Women Entrepreneurs Cook Up Great Business Ideas

The following stories come from our amazing Kiva Fellow Emelyn Chew.

In a city like San Francisco where there is a restaurant for every 376 people, it’s almost impossible to have a bad meal. From the flurry of new arrivals on the restaurant scene to the dizzying array of Michelin starred eateries like French Laundry, it’s easy to overlook local entrepreneurs, many of whom are skilled cooks, yet are deprived of access to key resources they need to launch and grow their food businesses.

Enter La Cocina, a groundbreaking business incubator designed to reduce the obstacles that prevent low-income food entrepreneurs from launching successful and sustainable businesses. La Cocina focuses primarily on women from minority communities, and has been a Kiva trustee since 2012. Since then, Kiva and La Cocina have partnered to support women entrepreneurs such as Gabriela, Dilsa and Guadalupe through 0% interest loans of up to $10,000, enabling them to grow their businesses and become economically self-sufficient.

Meet Gabriela: Owner of Delicioso Creperie

Gabriela is following her dream to become a restaurant owner

Mexico City native, Gabriela came to California 15 years ago to chase her dream of having her own restaurant serving her unique Mexican inspired crepes. While working at numerous restaurants, Gabriela discovered La Cocina and with its support, her dream started to become a reality. Serving as Gabriela’s teacher and guide, La Cocina provided the resources necessary for her to establish Delicioso Creperie, a business centered on her favorite food, crepes that reflect her colorful history of cross-cultural cuisine. A connection with La Cocina led Gabriela to Kiva Zip, and she applied for a $10,000 loan to provide her with cash flow necessary for new production and retail space. As a result, Gabriela has been able to follow her ultimate dream of opening a self-sufficient restaurant. You can now find Gaby, and taste her delicious crepes, Monday through Friday, at 1550 Bryant Street in the Hamm’s Building.

Meet Dilsa: Owner of Los Cilantros

Dilsa, with her two children, wants to bring healthy food to her neighborhood

Growing up in Mexico, Dilsa learned how to garden from her mother and her family cultivated their own food. She loved to see the evolution of food from a small seed to a finished meal on the table. Moving to the Bay Area in 2003, Dilsa found the fresh healthy ingredients that she loved at the farmer’s market but noticed a lack of healthy alternatives at taquerias and restaurants. Inspired to bring her passion for local, organic ingredients for Mexican food to the Bay Area, Dilsa started taking cooking lessons at The Bread Project where she met the La Cocina’s Executive Director, Caleb Zigas. La Cocina inspired Dilsa to launch her own business, Los Cilantros, and connected her to market opportunities, like catering and special events, to build a successful and sustainable business. . With the help of a Kiva Zip loan, Dilsa launched her very own Mexican restaurant, with a focus on local and sustainably sourced ingredients, within Berkeley's La Pena Cultural Center. The micro-loans Dilsa received through Kiva Zip gave her the financial capital necessary to achieve her dream and to serve her own community.

Meet Guadalupe: Owner of El Pipila

Guadalupe’s business, El Pipila, now supports her entire family

Fourteen years ago, Guadalupe moved to the United States from Mexico in the hopes of finding work to be able to support her two daughters and bring them to the United States. After years of working at a taqueria in Berkeley, Guadalupe decided to pursue her dream of bringing food from her own childhood experience to her new community. She wrote a business plan with an organization called the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment who then referred her to La Cocina.

Guadalupe started her own catering business in the Bay Area and secured a regular stall at Off the Grid. Through Kiva Zip’s platform, Guadalupe was able to secure a $10,000, 0% interest loan to purchase the equipment necessary to begin daily sales at The Hall in San Francisco and grow her business to the next level. As a result, she was able to provide a consistent source of income for her family and even hire one of her daughters as her full time manager, passing along her knowledge and entrepreneurial experiences.

Gabriela, Dilsa and Guadalupe are great examples of La Cocina’s ability to empower women through its belief that a community of natural entrepreneurs, given the right resources, can create self-sufficient businesses that benefit themselves, their families, their communities, and the whole city.

To learn more about La Cocina and it’s food entrepreneurs, visit www.lacocinasf.org.


Posted by Rachel Getz, Kiva Zip Marketing Intern

Mar 11, 2016

Rachel was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She graduated from American University with a B.S. in Computer Science and a minor in Finance. While living in Washington DC, Rachel volunteered in the DC Reads tutoring program, giving her the opportunity to mentor and tutor children in literacy. She spent a summer in Tel Aviv working for a high tech start-up company and experienced living in a different culture. After graduation, Rachel spent a year working at Bully Pulpit Interactive, a digital advertising agency, where she managed the data warehouse system in a really exciting political environment. Rachel has a strong passion for social justice and is excited to join the Kiva team in order to learn more about microfinance and the impact it can have to foster social change.


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