Category Archives: Blog

2.4 Veteran-Owned Businesses Across the Country Celebrated During National Veterans Small Business Week

Across the nation, approximately 2.4 small businesses are owned by Veterans–that means that 1 in 10 small businesses are owned and operated by women and men who have served in a branch of the U.S. military*. This year, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes October 31st through November 4th as National Veterans Small Business Week. This year, the events of the week will focus on the resilience and strength of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners.  

At California Capital Financial Development Corporation, we are proud to work with Veteran business owners and entrepreneurs to ensure that they can access the resources and opportunities to build thriving Veteran-Owned Businesses.  

Over the years, we have helped many Veterans obtain certifications; pursue, bid and perform on government contracts; and leverage the skills and resilience learned during their time serving the country to succeed in various industries. The stories we are honored to share are strong examples of the unique qualities that Veterans bring to their entrepreneurial journeys.  

Antronette Robinson, Maestro Coffee House  

Antronette Robinson is a Veteran of the United States Army, where she served as a critical care nurse for 12 years. In 2018, Antronette was inspired to open a café space that would allow her to give back to her community. After opening Maestro Coffee House in July of 2019, Antronette became certified as a Service-Disabled Veteran business owner, and through the entirety of her business journey, she has returned to her training in the Army for guidance.  

“I attribute my confidence as a business owner to the leadership courses I took during my time in the military, and my abilities as a manager to my experience as a platoon leader,” she explains, adding that her time in the Army also made her more resilient and determined as a business owner, equipping her to think outside the box. 

David Ramil, Pivotal Adaptive Services  

David Ramil is a certified Service Disabled Veteran, who worked with the California Capital Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to learn how to pursue, bid on, and successfully perform on government contracts.   In early 2019, David was awarded a contract with California American Water and was selected to participate in their Mentor Protégé Program.  

 

 

 

 

Mack Thomas, MacQue’s BBQ 

Mack Thomas is a father, a Disabled United States Marine Corps Veteran, a Black business owner—and someone who knows good barbecue. Over the past 30 years, The Thomas family have learned the ins and outs of the business and grown MacQue’s Barbecue into a staple of the Sacramento area. To continue growing, Mack began envisioning the possibility of selling MacQue’s sauces to military bases across the country.  

“I knew there were opportunities to sell to mess halls and commissaries on military bases from my time in the Marine Corps,” Mack says. “So I was interested in government contracts, but I wasn’t sure how to get in.”  

 In search of guidance on navigating the procurement process, Mack turned to California Capital’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). Working with a PTAC counselor, Mack has been able to take the first steps to bidding on and securing government contracts. MacQue’s Barbecue has become certified with the Systems for Award Management (SAM), a necessity for any business hoping to sell their goods or services to the Federal Government. With that foundation laid, Mack is now focused on recertifying his Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) status, which will allow him to take advantage of programs that cater specifically to veteran-owned small businesses. 

Constance Agee, Agee Fashion Institute  

Constance Agee’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was 18 years old, serving in the Air Force. After she chose to sew her organizational patches onto her uniform herself rather than use the base’s alteration shop, she began offering the service to others on base. This began a long career in sewn products, and led her to establish Agee Fashion Institute, where she creates pathways to entrepreneurship through education in both high fashion and industrial sewn products.  

Over the past few years, Constance has offered a Sewn Products Training series through the California Capital Women’s Business Center that has led to multiple business starts.  

*Source: https://www.military.com/veteran-jobs/largest-ever-study-veteran-businesses-and-their-owners-needs-your-help.html 

Michelle Honath Brings Free-Spirited Fashion to Sacramento With Opening of Wildflower Daydreams Clothing Boutique Permanent Storefront

From a young age, Michelle Honath has understood that clothes are more than just what we wear: they show the world who we are. The philosophy that personal style can function as a reflection of our values, ambitions, and quirks has informed much of Michelle’s career. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, Michelle worked in product development for several multinational apparel brands. Inspired by the ethos of surf brands like Roxy and Billabong that empowered buyers to express their love for the outdoors, she took her knowledge of the fashion industry and set out on her own entrepreneurial journey. With Wildflower Daydreams, Michelle curates a collection of whimsical, Bohemian attire with the goal of helping customers embrace their free-spirited side. Now, with a loan from California Capital, Michelle is poised to make a greater impact in the Sacramento community with a new permanent retail location, opening next weekend.  

