Meet Our Clients
If you’re looking for a story of hope and resiliency in these tough economic times, look no further than Accion San Diego client Lidia Calzado. She’s an unlikely source of inspiration, however. Lidia started her entrepreneurial journey with three strikes against her—she fled Cuba and arrived in the United States as a refugee after being rescued at sea, she speaks only Spanish and she’s legally blind. But Lidia has applied a singular energy to her work and life and has overcome these obstacles with generosity and grace.
When she first arrived in San Diego, Lidia refused to see herself as helpless and immediately began volunteering for community organizations in the city. To support herself, she used the sales skills she had honed in Cuba and her new connections in San Diego to sell gold jewelry and perfume. Her ability to connect with others helped her to sustain the business for a while, but the prices and interest her supplier charged ultimately proved too high. To get out from under the supplier and purchase her stock outright, Lidia sought a small business loan from standard commercial banks. Due to her “lack of financial capacity,” they all answered with a firm “no.”
At the time, one of Lidia’s many community connections was with La Maestra, a multi-service agency that aids “under-served, ethnically diverse communities” in and around San Diego. There, she received basic business education and learned about Accion San Diego, a non-profit lender with 17 years of experience serving San Diego’s low-to-moderate income self-employed men and women. She applied for a loan from Accion San Diego and was delighted to receive $8,000 to stock her inventory.
These days, Lidia is using her ingenuity and business acumen to make and sell her own products—home-made purses, belts, jewelry and other accessories made out of everyday items such as bottle caps—through her business, Tu Bodeguita. Her income is on the rise and she takes pride in crafting her own products, saying, “Working with my hands is something that no one can take away from me.”
Lidia’s energy and generosity are also hers to keep. She is currently a volunteer jewelry-making instructor at La Maestra, teaching other immigrant women how to create their own artisan businesses and improve their lives.
Kevin Ho & Juan
Kevin Ho and Juan Miron, co-owners of MIHO Gastrotruck, met while working together in the restaurant industry and they shared a passion for gathering friends and family around good food. Rather than opening a restaurant, they decided to literally bring their passion to the streets opening MIHO Gastrotruck in Spring 2010.
Being among the first gourmet food trucks in San Diego, Kevin and Juan faced various challenges in starting. One of the biggest hurdles they needed to cross was financing. As a start-up mobile food business, they experienced difficulty securing financing through traditional means and were referred to Accion by the local Small Business Administration (SBA) office. They received a $15,000 start-up loan from Accion to buy and fix-up an old 1984 lunch truck. It was not glamorous, but it got them started.
“Finding Accion was a huge break for us because it really enabled us to go for it as new business owners,” says co-owner, Kevin.
In less than two years, MIHO has successfully expanded to encompass two mobile trucks and now also offers a full catering service. When they first started Kevin and Juan were doing everything from cooking, serving, and cleaning; however, they now employ up to 17 people during their peak summer season. They also recently expanded from a 1,000 square-foot prep-kitchen to a 5,000 square-foot space ensuring they have room to grow for years to come. MIHO’s success has built quite a reputation in the San Diego community with strong press coverage by major local media outlets including the Union Tribune, NBC, and San Diego Magazine.
MIHO specializes in serving high quality, locally-sourced, natural foods. By using locally-sourced ingredients they strive to support the local economy, while having the freedom to bring new culinary ideas to the streets daily. The result is an ever-changing menu of delicious restaurant quality “street food” that always draws a crowd.
“HOMI’s” are what Kevin and Juan affectionately call their large and dedicated customer base. They knew when opening a mobile business that social media would be an integral part of getting the word out. With almost 10,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, they provide daily updates to let their followers know where they will be each day. HOMI’s come to eat from all over San Diego making MIHO a mobile gathering point for friends and family, both old and new.
Kevin shares, “What I love about my job is creating the sense of community… no matter where we go in San Diego, we become a part of our Homies’ everyday lives and create a community… because in the end, it’s about people enjoying themselves.”
Cherries Swim & Lovey Bridal
Isha Webb’s quickly growing retail clothing businesses, Cherries Swim and Lovey Bridal, are a dream come true for this hard-working San Diego native. Isha learned to sew from her grandmother – a fact that you can sense in the loving way she handles her fabrics. As early as her high school years, Isha was frustrated by the expensive, mass-made clothing worn by her friends, and she thought to herself, “I can make this!” At the time, Isha had no idea that other people would be interested in her creations.
Before starting her business, Isha worked in the commercial banking industry for eleven years. One day, she brought some of her pieces to work to show some co-workers and one of the loan officers encouraged her to start a business. She expressed to him that there was no was no way that she would qualify for traditional financing, and so he referred her to Accion.
After receiving her first $2000 Accion loan, Isha bought a used laptop, an old sewing machine, and tons of fabric. Though her first attempt at a fall collection was unsuccessful, she kept at it and soon found her niche – swimsuits! She started CherriesSwim selling vintage inspired swimsuits online through Etsy. Her designs soon got picked up by ModCloth, an online retailer that specializes in indie clothing, and she has hired a sewing manufacturer in National City to keep up with demand.
Isha took out a second $2000 Accion loan to expand her business into bridal wear. Inspired by the dresses she made for her own wedding, Isha sold her first few wedding dress designs on Etsy in October 2010. In March 2011, she was invited to participate in a bridal show in St. Louis where she received 30 wedding dress orders, and has since done a wedding show in San Diego with similar success.
In December 2011, Isha fully paid her Accion loan and is continuing to dream up new ideas for the future. To meet the growing demand of her clients for new designs, Isha plans to expand into making lingerie, nightgowns, and garters to match the bridal wear. What she enjoys most about her job is when a customer loves what she has made as much as she does. When asked if she had any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, she said, “Whatever you’re supposed to be doing, just hang in there, you’ll do it.”