La Placita

"Opportunity Fund saved my business and dozens of other businesses."


—Emilia, La Placita

Emilia's Story

Emilia used a loan from Opportunity Fund to bring better nutrition to her community. When forced to move her business, instead of giving up, Emilia used another loan from Opportunity to save her business and many others.

Rolling Out a New Food Industry

Emilia Otero has been involved in Oakland’s mobile food industry for 20 years. She started with a pilot project to improve community nutrition options in Oakland, by organizing local mobile food vendors into what she calls “the new food industry on wheels.”

“I wanted to bring nutrition to my community [and] to teach kids about healthy eating,” she said.

At that time, mobile food businesses were not permitted in Oakland, so Emilia had to work to legalize them first. With support from the community and vendors and a $75,000 grant from the city of Oakland, she eventually opened her first commissary in 2008.

Unfortunately, the grant didn’t cover the necessary start-up costs. And despite good business, no bank would give her a loan because of her lack of equity. This led her to Opportunity Fund, which gave her the loan she needed in 2010.

But two years later, Emilia faced another setback: the building housing her commercial kitchen went into foreclosure. Emilia’s business—and the 300 mobile food vendors who relied on her—almost went under. “I panicked thinking of all the food vendors counting on me, I couldn’t let them down,” she said.


emilia and sons

Rebuilding a Dream

Emilia was down, but not out. Emilia rebuilt her dream in Oakland’s Fruitvale district: she renovated a building no one else wanted, with volunteers and friends doing painting, cleaning, and plumbing. Another grant from the city helped rebuild the façade, but the hoods for the ovens and stoves—essential for passing city inspections—required fast financing. Emilia looked to Opportunity Fund. 

With another loan from Opportunity Fund, Emilia started her commercial kitchen, La Placita, where food vendors lease space to prepare their foods for the day. Emilia also secured seed money so the same disaster couldn’t happen again. Emilia also referred 10 businesses for Opportunity Fund loans, which then created 30 jobs.

Now, every day at 3 a.m., a dozen people start cooking in Emilia’s industrial kitchen, La Placita, to fill the streets of Oakland with delicious food. “Opportunity Fund saved my business and dozens of other businesses” she said. 

La Placita is a product of Emilia’s creativity, activism, and love for her community. And we think those are all good things worth investing in.

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