AN UNPLANNED ADVENTURE  

Even with Michelle’s thorough knowledge of the fashion industry, launching a small business has been a process of adjustment and resilience. In fact, Wildflower Daydreams is the second iteration of Michelle’s entrepreneurial vision. Before starting the boutique, Michelle had a t-shirt brand that she ended up discontinuing–but the experience was invaluable for her as a business owner.  

“With my first business, I learned how to set up a business checking account, file an LLC, use QuickBooks, so many of the business basics,” explains Michelle, adding that some of the lessons were more philosophical. “I realized that it’s okay if you fail, and you won’t be perfect your first time. Everyone can be better, but just go out and do it!”   

With this positive mindset, Michelle regrouped and launched Wildflower Daydreams, after reflecting on her goals as a business owner. She knew that, more than just selling clothes, she sought to connect with people.  

“I started this boutique to help women feel great and find clothing that fits with their style,” she says. “We get dressed in the morning and the outfit can help you conquer the world–when you look great, you walk differently. It keeps me going when people discover my brand and say ‘Wow, this is me’.”  

INVESTING IN HER VISION 
 

Michelle has been strategic in achieving her mission of helping women express themselves through fashion. Taking the lessons she learned with her first business, and combining it with her insight into product sourcing and development, Michelle launched an online store. She built up her inventory slowly, paying up front for the merchandise, and continued building her brand through a growing social media presence. To engage even more with her clientele, Michelle began attending fairs and small business pop-up events throughout Sacramento–and the “omni-channel” experience has been key.  

“In person, I can help my clients find the right piece for them, and they can get a better sense of the experience we offer.”    

After building up a strong following, Michelle was ready to establish a permanent presence in the Sacramento community in the form of a brick-and-mortar storefront. To fund the expansion, Michelle knew she would need to move away from bootstrapping her inventory purchases and make a larger investment. After securing a lease for a location in Midtown, Sacramento, Michelle worked with the California Capital Lending Center and was approved for a loan to put towards inventory and working capital expenses.  

“I started learning that you can go as far as you want without investing, but once you invest, it helps you grow faster. It adds fuel to the fire of the direction you’re already going,” explains Michelle who also saw the loan application process as a learning opportunity. “Going through the loan process helped me solidify where I’m going with my business. I had to do my financial projections, which was really helpful for taking stock of where I was, and using a critical approach to plan for the future.”  

CELEBRATING NEW BEGINNINGS 

Michelle is set to celebrate the grand opening of the Wildflower Daydreams Clothing Boutique on October 15. While this step on Michelle’s business journey comes after years in the fashion industry, it is in many ways just the beginning. Nestled in the heart of Midtown, at 815 16th Street, Michelle is hopeful that the storefront has a future as a versatile community space. In addition to connecting with her customers on a daily basis, Michelle is looking forward to opening up her shop for regular events, pop-ups featuring other local businesses, and other opportunities for gathering. With Wildflower Daydreams, Sacramento’s fashion-forward adventurers have found a new home.  

The Grand Opening event for Wildflower Daydreams will take place on Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16 from 10am to 6pm. Visit them during the weekend at 815 16th Street in Sacramento for a free gift with purchase.  Stay up to date on new product offerings by following @shopwildflowerdaydreams on Instagram.  

“The art is the core of my business”: How Glass House Garden Founder Brittney Hoffman Sees Her Business as a Form of Self-Expression

In the spring of 2020, Brittney Hoffman felt that something was missing. As a school counselor, the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic meant a shift to remote work, and less connection with the students she was used to seeing every day. To stay grounded, Brittney began to channel her energy into gardening, growing flowers, and learning new artistic skills, including creating planters in custom designs. Her friends took notice of the unique personality that Brittney brought to her creations, and began purchasing planters and dried floral arrangements. Soon, Brittney had a steady stream of orders keeping her busy.  While maintaining her day job, Brittney made her hobby official and launched Glass House Garden, building a brand that includes custom orders, workshops and pop-ups, and events. As her business has taken on a life of its own, Brittney has turned to the Women’s Business Center for guidance on managing her business growth, and taking an analytical approach to the not-so-artistic elements of business ownership.

A Quick Start

Soon after establishing Glass House Garden, Brittney was invited to a small business pop-up at The Creative Space, which introduced her to a new clientele. From there, Glass House Garden’s growth has been entirely organic.  

“All of my marketing was word of mouth,” explains Brittney. “My friends would share what they bought, and people took notice.” 

Of course, Brittney’s designs are made to be noticed. With planters that range in shape from elephants and puckered lips to “sassy booties”, the pieces go beyond simple functionality to become a form of self-expression.  

