerlands | San Francisco | Loan amount: $110,000 | Number of employees: 18
Outerlands began as a labor of love for owners Lana and Dave - a neighborhood restaurant providing seasonal food and shelter from the fog. They did most of the renovation themselves, using recycled materials and donated labor from friends.
This "DIY" energy wasn't enough to secure the financing they needed, until Opportunity Fund provided a $10,000 microloan. Two months after their doors opened, a New York Times reporter wandered in and wrote a feature. The buzz has never subsided. Two years later, Opportunity Fund provided a $100,000 loan to help the restaurant grow. Today, Outerlands has 18 employees and is a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Veronica Salazar | El Huarache Loco | Loan amount: $25,000
El Huarache Loco is Marin County's newest, organic Mexican food obsession. With a menu that includes chilaquiles for breakfast and tacos, enchiladas, soups, salads and huaraches for lunch and dinner, it's easy to see why the customers keep coming since the restaurant opened in February. El Huarache Loco is the dream of Chef/Owner Veronica Salazar. "My family has been in the food industry for over 45 years," said Salazar. "My husband and I run this restaurant as a family business. Our three children are going to grow up here!" After operating a mobile catering truck at farmer's markets and with training in La Cocina's incubator kitchen, Veronica was ready to take her culinary enterprise to the next level. A $25,000 loan from Opportunity Fund helped Salazar with the initial capital investments to get her kitchen up and running. Now open 7 days a week from 8am - 8pm, Veronica employs 20 people at her restaurant.
“Opportunity Fund stood out to us as an organization truly expanding the economic base in a local and supportive way.”
⎯ David and Joni Cropper
Meghan and Peter | Nature's Best Cleaners | Loan amount: $12,000 | Number of employees: 5
When Meghan and Peter opened a dry cleaning business, they never imagined the chemicals would leave Meghan's fingers numb and competition would drive their prices so low they barely turned a profit. "But entrepreneurs don't give up," explains Peter, "so we switched to a 'green-cleaning' process that eliminates toxins and reduces waste." Meghan regained sensation in her fingers and Nature's Best Cleaners earned new customers willing to pay more for a healthier cleaning service. When business grew by 600%, Opportunity Fund lent them $12,000 to upgrade their old conveyor belt to handle growing demand.
Nature's Best Cleaners employs 5 people. In the coming years, they hope to expand to a second location, bringing green-cleaning with them.
"Opportunity Fund is near and dear to my heart, both for the mission it stands for and for the team of people
who make it magical."
- Evelyn Huang, Opportunity Fund Donor
Manuel Godino | Venga Empanadas | San Francisco | Loan amount: $45,000
Manuel, a chef from Buenos Aires who came to the United States after Argentina's currency crisis in 2001, first started his business, Venga Empanadas, by renting out kitchens throughout the city. With more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant business, Manuel wasn't interested in creating a fine dining establishment, but rather wanted to start a local neighborhood eatery. He came to Opportunity Fund to get his business into a storefront location, settling on a spot along Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission district. Manuel received a loan for $45,000 at an affordable interest rate, and opened shop during the summer of 2009. Since then business has been cooking, with customers coming back for the delicious empanadas, which include flavors like Argentine beef, three cheese and walnuts, and California veggie. Not only did Manuel's loan help him establish a storefront, it also enabled him to create new jobs. He hired eight employees, and credits his loan with being able to bring them on board.
Kiara | College Saver | East Palo Alto | Amount Saved: $6,000
Growing up in East Palo Alto, Kiara was determined to go to college but she worried about affording it. When she was accepted at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Kiara was thrilled; but the cost just to fly across the country was daunting. With help from Opportunity Fund, Kiara began to save toward her college dream while she was still in high school. "I was in disbelief that such an opportunity was made available, but it was true! The application process was simple, and my mom was right there with me," said Kiara. She enrolled in our microsavings program, completed financial education classes, and saved $2,000 through her summer jobs to help pay for school. Our donors matched her savings 2 to 1, and she had $6,000 to help cover her costs as she headed off to college. “The process of saving each month taught me to be more aware and proactive. I had to be weary of the temptation of using my debit card, and start thinking about money management.”
Monica | The Dream Center | Los Angeles | Amount financed: $16.1 million
Monica came to The Dream Center after fleeing from a violent relationship. She and her five children had driven across the country, not knowing where they would end up. They found a safe home, free from abuse, through The Dream Center's Family Housing program.
Located in Los Angeles' "Skid Row," the Dream Center offers a food bank, mobile medical clinic, shelters, job training, and counseling. Opportunity Fund provided $16.1 million to finance the rehabilitation of The Dream Center, ensuring it will continue to serve as one of the largest human service providers in Los Angeles.
Ines | Decoraciones Alvizar | San Jose | Loan Amount: $10,000 | Savings: $6,000
Ines emigrated from Mexico to California with her two sons in 2002. Working 16-hour days, Ines studied English and worked as a waitress during the day. With a dream to open her own party and floral design company, Ines enrolled in Opportunity Fund’s savings program in 2005. She attended financial education classes and began to save $85 each month. After two years, Ines had saved $2,000 and received a $4,000 match on her savings to invest in her future. Just six years after arriving in the United States, Ines opened a storefront for her business, Decoraciones Alvizar. In 2009, Ines borrowed $5,000 to buy a new floral refrigerator to increase inventory and attract more customers. In 2011, Ines borrowed $5,000 to acquire new covers for chairs she rents out as part of her event planning services. “Ines is a wonderful example of how business advising – along with the right financial products – can help an entrepreneur get off the ground. I’ve watched as she launched her business and I’ve seen how hard she’s worked and how far she’s come,” said Devin McAlpine, an Opportunity Fund Business Advisor.
“ Opportunity Fund stands out because we are increasing financial stability and expanding economic opportunities for California"
- Yolanda Ruiz, Opportunity Fund Board Member
"I learned the habit of saving and how to manage our money. If we want it, we can do it!"
– Alicia, Opportunity Fund saver
Chiefo | Chiefo's Kitchen | San Francisco | Loan amount: $3,000
Chiefo launched her Sub-Sahara African catering business - Chiefo’s Kitchen - in 2009 at La Cocina’s Street Food Festival. It was one of the busiest booths! But in order to sell so much food, Chiefo also had to spend quite a lot of money to prepare for it—so much, in fact, that when 2011’s Street Food Festival rolled around, Chiefo was apprehensive about whether she would have enough capital to secure a booth and purchase the necessary ingredients. “It came down to: Should I pay rent or should I be in the Street Food Festival?.” Chiefo told her manager that she would be unable to participate in the festival. But La Cocina and Opportunity Fund have worked closely together in the past, and they knew they could put Chiefo in safe hands when they referred her to Opportunity Fund for a loan. “I couldn’t believe it at first—it seemed too good to be true! It was the right loan that came at the right time.” With her $3,000 loan from Opportunity Fund secured, Chiefo’s Kitchen was even more successful at this year’s Street Food Festival, grossing $12,000 in sales.
“ We have supported Opportunity Fund for more than a decade because, like us, they believe investing in entrepreneurship is the best way to create multi-generational economic stability.”
- Mark Leslie, Leslie Ventures
“ I got to know the Opportunity Fund team and their work by volunteering on their Finance Committee and touring client businesses on several Opportunity Fund-led tours. I think they represent one of the best ways to support healthy local communities by creating meaningful financial security and supporting small business growth. I’m a big fan of Opportunity Fund!”
- Julia Sze, Sonen Capital