Client Success and Testimonials

Buna Ethiopian Market

Helina Zerfu (center) accepting award at Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti's 3rd Annual Small Business Award Ceremony. Joined by Director of PACE Women's Business Center, Swann Do (right), and PACE Loan Counselor, Steve Meng (left).

Helina Zerfu immigrated to Los Angeles from Ethiopia in 2004. After many years of working in the restaurant industry, she opened her own restaurant Buna Ethiopian Market in 2011. She found that her customers enjoyed the dishes she prepared using family recipes. Though she was a master in preparing these wonderful dishes, Helina realized that she had little knowledge of how to run a business. She came to PACE Women’s Business Center (WBC) looking to increase her business skills.

Helina enrolled in the five week intensive Entrepreneur Training Program (ETP) and learned about how to run a successful business. She completed the program, yet did not stop her training. She continued to meet one-on-one with her mentor, Swann Do, PACE WBC Director. In 2014, PACE helped Helina secure a $21,000 Small Business Administration microloan to upgrade her restaurant’s kitchen equipment.
 
In March of 2015, Buna Ethiopian Market was recognized in an LA Weekly list of ‘99 Essential Restaurants’ in Los Angeles. This recognition has helped her restaurant stand out from other competitors in her neighborhood and her sales have more than doubled. Helina’s five-year plan now includes creating a more casual family-style menu and opening additional locations in Los Angeles. She contributes much of her success to great mentorship and access to resources with the help of PACE Women’s Business Center.

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

CareRinger

Henry Chan, founder of CareRinger (left) and Peter Chan, Councilman of Monterey Park (right) at Langley Center Bazaar.

Henry Chan is an inventor and a former telecommunications professional attending to people with special needs. He enrolled in the PACE Women’s Business Center (WBC) ETP program in fall of 2015. By March 2016, he started his business “CareRinger”, hoping to offer automated telephone reassurance service to seniors and their family caregivers in the Greater Los Angeles areas. 

CareRinger calls homebound seniors one or more times a day. If the senior is not responding to the call, CareRinger will contact the family caregiver or friend and let them know that the senior may need their help. The service is not intended to replace the Personal Emergency Response Service (PERS), such as Life Alert or E911 for safety, but mainly to provide relief to caregivers and peace of mind to the families. It supports “aging in place” and organizations sharing the same passion. Unlike other services, CareRinger, with its unique technology, is not intrusive and friendly to use.

PACE WBC has been supporting the CareRinger initiative and providing both technical and legal assistance to establish the procedures needed to offer the service to a larger audience. Through PACE WBC, Henry was introduced to PACECARE which serves families in need of caregiver services. He hopes to work with PACECARE as a channel partner. Recently, CareRinger shared a booth with PACECARE at the Monterey Park Langley Center Fall Bazaar (2016). Seniors and their families showed up at the booth for information about CareRinger. After finding out about the service, many asked for extra copies of the flyers so they can pass on the information. Henry continues to keep in touch with Swann Do, PACE WBC Director.

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

Chichen Itza Restaurant

chichen_itza02Chichen Itza Restaurant is a family owned and operated business inside the Mercado la Paloma in south Los Angeles. Established over 15 years ago, the restaurant  specializes in Yucatecan food, a mixture of Mayan, Spanish & Lebanese recipes.  Chef and owner Gilberto Cetina has been recognized as one of the top Latino chefs in the country and has been written up in publications like GQ Magazine, Hispanic Magazine, Culinary R&B, and LA Weekly, just to name a few. Just last month, Chichen Itza was selected as one of Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants. Chef Cetina began working with the Central West BusinessSource Center in early September. He was seeking financing to expand his restaurant and purchase equipment for a new catering kitchen. With assistance from Loan Counselor, Alvaro Bermudez, Chef Cetina applied for an SBA microloan. That same month, Chichen Itza was approved for a $25,000 loan. They plan to have a new kitchen and hire 4 new staff by early 2017.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Codina USA

Codina USA founder, Yonok Jung

Codina USA, owned by Yonok Jung, is a unique store that delivers all-natural, personal care products to health and environment conscious individuals.

