Penny Baldado moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1999, to reunite with their father who had been living in the states for many years. They viewed the move as a way to expand their opportunities. However, Penny found the transition to life in America difficult, and they felt powerless after leaving their support system in the Philippines. Eventually, they found a job bussing and waiting tables at a Filipino restaurant. Then, they took the opportunity to work in the kitchen as a sous-chef. Gradually, they gained a grasp of cooking and working in the kitchen. Before long, Penny was promoted to Head Chef.
However, Penny found it difficult to work in an all-male Filipino kitchen where, they state, "there was a lot of machismo." In addition, Penny became frustrated by the restaurant's lack of environmental consciousness. They state, "The restaurant had a lot of wasteful practices. I wanted to use more sustainable ingredients, and compostable to-go containers." Penny envisioned a green café, which would give back to the community and help protect the environment. After seven years of working as the Head Chef, Penny states, "I realized I had the talent, discipline, background, and drive to open my own cafe."
Penny left their job to start their own restaurant to be more in touch with their environmental ethics. Penny enrolled in classes at Berkeley City College and began educating themself about restaurant business practices. Penny discovered AnewAmerica while browsing the internet, looking for business classes in the Bay Area. Excited to find a program designed for immigrant entrepreneurs, they enrolled in AnewAmerica's twenty-five week college certificate program in Business Planning. Through the intensive training provided in the business classes, they learned how to write marketing, business and asset plans, and how to be a successful, socially-responsible entrepreneur. Penny also formalized the concept of their dream business: Café Gabriella.
With the help of AnewAmerica, Penny found the perfect site for Café Gabriela*, at Broadway and 10th Street in Downtown Oakland. They were the recipient of 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, designed to expand businesses and create jobs in low-income areas and for low-income people. Penny used the grant to cover permits for construction, and marketing expenses. Penny also participated in AnewAmerica's Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program, through which they earned $6,000 in combined savings and matching grants to use toward their business. This funding helped them secure the deposit and first month's rent for the café space, as well as equipment (such as espresso machines) and other necessary permits. In addition to these funding programs, AnewAmerica helped Penny to secure a business loan to cover their start-up expenses.
Penny credits the work of AnewAmerica in helping their dream café become a reality. Penny states, "AnewAmerica is very instrumental in bringing Café 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, and are a constant support for me as I work toward opening the café."
Penny worked with contractors to update the café space in the most environmentally-friendly ways possible. They purchased second-hand equipment and materials, and formed relationships with local suppliers that share their commitment to green business practices. Penny's dedication to using local, fresh, and organic products guides their menu. The café serves locally-roasted coffee, local, organic and hormone-free milk, and pastries from a local worker-owned cooperative. The menu changes with the seasons to reflect local growing patterns, featuring a selection of American-style dishes, with the addition of a new twist on the famous Filipino dish, adobo.
When asked what it's like to start a business during an economic recession, at the time, Penny stated, "There are some advantages. There are more open retail spaces, and the rent has lowered. However, you have to be very sensitive about how much your target market is willing to pay for your products, given the economy."
Penny's commitment to green business practices is in alignment with AnewAmerica's dedication to creating socially-responsible businesses. Café Gabriella is an official AnewAmerica Certified Green Business. Penny continues their efforts in the area of social responsibility by being a model green café, and by using their business to support local artists and community groups who would like to exhibit their work in the space. As of 2020, Café Gabriella celebrates 10 years of being in business!
Visit Café Gabriella Today!
988 Broadway Street (between 9th & 10th Street), Oakland, CA 94607
Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
*Café Gabriela is named after Maria Josefa Gabriela, a Pilipino hero who fought against the Spanish in the 1800s. She has inspired a lot of Filipinos, women in particular, to fight against oppression.