Entrepreneur Profile

Entrepreneur Profile

Healthy Community, Healthy Economy

Pioneer Entrepreneur of the Year

At this year's EXPO, AnewAmerica proudly introduced the Pioneer Entrepreneur of the Year Award - a brand new award for entrepreneurs dedicated to pioneering innovative business models. We honored Elisabeth Cruz, owner of Benitez Produce and outstanding pioneer in the establishment and growth of the Fresh Carts Silicon Valley program in San Jose.

Elisabeth Cruz being presented with the Pioneer Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Award

Elisabeth Cruz, Benitez Produce (Good.To.Go. Fresh Cart) & her family being presented with the 2015 Pioneer Entrepreneur of the Year Award by The Health Trust COO, Todd Hansen, joined by AnewAmerica CEO, Viola Gonzales, AnewAmerica Board Chair, Steve Dial, and EXPO emcee, Univision Host, Kira Vilanova.

Elisabeth’s success is attributed to her talent, tenacity, and commitment to this new program that utilizes cross-sector approaches in addressing health, social, and economic issues. The Health Trust, as part of its Healthy Eating Initiative, launched The Fresh Carts Silicon Valley Program, to increase access to healthy foods in low‑income neighborhoods while creating income generating opportunities. AnewAmerica proudly manages the entrepreneurial training and technical business assistance components of the program, training local residents to own and operate their own mobile fruit and vegetable carts. Elisabeth completed the program in 2014 and has since created a livelihood for her family and championed the cause for healthier food options in food deserts like the one where she lives.

“I started with the Fresh Carts project because I am concerned about the health of my family and my community. Our community suffers greatly from diabetes. Our community needs and deserves better food options to prevent these illnesses, especially for our children.”- Elisabeth Cruz on why she started her own Fresh Cart.

Find out more about all of our 2015 Award recipients here.

Ernesto and Mireya, Chef-Entrepreneurs


Ernesto Prada and Mireya Baez, a husband-wife team, run one of San Jose's beloved neighborhood institutions - Milohas Bakery. Milohas's local fame centers on its delicious empanadas and its family-centered environment.

Ernesto and Mireya started their first bakery in Colombia, but a deep economic crisis caused them to move to the United States in search of opportunity. They never gave up on the dream of opening Milohas. With AnewAmerica's support, they accomplished the following:

  • Graduated from AnewAmerica's business planning class in 2012
  • Received AnewAmerica Green Business Certification in 2012
  • Secured a business grant of $1,900 to purchase a commercial oven

By 2014, they were ready to find a storefront. For this, AnewAmerica helped them obtain a $25,000 commercial loan from Heritage Bank of Commerce.
Today, Ernesto and Mireya have:

  • Created a total of 3 full-time jobs and 7 part-time jobs
  • Rapidly increased sales

Milohas Bakery continues to thrive and expand. Mireya says, "The advice that I give is to always strive for what you want - persevere, and work with faith and discipline."

"AnewAmerica helped us with everything... in how to start and manage a business, how to manage finances, the administration..." - Ernesto Prada

Help us continue to strengthen families through entrepreneurship! Donate to Silicon Valley Gives 2015 on May 5th!

Dori Duncan, Youth-Focused Fashion Entrepreneur

Throughout March, we highlighted Xochitl Guerrero, Lourdes & Fatima Lara, and Penny Baldado - women who pursued and achieved their entrepreneurial dreams. Today, we feature our final #WomensHistoryMonth entrepreneur, Dori Duncan, a fashion designer who translated her talents into a successful start-up with the help of AnewAmerica. Camp Fashionista provides a place where children and young adults of all skill levels learn how to create and sew their own designs.

Business Name: Camp Fashionista
Type of Business: Design school for children and young adults
Location: San Jose

Dori Duncan owns and operates Camp Fashionista, a flourishing design school for children and young adults. In San Jose since 2010, Camp Fashionista fills the gap for young people who want to get trained on the craft of sewing and clothes creation. Dori runs workshops and classes that are accessible to learners of all ages.

Dori considers herself a role model for young people interested in design. For example, one of her students is a 16-year-old boy who has a passion for making designs. Through Camp Fashionista, Dori helps him build his skills and confidence. Dori also provides classes to youth in foster care and donates her studio once a month to Sew for Love, a community group that makes teddy bears and blankets for children in foster care and homeless shelters.

Dori Duncan, owner of Camp Fashionista

Turning A Lifelong Passion Into A Business

Having grown up in Los Angeles, Dori took an interest in fashion since childhood. She studied fashion design, graduating from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Though she moved away from design for a time when her children were young, she eventually returned to her passion, developing her business concept. However, she had little business experience.

One of Camp Fashionista's students, sewing her own design

AnewAmerica and the Success of Camp Fashionista

AnewAmerica helped Dori understand her business financials. Dori learned how to effectively use QuickBooks, social media, and participate in business competitions. Overall, AnewAmerica has helped Dori develop customer relations, understand her business fundamentals, and recast herself as a designer and business owner.

Camp Fashionista's Future

After five years in business, Dori now analyzes her past sales and surveys her customers on what they want to improve her operations. During the next five years, her goals include establishing a second location, franchising her business, and developing an exit strategy for her eventual retirement. Dori is thrilled that she has created a space for children and young people to pursue their passion for design - just as she pursued hers.