Yonok worked in investment banking for over a decade before a personal tragedy changed her life. A family member was left terribly scarred by the chemicals found in a hair treatment product. Yonok immediately began looking for healthier alternative, organic products for her friends and family. After months of research she found a company in France willing to produce her product. All she needed now was some direction on how to run a business and import her supplier’s cosmetics.

Yonok met with Swann Do, Director of PACE Women’s Business Center (WBC) in early 2010 to discuss her business ideas. Swann assisted Yonok with her financial projections, worked with her on her business plan, and enrolled Yonok in the Entrepreneur Training Program. Yonok found the workshop so enlightening she enrolled in all of PACE’s workshops including marketing, social media, income tax for business and others.

Prior to arriving at PACE Yonok realized, “I didn’t know how to start a business, yes I had worked for somebody else, but it was always with a group of people. I thought I knew in theory, but soon I realized I needed help. PACE not only showed me the basic business principles, but they also helped me build my network and organize my business.” Yonok’s continues to meet regularly with Swann.

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

Energy Massage

Xiumin Zhu (left) and Hongquan Li (right), owners of Energy Massage

Xiumin Zhu and her husband, Hongquan Li, came to the U.S. seeking asylum from China. When they first arrived they took on many odd jobs to get by such as restaurant helper, care taker and masseuse. After becoming certified massage therapists, Xiumin and Hongquan worked in the industry for 4 years and dreamed of one day starting their own massage business.

They came to PACE and met their counselor Dandan Shan, who enrolled them in the Office of Refugee Resettlement Microenterprise Development program. because they want to start their own business one day. They also enrolled in PACE’s “Saving for the American Dream” Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, saved $2,000 of their own money, and were matched with a $2,000 in working capital for their business. With the knowledge, training, support they received, Ms. Zhu and Mr. Li confidently started their business, Energy Massage, in early 2015.

With their good service they saw their business steadily grow to $11,000 in monthly revenue and were able to hire 3 full time employees. With the opportunity to expand on their success, they decided to open another location and invested over $25,000 of their previous earnings in remodeling and furniture. They came back to PACE and received a $15,000 SBA Microloan to help them hire four more employees. They look forward to opening their new location next month!

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

HDKA Transport, LLC

Herbert Alvarez Wong, owner of HDKA Transport LLC

Herbert Alvarez Wong was born in Guatemala and came to the U.S. hoping to start his own business. Herbert obtained his Class A driver’s license in 2004. He later purchased a used truck and became self-employed as an owner-operator. In 2007, when the City of LA passed the Clean Air Action Plan, Herbert was not allowed to continue using his pre-1989 truck. Still determined, he came to PACE for assistance for his business.

Herbert came to PACE for business consulting and loan assistance. He met his counselor, Swann Do, who helped him to obtain a $10,000 SBA microloan. The infusion of capital helped him afford the down payment on a new truck as well as other fees for license plates, permits, and insurance. The loan gave Herbert a new beginning, and in 2013, he was able to start HDKA Transport LLC. With his truck, he has been able to obtain contracts with another trucking company. After 6 months of dedication, he was able to obtain new accounts increase his revenue.

Herbert overcame several obstacles including volatile changes in the trucking industry. Now, he is on his way to paying off his loan and will be coming back to PACE for a second loan to expand his business by leasing an additional truck and hiring 3 more drivers!

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

Joy International Trading, Inc.

TzungSheng Lin and his family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in 1995. An exporter in Taiwan, Mr. Lin dreamed of starting his own exporting business in the US.  However, to make ends meet and to be able to support his wife and 2 young children, he initially had to work several jobs in other industries. 

In 1996, Mr. Lin was able to launch his exporting business, Joy International Trading, Inc.  Though his business grew slowly at first, over time it expanded and became more profitable.   After several years, his two sons, now grown, joined the company’s management team.  Chenkang and Chengyi persuaded their father to transition into the video game industry and the company soon began selling game consoles, accessories, statues and game-related products online.  Ten years later, their business is generating more than $1 million in annual revenues. 