“I just want it to be fun,” says Brittney, who admits that she started creating her own planters after being unable to find pre-made ones in her price range. “At first, I wanted everything in neutral tones and shapes, but once I started adding in the fun stuff, it brought everything together. I wanted it to be eye catching.” 

Seeking Guidance

In fact, Brittney’s offerings caught more eyes than she was prepared for at first. Between orders, pop-up invitations, and requests to host workshops where participants decorate and fill their own planters, Glass House Garden picked up momentum quickly. As a first-time entrepreneur, and the only one in her circle of family and friends, Brittney rode the wave of demand without a clear plan or guidance on managing the technical side of her business.   


On a particularly challenging day, Brittney knew that she needed to take a step back and reflect on the fundamentals of her business–but she was not sure where to start.  She posted on social media asking if anyone knew of resources to help small businesses grow, and a friend sent her a link to the California Capital Women’s Business Center 

After registering for services, Brittney was matched with business counselor Prashante Bailey, and the puzzle pieces began to fit together. Working with Prashante, Brittney raised her prices, reflected on her business plan, and built strategies for setting boundaries with clients.  

“I’m so glad that I sought out support despite those days that I just wanted to let go [of the business],” says Brittney, who describes her approach business as ever-evolving. “Working through those moments and finding the growth in them is not easy, but it’s something we have to do.”   

Back to Basics

Continuing to grow in her entrepreneurship, Brittney has been focused on learning the ins and outs of business financials–tasks that, she admits, she is not naturally inclined to. With Prashante’s guidance, Brittney has begun learning integrated payment and management systems like QuickBooks and Salesforce, and tracking her cash flow.  

I have beautiful, creative chaos going on at my house; the art is the core of my business. Tracking income, taxes, and finances is my biggest hurdle, and it’s the most important aspect in any business. I’ve grown a lot in this area, and I have a lot of growing left to do.”  

Feeling more in control of the less intuitive aspects to her business has enabled her to lean into her creative side, and bring new verve to the enterprise. As she has laid the foundations for a well-run, high-potential business, Brittney has been able take on new opportunities for in-person workshops and event, and focus on expanding her product line.  

Maintaining a Growth Mindset

In the near future, Brittney hopes to create opportunities to merge her business with her passion for working with students. The school where she continues to work as a counselor is in a historically disadvantaged area, and Brittney encounters many students she knows would benefit from the opportunity to learn about business ownership.  This pairing would be a natural fit, as Brittney’s philosophy towards her business embodies the growth mindset that she encourages her students to adopt.    

“I used to sit in my mistakes in a negative frame of mind, but now I know that I can feel bad about something that’s happened, but I have to move out of that space much quicker,” explains Brittney, reflecting on how her concept of herself as a business owner continues to shift. “Mistakes always happen, but growing from that and knowing that it doesn’t have to be the end is what matters.”  

National Women’s Small Business Month Highlights The Unique Challenges and Achievements of Women-Owned Businesses

October 15, 2021 | October is National Women’s Small Business Month, dedicated to celebrating the progress made each year by women entrepreneurs and business owners while also reflecting on the particular barriers to success they face.

Megan Wyatt opened Wit and Whimsy Toys in Granite Bay, CA in November of 2020.

A woman-owned business is defined as an enterprise that is at least 51% owned and operated by one or more women. As national priorities have shifted in recent decades to create resources encouraging women to pursue business ownership, the impact of women-owned businesses on the American economy has steadily grown.

As of 2019, there were 13 million women business owners in the United States, up more than 31 times from 1972, when federal law still required male cosigners for women to take out business loans. In 2018 alone, woman-owned firms added nearly $1.8 trillion in, “sales, shipments, receipts or revenue,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau Annual Business Survey for that year.

LEVERAGING RESOURCES TO ADDRESS OBSTACLES

Constance Agee is the founder and owner of Agee Fashion Institute and a California Capital client.

Despite these gains, women in business continue to face unique challenges. Multiple reports cite that women business owners have a more difficult time accessing capital, and often set less ambitious goals for their business during the start-up phase compared to their male counterparts. To address these obstacles, the U.S. Small Small Business Administration (SBA) established the Women’s Business Center Program in 1988, designed to provide women with the resources and guidance to thrive in the world of business. Now, more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) have been created across the U.S., with the California Capital WBC being designated in 2012. As business development resources increase in scope and the barriers to success for historically underserved groups are challenged, a more diverse and resilient business ecosystem is emerging.