AnewAmerica salutes its women entrepreneurs who from all walks of life follow their passions and with their creative energy create a new opportunity for themselves and others.

We thank Xochitl, Lourdes & Fatima, Penny, and Dori for sharing their inspiring entrepreneurial journeys, and we thank you for joining us in honoring women entrepreneurs during #WomensHistoryMonth!



Check out Camp Fashionista's website: www.campfashionista.net

"We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community." - Civil Rights Leader and Human Rights Champion, Cesar Chavez #CesarChavezDay #SiSePuede

Follow us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter or join us on LinkedIn - in April, we'll be talking about environmentally responsible AnewAmerica entrepreneurs, just in time for Earth Day!

Julio Leiva, Socially Conscious Entrepreneur

Today, we celebrate AnewAmerica entrepreneur, Julio Leiva, owner of Lotus Cleaning Services, a flourishing green cleaning business that employs over 40 individuals in the East Bay.

Prior to joining AnewAmerica's program, Julio found himself starting from scratch in a new country with little capital and limited proficiency in English - but armed with a dream and determination.

Originally from El Salvador, Julio immigrated to the United States during the Salvadorean Civil War. Though he had obtained an advanced degree and owned a business in his country of origin, he had to start over when he came to the U.S.


Since becoming a client, AnewAmerica has provided Julio with the tools he has needed to realize his dreams of starting a business and becoming a successful, socially-responsible entrepreneur.

Key milestones in Julio's Entrepreneurial Journey:

  • Graduated from one of AnewAmerica's first business planning cohorts in 2002
  • Developed green methods of cleaning, with AnewAmerica's guidance
  • Received AnewAmerica Green Business Certification
  • Quickly started to experience 25-30% growth per year
  • Employed others, paying them well above minimum wage

Now successful with 42 employees and annual robust sales, Julio gives back to AnewAmerica by mentoring other entrepreneurs. He trains people in business practices and green cleaning methods - both one-on-one and in AnewAmerica workshops.

Julio says, "It is not like me to have a business that doesn't have some level of social responsibility. And it must be combined with a lot of ethics, professionalism, and high quality service."

We are proud of Julio's accomplishments! Help us continue to strengthen communities through entrepreneurship and donate this May 5th via East Bay Gives 2015!

Penny Baldado, Community-Minded Chef and Entrepreneur

Now in our third week of #WomensHistoryMonth, AnewAmerica features Penny Baldado, who brought together talent, hard work and a sense of social responsibility to create Cafe Gabriela in Downtown Oakland. She runs a green business that provides healthy food to the local community while giving back in creative ways.


Business Name: Cafe Gabriela

Type of Business: Oakland community cafe serving local, love-inspired coffee and food

Location: Downtown Oakland

Since 2010, Penny Baldado has served up delicious espressos and pulled pork adobo sandwiches to the public at Cafe Gabriela in Downtown Oakland at Broadway and 10th Street. She donates to the local community, mentors foster youth in culinary skills, and uses her space to feature local artists at no cost. Having established herself in her first location, Penny now wants to open a second cafe and begin roasting her own beans. She plans to buy her beans directly from farmers in the Philippines.


An art exhibit commemorating the victims of police brutality, featured until May at Cafe Gabriela

Realizing Her Vision

Penny moved from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1999. As an immigrant, she struggled at first to find employment. She began by bussing tables at a restaurant, but she felt exploited and unsupported.

Penny persevered, and through her talent and industry, she became the Head Chef. This experience gave her the confidence to realize her own vision of an environmentally- and community-friendly restaurant. So in 2007, she sought out AnewAmerica's business development program.

The art gallery inside Cafe Gabriela

Growing A Business with AnewAmerica

Through the intensive training provided in the business classes and follow-up 1:1 technical assistance, she learned how to write and implement marketing, business and asset plans that incorporated social responsibility. With the help of AnewAmerica, Penny found the perfect site for Cafe Gabriela in Downtown Oakland. She named her restaurant after Gabriela Silang, a Filipina hero who fought against oppression.

To help cover her start-up expenses, AnewAmerica enrolled Penny in its matched savings program, through which she earned $6,000, and assisted her to obtain a 360Microfinance business loan. In addition, AnewAmerica gave Penny 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.

Penny, proud owner of Cafe Gabriela

A Thriving Cafe Focusing On Community, Health and Environmental Sustainability

Penny's cafe opened in May of 2010. In the spirit of being environmentally-conscious and saving money, she purchased second-hand equipment and materials. She made contacts with suppliers that shared her commitment to green business practices. During her menu-creation process, she remains dedicated to using local, fresh, and organic products.

Penny credits AnewAmerica in helping her dream cafe become a reality. She states, "AnewAmerica is very instrumental in bringing Cafe 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."

For aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, Penny has the following advice:
1) Never stop educating yourself, and
2) Ask for help.

You can check out Cafe Gabriela's Facebook page or visit Penny at 988 Broadway, Oakland, CA.

To find out more about how to start your own business, go to our website: http://anewamerica.org/

For the rest of March, follow us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter or join us on LinkedIn - we'll be bringing you stories about our awesome women entrepreneurs, as well as useful tips on how to start and grow your own business!

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