In 2016, the Lin family decided to explore new product lines in order to expand their business.  Having previously worked in costume importing and retailing, Chenkang saw great potential in this area.  However, the family lacked the capital to proceed. The Lins were referred to PACE through the SBA and began working with counselor Dandan Shan.  In addition to providing counseling and technical assistance in the area of social media marketing, Dandan helped the Lins secure a $100,000 loan.  As a result of this capital infusion, their company has been able to create 3 part-time jobs and generate $1.6 million in sales.  Today, the company is expanding into multiple platforms such as Jet, Walmart and Facebook and the Lins are looking to open an office in their native Taiwan.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Knowiki Web Design

headshot_10x8

Derek Nowicki, Founder of Knowiki Web Design

As a young man, Derek Nowicki joined the Navy when he realized that college wasn't going to be an option. After the Navy, Derek took a job writing programs for the electronic controls in air conditioning systems. His ability to self-teach and his intense interest allowed him to expand my skill set to include web development. He made the decision to use my GI Bill money to go back to school and study computer science.

He contemplated about starting a business in September of 2015 after an internship at a robotics company ended. The business idea came to him that he could do web development in between semesters of school. He contacted the SBA and spoke to their veteran’s business specialist and he was referred to PACE. He met with Swann Do and within 3 months he founded Knowiki Web Design in January 2016. Knowiki Web Design offers custom website design and development services from small portfolio sites to big enterprise solutions. PACE has been instrumental in helping his business and the Entrepreneur Training Program (ETP) was essential to having a successful startup.

"The thought of owning a business was intimidating. It felt like a whole other world that I knew nothing about. What I liked most about the ETP was that the program takes you through the business plan step by step, and in the end you have an outline for your business plan. It was exciting when I got my first draft written and I went over it with Swann. I have also come to PACE for the free legal workshops, which have been immensely helpful in helping me understand how to write contracts for my business. This whole thing has big a huge learning experience for me. I think the biggest obstacle I’ve had in starting a business is overcoming the employee mentality, and starting to think like a business owner. It truly is a different mindset and lifestyle."

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

The Massage Place

Ms. Parunwatee Suksawad immigrated to the United States from Thailand in 2012.  In Thaliand, Ms. Suksawad had worked as an HR manager.   Despite holding advanced degrees from her native country, like many immigrants, she had to start her life over upon arrival to the US.  Navigating a new life here was made even more challenging because she is blind. 

In January 2012, Parunwatee began working at a local Thai spa.  Due to her hardworking nature and excellent managerial skills, she immediately caught the eye of the owner who took her under his wing and provided her with guidance and mentoring.  It was not long before Parunwatee received a life-changing proposition – the spa’s owner offered to sell her one of his 6 spas!  He also volunteered to provide ongoing mentoring throughout her first year of ownership. 

While Parunwatee had  some capital to inject into the business, she needed an additional loan to finance the spa’s purchase.  She came to PACE and, with the assistance of counselor Phuong Le, was able to receive technical assistance and information on increasing revenue, expanding her business and employment regulations.  Phuong also assisted her with securing a loan of $50,000.  Today, business is booming!  Since purchasing The Massage Place, Parunwatee has been able to hire 3 additional staff and retain 25 employees.  She also plans to buy a 2nd spa within the year.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Open Source Organic Juice Bars

Hollywood, CA Location

Hannes Poelleritzer and Stefan Poelleritzer, owners of the new Open Source Organic Juice Bars in Los Angeles, has worked with the Central West BusinessSource Center for the past year after purchasing it from another business owner. The two brothers are new immigrants to the United States, but had a dream of owning a retail store that sold organic fresh made fruit and vegetable juice.

