Client Stories

Client Stories

Entrepreneur Profiles:

Penny Baldado, Owner of Cafe Gabriela
Carmenza Rengifo, Owner of Arepas La Caleñita
Rebekah Peterkin, Owner of Lwanga Designs

Penny Baldado: Opening Her Dream Green Café

AnewAmerica Class of 2009

Penny BaldadoPenny Baldado moved to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1999, to reunite with her father who had been living in the states for many years. She viewed the move as a way to expand her opportunities. However, Penny found the transition to life in America difficult, and she felt powerless after leaving her support system in the Philippines. Eventually, she found a job bussing and waiting tables at a Filipino restaurant. Then, she took the opportunity to work in the kitchen as a sous-chef. Gradually, she gained a grasp of cooking and working in the kitchen. Before long, she was promoted to Head Chef.

However, Penny found it difficult to work in an all-male Filipino kitchen where, she states, "there was a lot of machismo." In addition, Penny became frustrated by the restaurant's lack of environmental consciousness. She states, "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, she states, "I realized I had the talent, discipline, background, and drive to open my own cafe."

Penny left her job to start her own restaurant more in touch with her environmental ethic. She enrolled in classes at Berkeley City College and began educating herself 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, she enrolled in AnewAmerica's twenty-five week college certificate program in Business Planning. Through the intensive training provided in the business classes, she learned how to write marketing, business and asset plans, and how to be a successful, socially-responsible entrepreneur. She also formalized the concept of her dream business: Café Gabriella.

Penny BaldadoWith the help of AnewAmerica, Penny found the perfect site for Café Gabriela*, at Broadway and 10th Street in Downtown Oakland. She was 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 she earned $6,000 in combined savings and matching grants to use toward her business. This funding helped her 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 her start-up expenses.

Penny credits the work of AnewAmerica in helping her dream café become a reality. She 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. She purchased second-hand equipment and materials, and formed relationships with local suppliers that share her commitment to green business practices. Her dedication to using local, fresh, and organic products guides her 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 the current economic recession, Penny states, "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 will continue her efforts in the area of social responsibility by being a model green café, and by using her business to support local artists and community groups who would like to exhibit their work in the space.

Visit Café Gabriella Today!
988 Broadway Street (between 9th & 10th Street), Oakland, CA 94607
Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
(510) 763-2233

*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.

Entrepreneur Profile: Carmenza Rengifo

AnewAmerica Class of 2009

Carmenza RengifoCarmenza (middle) pictured at AnewAmerica in the Park: A Green Business and Community Education Event. Her business is creating employment for herself, her sister-in-law (pictured left) and brother (right).

When Carmenza was a child in Colombia, her mother and father made her arepas , a local corn pancake, every morning for breakfast.  During the drug war era in Colombia, Carmenza moved to the U.S. in search of economic survival and personal safety. She continued her cultural tradition of making fresh arepas daily for her friends and family in her adopted country. Carmenza states, "Making arepas is important for me, because I am expressing where I come from, my roots." 

Carmenza's arepas became so popular that she began to sell them to her friends and members of her community.  Carmenza had entrepreneurial ideas and demand for her product, but she lacked the education to formalize her business and enable it to grow.  Then, a customer who enjoyed her arepas told her about AnewAmerica's office in San Jose.  Carmenza joined AnewAmerica's three-year holistic microenterprise development program, Assets for New Americans: Virtual Business Incubator.  She completed AnewAmerica's twenty-five week college certificate program in business planning at the National Hispanic University in San Jose in the spring of 2010. 

Throughout the course, Carmenza learned the solid business skills she needed to make her business a success.  She states, "I have learned so much from AnewAmerica. I've learned how to write my business plan, explain my product and articulate its quality and value.  I've also learned how to get my business license, obtain necessary food safety and handling permits, rent a space for my business, organize my everyday life and save money. AnewAmerica taught me how to use the internet to do market research and to build my own webpage. My dream is to help create the arepas industry in California, and to expose arepas to other cultures.  I will use my profits to pay for my daughters to attend college, and to purchase a home for my family.  I will hire employees and give others the opportunity for employment."

After joining AnewAmerica, Carmenza's sales increased 50%. Further, AnewAmerica awarded Carmenza with 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. Carmenza is using this grant to purchase equipment that will enable her make and package her arepas more efficiently.

In alignment with AnewAmerica's emphasis on creating green businesses, Carmenza uses organic corn in her arepas. She is an AnewAmerica Certified Green Business.  She states, "My arepas are fresh. I use only all-natural ingredients."

To purchase Carmenza's arepas, click here to visit her eStore on! Or, you can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rebekah Peterkin: Fair Trade and Online!

AnewAmerica Class of 2008

Rebekah PeterkinRebekah's Ugandan roots inspire her to share the artistry of her homeland with her business, Lwanga Design.  Lwanga boasts a unique array of African home décor, kitchen accents, jewelry, and bags, made by village craftswomen in Uganda.  Rebekah is also a talented artisan: she creates consignment, high-quality pieces to complement the work of her partners in Africa.  Rebekah is currently in the process of becoming a certified Fair Trade business.

Rebekah's dedication to social responsibility is inherent in her business practices. She views her business as a way to help improve the lives of women in Uganda.  Many of the women who produce her crafts are HIV positive and depend on a market for their goods to purchase anti-viral medication for themselves and their children.  Rebekah's work is addressing the need for a systemized distribution for their products, as environmental and social factors (such as bad weather or violence) often prevent products from making their way to the metropolitan markets.

AnewAmerica's program appealed to Rebekah because it spoke to her needs as an immigrant: "When you come from another country, you have to start from scratch.  It's easier to work alongside entrepreneurs from other countries because we have different needs.  When I see [fellow entrepreneurs] working with their own businesses, I feel a sense of enthusiasm and reinforcement of my own goals.  AnewAmerica offers so many connections in the areas of community development, social responsibility, financial literacy and homeownership that apply to people from all different social statuses."

Rebekah is currently renting space in Bayfair Mall in San Leandro where she was a finalist in the mall's Retail*Star competition, an innovative retail business incubator program designed as a competition for aspiring entrepreneurs who would use their individual drive, retail expertise, engaging personality and competitive edge to impress an expert-judging panel in this one-of-a-kind competition. Rebekah will soon open a studio space in an artist co-operative in downtown Oakland.

Rebekah sells her products on the Anew E-Store, operated through a partnership with E-Bay's  AnewAmerica launched the Anew E-Store to help bring the benefits and opportunities of e-commerce to low-income new American entrepreneurs.  In order to keep pace with the high-speed demands of online transactions, Rebekah utilizes the AnewAmerica and Comcast Computing and Communications Lab, located in the incubator building.  The lab enables her to keep track of her Anew E-Store orders, design business cards and marketing material, research new products, and stay in touch with her loyal customers.  She states, "I'm getting a hand on online technology.  Six months ago I felt like I couldn't post anything.  Now I feel confident.  I'm beginning to sell more items—at least one a day.  Now I have customers in Nebraska and Hawaii, and I am able to expand my inventory and design scope."

Rebekah is just one entrepreneur who has benefited from AnewAmerica's comprehensive microenterprise development services.  Thanks to the help of AnewAmerica, her African-inspired products are finding a global marketplace, enabling her to work toward the economic security of her family.