Alum Penny Baldado | Café Gabriella

Penny Baldado

Penny 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."

Alum Carmenza Rengifo | Arepas La Calenita

Carmenza Rengifo

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 knowledge 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.  At the time she stated, "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 used the 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, you can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Alum Rebekah Peterkin | Lwanga Designs

Rebekah Peterkin

Rebekah'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'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 just one entrepreneur who has benefited from AnewAmerica's comprehensive microenterprise development services.  Thanks to the help of AnewAmerica, her African-inspired products were on thier way to reaching a global marketplace and enabled her to work toward the economic security of her family.

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