The Poelleritzers originally came to the center inquiring about obtaining the necessary information to apply for a business loan. They wanted $40,000 to purchase equipment and use the extra funds for working capital for their new store. Their vision was to create easy access for everyone who wanted something healthy and organic. They expanded their business to a juice truck serving the communities around Los Angeles. Their store is located on 7107 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood CA 90046.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Panda Green Technology

Panda Green Technology founder, Tianxiang Zhang

Tianxiang Zhang came to the U.S. in 2013 as a Chinese asylee seeking freedom from religious prosecution. In China, his family had over 50 years of experience in practicing traditional herbal medicine and manufacturing herbal dietary supplements. Tianxiang brought this rich tradition to the U.S. and started Panda Green Technology Inc. in 2014. His goal is to reduce the damage that antibiotic cause to human beings, animals and the environment by offering plant-based feed and herbal dietary supplements for animals, pets and livestock.

Recognizing that he had little knowledge of how to run a business in the U.S., he came to PACE’s Business Development Center. His counselor, Viem Hong, was able to evaluate Tianxiang’s financial situation and business capacity as well as create a plan to expand his business. Viem enrolled Tianxiang in PACE’s Office of Refugee Resettlement “Saving for the American Dream” Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, a financial empowerment and matched savings program. Over the last six months, Tianxiang attended financial education classes, received small business counseling and diligently saved money to expand his business. In a few short months Tianxiang will complete the program and receive $4,000 in working capital. With the help of his counselor, he has made a plan to open an office in October and work full time on his business.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Prism DJs

Ms. Tessa Young is the owner and Founder of Prism DJs, a female DJ booking agency in Los Angeles.  Tessa first began DJing in 2003 as a hobby and, by 2010, was working in the industry full-time. After attending an all-female DJ event in 2012, Ms. Young was inspired to start her own businesses which she launched in April 2015.  Prism DJs immediately took off and she found herself in need of additional capital to support the hiring of new staff and the purchase of additional equipment and marketing materials.  Tessa was referred to PACE BDC by a local organization.  At PACE, she worked with her counselor, Steve Meng, to tighten up her business plan and apply for an SBA loan.  Tessa says, “Steve made the process easy. He was knowledgeable and always responsive to my questions.”

In October 2015, Ms. Young obtained an SBA loan of $18,000.  The additional capital has enabled her to grow her business, add more 2 DJs to her roster, and double her profits.  Tessa shares, “I am looking forward to our future success and am forever grateful for PACE’s assistance with the SBA loan to help me make this happen!"

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Sawadee Thai Spa

Aksarapak Bondu, founder of Sawadee Thai Spa

Aksarapak Bondu and her three children immigrated to the U.S. in 2007 with just some luggage and the cash in her pocket. A single mother, Aksarapak struggled with assimilating into their new home since she spoke limited English and had little money to cover her family’s daily expenses. She remained resilient and did not get support from welfare. She was able to bring in an income for her family by selling Thai costumes at the open market in Fairfax and working for Equinox Sports Club as a Massage Therapist.

In early 2011 she successfully opened a Thai Spa in Westwood called Sawadee Thai Spa. Then in early 2013, she also opened a traditional Thai clothing store in Hollywood. Both of her businesses bring in a combined $300,000 in annual revenue and have created 13 jobs.

Aksarapak came to PACE with an ambitious plan to open five additional spa locations in five years. She came to PACE and met her Loan Counselor, Phoung Le. Phuong provided her with technical assistance and information regarding employment. He also helped her to secure $61,000 for her business expansion plans. She looks forward to beginning renovation on her next location this year and recruiting ten more staff to join her team.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Sing Your Heart Out

Agnes Chu was born and raised in Taiwan and came to the United States at an early age. When she started singing at 2 years old, she knew she had found her passion. A single mother,  Agnes once owned and operated Happy Kids Music, a music school in Woodland Hills where she taught music to children. Happy Kids Music was open from 2005-2008 and had over 150 students.

After that time, Agnes went on to work with Disney, Warner Brothers, Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. She eventually came back to her love of teaching music to children. She came to PACE in the hopes of starting and eventually expanding her new business enterprise. She enrolled in the Entrepreneur Training Program in 2014 to pursue her mission to bring music out to the world through the production of music. Her business makes albums available online worldwide, creates tours and provides teaching opportunities as a guest teacher at different venues.