As the stories shared during National Women’s Small Business Month reflect, women-owned businesses continue to strive for excellence and push themselves to new heights, uplifting their communities in the process. Businesses like Agee Fashion Institute, who create pathways to entrepreneurship for women interested soft product manufacturing; entrepreneurs like Allison Carlson, who leveraged resources to continue operating despite the pandemic; and founders like Megan Wyatt, who has turned her dream of owning a toy store into a business that quickly became a community staple. When education, guidance, and capital are made accessible to tenacious and capable women determined to achieve business success, the country as a whole benefits. 

FURTHER READING

Overcoming the Four Barriers Blocking Women Entrepreneurs, a SCORE webinar

35 Woman-Owned Business Statistics You Need to Know in 2021, Great Business Schools.Org 

How to Get Certified as a Women-Owned Business, US Chamber of Commerce

With Support of Women’s Business Center, Megan Wyatt Built the Toy Shop of Her Dreams

For Megan Wyatt, owning and operating Wit & Whimsy Toys in Granite Bay, California has been a dream come true. Her first job was at a toy store when she was 16, and in the four years that she worked there, one of her major life goals was solidified: own and operate her own toy shop. Despite the hectic seasons–and the 12-hour shifts during the holidays–Megan never questioned her belief that it was the best job there is. For years, life circumstances and other career pursuits stood between Megan and business ownership. But a job loss at the beginning of 2020 caused her to reevaluate her path, and she turned to the Women’s Business Center (WBC) to figure out what it would take to make her dreams a reality. 

“I was lost for a little bit at the beginning of 2020,” explains Megan, who had previously been working as the marketing coordinator at an environmental firm. “But some friends own a store in a shopping center, and kept saying how great it would be if a toy store opened in the vacant spot next door.” 

Megan Wyatt founded Wit & Whimsy Toys in 2020, carrying out a longtime dream of business ownership.

 

Usually, Megan would answer the friendly encouragement with vague apprehension. “My response was always ‘maybe one day, maybe after I do xy or z’,” she says. “But every excuse I gave, they had a work around!” The possibility of starting a shop that focused on high-quality, educational toys, gadgets, and games for customers of all ages began coming into clearer focus. 

 

SEEKING GUIDANCE

Eventually, after receiving a recommendation from a friend to work with California Capital to explore the first steps of opening a business, Megan contacted the WBC and was connected with a business counselor. She began working with Charles Thomas, who has helped hundreds of clients across industries start or grow businesses. 

“[Charles] really went to bat for me,” says Megan. “He was instrumental in helping me create a business plan, and helping me determine what to consider to begin the process. I had no idea where to start.” 

Wit & Whimsy Toys opened their storefront in Granite Bay, CA, in November of 2020.

This was in July of 2020, and there was much to do. But working with Charles, as well as WBC Business Consultant Danielle Marshall, Megan spent the summer and early fall nailing down her business plan, learning cash flow analysis, and negotiating a lease for the storefront next to her friend’s shop. Early on in her entrepreneurial journey, Megan made the decision to “bootstrap” the business, meaning she would build it up without taking out loans or securing outside funding. Through personal investments, she and her husband were able to secure a storefront and build up their inventory for a grand opening at the beginning of the holiday buying season. 

They opened the week before Thanksgiving of 2020, and their customer base caught on quickly. “I think our biggest accomplishment so far is the customer base we have built. I was really surprised by our sales last Christmas, despite only having been open for six weeks,” Megan says, reflecting on the last nine months. 

 

STEADY GROWTH, HOPES FOR EXPANSION

Continuing to work entirely off of revenue and personal investments, Megan and her husband have doubled the inventory of Wit & Whimsy Toys, and made significant improvements to the store front. The customers notice, Megan asserts, and they continue to be the driving force of the business. 

Wit & Whimsy Toys has doubled their inventory since opening in Fall of 2020.

“We have such a great community of supporters,” she says. “They have helped us partner with Little League teams and local schools for partnerships, and any time they share us on social media, it results in a big new batch of customers.” 

Moving forward, Megan’s immediate goal is to hire new staff. She currently runs the shop 7 days a week with help from her husband, and knows that extra support will be needed entering into the holiday season. Five years down the road, she hopes to be able to upgrade to a storefront with more square footage. 

Little over a year ago, Megan Wyatt began building her business plan from the ground up, taking advantage of the free resources available through the WBC–and thanks to her determination and this strategic partnership, there is now one more small business serving its community.