Agnes was accepted into PACE's Get Paid to Save program, an Individual Development Account (IDA) program that awards matching funds to her savings. With the help of PACE, Agnes was able to save over $3,500 and move forward with a little money and get new materials for her startup business. The class has helped her realize how crucial time management is for her business. Her ultimate goal is to go on tour and share her music with the world. She currently has one record and is working toward a second record to be released in 2016.

Check out the PACE Women's Business Center and see how we can help you too!

Sunny Market

Yong Nam Kim, Sunny Market owner

Yong Nam Kim and her husband came to the U.S. find better educational opportunities for their two sons. She and her husband worked in several supermarkets to support their family over the years and, with their hard earned savings, were eventually able to open their own small grocery store in Downtown Los Angeles called Sunny Market.

In order to help their business grow, they needed more working capital to purchase better equipment and expand their store inventory. She heard about PACE’s Business Development Center from her friend and met with Kenneth Min, a business counselor. Kenneth provided Yong Nam with credit counseling for her business and helped her to secure a loan for $30,000 SBA Microloan.

This cash infusion enabled her to grow her business to over $100,000 in annual revenue and employ one full time worker and one part time worker. She projects that her business will continue to grow 20% more this year with revenues exceeding more than $120,000.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

ThankYou Market

Jeong Chul Sohn immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1996 with a dream of establishing a “compact market” chain that would be defined by small supermarkets offering high quality service, low prices, and the opportunity for employee ownership. To understand the industry and hone his business management skills, Mr. Sohn spent 20 years in the supermarket industry, working his way from the bottom up at 3 major Korean supermarkets.   Armed with 2 decades of experience, he decided to move forward with starting his own business on September 1, 2016.  

Mr. Sohn came to PACE BDC where he worked with counselor Ken Min to obtain technical assistance and start-up capital.  Ken helped Mr. Sohn apply for and receive a $35,000 microloan which enabled him to open his first compact market,  Thankyou Market.  Thankyou Market’s Grand Opening was held on February 1, 2017!  The business supports 5 full-time employees – including Mr. Sohn and his wife - and is the model for his future “compact market” chain.  Mr. Sohn plans to open 2 additional stores within the next 3 years.  His projected revenue for 2017 is $1.5 million and revenue for 2018 is expected to grow to $2.0 million.  Mr. Sohn intends to contribute 10% of all profits back to the communities where his markets are located.

Contact PACE Business Development Center to see if we can help you too!

Wey Up Market

Lajuana Render always knew she wanted to start her own business. She worked for Kmart for more than ten years before she decided to venture on her own. In 2016, she saved enough money to open her small convenience store "Wey Up Market" in South Los Angeles - the center of the food desert.

Having been a long time resident of South Central Los Angeles, she recognize the opportunity to provide fresh produce and dairies to the local low income residents and their kids. She came to the Central West BusinessSource Center to find out how to apply for a business loan. The team was able to assist her in her business needs and get her a Cal Freshwork loan of $10,000. With the loan, she purchased a freezer to sell the fresh produce. Her store is located on 3148 W. Florence Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90043.

The Wing Fix

An immigrant from Japan, Harumi Kim came to the US as an exchange student. After college, Harumi worked in different industries but eventually found her passion as an entrepreneur. Harumi and her husband went into business with a friend to start a gourmet Asian-fusion chicken wing restaurant, "The Wing Fix".

When their business partner unexpectedly left, Harumi and her husband were left with managing and operating the business. After struggling for months, she came to PACE. Harumi enrolled in the PACE's Women's Business Center in November 2012 and worked with Swann Do. After attending several business development courses, Harumi was able to create a long-term plan for the success of her business. Harumi continues to come to PACE to find ways to expand her business.

Harumi's business created seven jobs. She even sends her employees, who are now part-owners in the business, to take courses at PACE. Harumi said, "I believe with my whole heart that with passion, focus, and knowledge our dream to go beyond the first store could come true."

 

© 2016 Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE)