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California Capital Women’s Business Center helps bring digital transformation to diverse small businesses in Northern California with Verizon Small Business Digital Ready

In partnership with Next Street and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Verizon Small Business Digital Ready aims to focus on women- and minority-owned businesses in under-resourced communities 

The online curriculum will provide resources and in-depth support – including coaching, networking and incentives 

Sacramento, California—July 14, 2022—Today, California Capital Women’s Business Center (WBC) announced its plan to help bring a new online curriculum to small businesses across Northern California: Verizon Small Business Digital Ready. In partnership with Next Street and LISC, the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready online curriculum is designed to give small businesses the tools they need to thrive in today’s digital economy, including access to personalized learning plans, coaching from experts and networking opportunities with diverse, industry-specific businesses.   

More than 100,000 small businesses closed due to the pandemic, with a disproportionate impact on Black and Lantinx-owned small businesses. Verizon Small Business Digital Ready offers businesses support, aiming to enable digital readiness and drive digital transformation through a customized curriculum that accounts for industry, size and interests. The California Capital WBC is proud to be working with Verizon to reach those businesses most in need of support within Northern California.  

Developed by small businesses, Verizon Small Business Digital Ready provides a personalized experience – providing resources, networking and coaching tailored to a small business’s specific needs. The program can help small businesses move forward in four ways: 

  • Personalized Learning 

Content presented by small businesses through brief, information-packed lessons small businesses can use right away.  

  • Expert Coaching 

Guidance from business experts across marketing, business planning, legal, and more.  

  • Peer Networking 

Connections to other small businesses to build their networks. 

  • Incentives 

A marketplace of tools, solutions, products and services that can help small businesses. Participants will also be eligible to apply for grant funding exclusive to users of Verizon Small Business Digital Ready.1 

To register and access, click here. 

This initiative is one part of Verizon’s commitment to providing one million small businesses with digital tools and resources by 2030 and is central to Verizon’s responsible business plan, Citizen Verizon, for economic, environmental and social advancement. Launched in 2020 to move the world forward for all, Citizen Verizon leverages technology, innovation and resources to address the world’s most pressing issues across digital inclusion, climate protection and human prosperity. As part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon plans to exceed $3 billion in its responsible business investment from 2020-2025 to continue helping vulnerable communities bridge the digital divide and prepare for the digital economy of the future.  


Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ) was formed on June 30, 2000 and is one of the world’s leading providers of technology, communications, information and entertainment products and services. Headquartered in New York City and with a presence around the world, Verizon generated revenues of $128.3 billion in 2020. The company offers data, video and voice services and solutions on its award-winning networks and platforms, delivering on customers’ demand for mobility, reliable network connectivity, security and control.

Construction Staffing Professionals Launches with Support from Women’s Business Center, Creating Jobs and Bringing People-First Ethos to Industry

Construction Staffing Professionals

Brittany Flores completed a 16-week startup accelerator through the Women’s Business Center.

MARCH 11, 2022 | When Brittany Flores got a call from a former colleague inviting her to be a partner in a new business venture, she knew she could not turn down the opportunity. Kathy Ramirez had spent decades at the construction staffing agency where she and Brittany met, and had seen the company stray from its “Mom and Pop” roots. She envisioned a staffing service that would prioritize the professional growth of the construction workers it employs, and committed to starting a new company. Inspired, and looking for change herself, Brittany accepted the offer.  When she began working on the business full time, Brittany turned to the Women’s Business Center (WBC) to learn the fundamentals of planning and launching a business. A year later, Kathy and Brittany have opened Construction Staffing Professionals, and have already begun hiring and securing job-placements for workers. 

Ready to leave her corporate job, Brittany began working on the business full time in February of 2021. Having never gone through the steps to launch a business, she connected with the WBC. She enrolled in a 16-week startup generator course, taught by business consultant Natasha Palumbo, which answered all of her questions. “Every step of the class was geared towards the business and ending up with a solid business plan,” says Brittany, who worked with a cohort of entrepreneurs to learn the fundamentals of starting a business. Using the free online DreamBuilder business plan creation tool and working individually with Natasha, Brittany established the foundations of Construction Staffing Professionals. “Working with the WBC encompassed everything I needed to open the doors the very first day and feel prepared.” 

After more collaboration between the business partners, Construction Staffing Professionals officially launched in February of 2022. In under a month of operation, Brittany and Kathy have hired six employees, secured three complete contracts with construction business customers, and have begun sending employees to job sites. As they gain momentum and prepare for the busy summer season, the founders are focusing hiring and placing more workers, and ensuring that anyone hired and sent to a job site completes a 10-hour safety training through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Our goal is to get all employees OSHA-certified within 60 days of job placement,” says Brittany, adding that the certification includes a pay increase and increased marketability. This goal speaks to the service-first approach that the pair bring to their business, by prioritizing the professional development of their employees, and ensuring that their clients are provided with highly capable construction professionals. 

Looking back on the initial stages of her entrepreneurship, Brittany attributes the opportunity for partnership  as a key factor in her decision to launch a business. Having worked with Kathy for several years, she knew the business relationship would be a success. “We worked together so well before, so I knew that our strengths and personalities would complement each other as business owners,” she says. With a background in sales and a deep knowledge of the construction industry, Kathy has taken on the role of networking directly with general contractors and foremen on job sites, letting them know of CSP’s services. For her part, with years of more general corporate and administrative experience, Brittany manages recruitment of employees, accounting, and operations. “There is definitely a Yin/Yang dynamic.”  Construction Staffing Professionals stands as an example of the impact that female founders can have: By putting people and service first, Brittany and Kathy are bringing a fresh energy to the construction industry.      

California Capital FDC launches new Sacramento Valley SBDC

March 9, 2022 | After a year-long application, vetting and onboarding process, the Sacramento Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is open for business, and California Capital Financial Development Corporation (FDC) is thrilled about the opportunity to host the program. 

In January of 2021, the NorCal Small Business Development Center program sent out an open request for proposals to host SBDC service centers within its 36-county territory for the purposes of delivering no-cost one-on-one advising and free or low-cost trainings to small businesses.  

The SBDC is the largest technical assistance provider for small businesses in the U.S. and is part of a national network of nearly 1,000 centers, which are funded by grants through the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA).  In California, these are supplemented by the State of California’s Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).    

Previously called the Capital Region SBDC, the renamed Sacramento Valley SBDC is one of 16 service centers in Northern California where small businesses can get the help they need to start and grow their enterprise. 

“Coming out of the COVID business crisis, the SBDC recognizes the need for innovative approaches to entrepreneurship,” said NorCal SBDC Associate Region Director Ann Johnson-Stromberg. “Every partner has something different to offer and we are excited about this one with California Capital.” 

The SBDC is the largest technical assistance provider for small businesses in the U.S. and is part of a national network of nearly 1,000 centers, which are funded by grants through the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA).  In California, these are supplemented by the State of California’s Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).   

In 2020, the NorCal SBDC provided workshops to 39,575 attendees, and no-cost, one-on-one advising to more than 26,000 small businesses through its combined 20 service centers and regional programs in the northern half of the state.  The positive economic results included assisting clients access an unprecedented $539 million in loans and investment capital last year. The program also helped clients start 316 new businesses, created 8,500 new jobs and helped increase sales by nearly $266 million. 

SiewYee Lee-Alix, an experienced business advisor and former program development manager with California Capital FDC, was hired in January to lead the newly launched center in Sacramento that will provide services to small businesses in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba Counties. 

“SiewYee’s deep knowledge of the business development landscape complements her passion for connecting small business owners to the resources they need, and seeing them thrive,” said California Capital FDC president and CEO, Deborah Lowe Muramoto. “As an integral part of the California Capital FDC team, she used her expertise in procurement and program development to help small businesses remain open and even expand during the COVID-19 pandemic.”  

SBDC Day is Wednesday, March 16, 2022. SBDC Day is a national, collective proclamation of the impact America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have on the success of our nation’s dreamers, innovator, and doers: America’s small businesses.  

For more information on Sacramento Valley SBDC or to apply for SBDC Services, visit or call (916) 655-2100. 

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About the California SBDC Program

The California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program is the leader in providing small business owners and entrepreneurs with the tools and guidance needed to become successful. Local SBDCs provide comprehensive and expert guidance on issues such as start-up basics, financing, business and marketing plan development, exporting, technology advising, procurement and government contracting.  One-on-one advising is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and local partners and is offered at no cost. Consulting is supplemented by low-cost or free seminars and conferences. These services are delivered throughout California via an extensive network of 49 Small Business Development Centers. The California SBDC network serves more than 65,000 small business owners annually. Learn more by visiting: 

About SBA 

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. Small business is critical to economic recovery and strength, to building America’s future, and to helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace. Although SBA has grown and evolved in the years since it was established in 1953, the bottom line mission remains the same. The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Guam. 

California Capital Named As Recipient of First Foundation’s ‘Supporting Our Communities’ Grant Program

February 17, 2022 | First Foundation Inc., a financial services company with two wholly-owned operating subsidiaries, First Foundation Advisors and First Foundation Bank, recently announced the recipients of its ‘Supporting Our Communities’ philanthropy initiative. California Capital Financial Development Corporation was named among the list of awardees. 

In its ninth year, First Foundation continues to build the legacy of its philanthropy programs through an expanded Supporting Our Communities initiative that includes grants for organizations that are working on the community development pillars of affordable housing, work force development, community service, economic development, and entrepreneurship.

“We are grateful to accept a 2022 Supporting Our Communities grant from First Foundation,” says Deborah Lowe Muramoto, president and CEO of California Capital FDC. “With this support, California Capital will continue to provide business advising, training, and access to capital for entrepreneurs and small businesses, to meet the diverse needs of communities throughout our region.” California Capital’s mission is to provide capital and capacity to serve communities, which these services are geared towards.

“We are thrilled to continue our ‘Supporting Our Communities’ initiative this year and gain more nonprofit and community partners throughout our regions,” said Scott F. Kavanaugh. “As we grow we always want to stay close to our founding principle of remaining connected to the communities in which we live and serve, and develop meaningful relationships with these wonderful partners who are helping when it matters most.”

The goal of the program is to drive community growth and sustainability in low- and moderate-income communities through small business development, entrepreneurship, access to affordable housing, and financial literacy education.

​​This year’s list of nonprofit recipients was compiled to include thirty organizations that are focused on causes important to First Foundation. More than half of the grants were selected based on specific programmatic requirements that will fund programs and services in the community.

The 2022 Supporting Our Communities grant recipients include:

“As the philanthropic landscape continues to change, First Foundation enhanced its commitment to connecting to our community through nonprofits,” said Sylvia M. Figueroa, Director of Community Development & CRA Officer.

First Foundation provides education, consultation, and strategic planning help to its nonprofit partners as they continue to navigate the current philanthropic environment. In addition to the cash grant, First Foundation provides in-kind professional guidance related to the organizations’ daily activities, including: fundraising; donor cultivation and stewardship; gift planning design; staff and board training; campaign planning; board building; development of critical policies and protocols; organizational planning; and counsel on ensuring best practices in their own fiscal matters such as cash management, wealth planning, and investment management.

“The strategic guidance and professional services our employees provide help nonprofits further their programs that we believe will create the types of communities we all hope to live in and take pride in.” said Emily Sukman, Community Engagement Officer.

Stay tuned for additional information about expanding Supporting Our Communities to serve the newly-entered Florida market. Given the timing of the close of the merger with TGR Financial just before year end, First Foundation plans to thoroughly examine the nonprofit landscape there and build upon existing relationships First Florida Integrity Bank has with local organizations.

Sagepoint IOP Brings Innovative Substance Use Disorder and Addiction Care to Elk Grove

January 25, 2022 | For Caroline Bentley, starting a small business is part of a long-time dream of innovating her therapy practice. As a practicing psychotherapist with public, private, and non-profit organizations, Caroline spent 15 years envisioning techniques and programs whose implementation was not always possible. Now, with support from the California Capital Women’s Business Center (WBC), her goals of business ownership and therapeutic innovation have dovetailed. This month, Caroline opened Sagepoint Intensive Outpatient Program, Elk Grove’s newest IOP serving adults with substance use disorders, addictions, and co-occurring mental health challenges. With support from a multidisciplinary team of highly credentialed professionals, Caroline carries out unique programming of her design.

Responding to a Need

During the spring of 2020, Caroline was struck by the reports of substance use being on the rise across the United States as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, as the American Psychological Association reported in March of 2021, the stress and uncertainty of early 2020 led to at least 13% of Americans reporting new or increased substance use. “With everything I was reading and experiencing with clients, I saw an increased need for treatment,” explains Caroline. With extra time on her hands–another early-pandemic side effect for many–Caroline decided to take action to meet the need in Elk Grove, which at the time did not have an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) with Master’s level clinicians. As described by the Sagepoint website, IOPs are “positioned between residential inpatient treatment and individual therapy”, and provide a highly structured program while allowing clients to live at home and balance other daily activities and commitments.

In the initial stages of founding her business, Caroline relied on Google to answer most of her entrepreneurial questions. “I was primarily relying on myself to find the answers she explains, adding that finding the right guides and mentors has been crucial to her business journey. “I have found that most people are gracious with their time and want to mentor those that are coming up. It saves a lot of time to receive guidance and insights from those who are already business owners.”

Preparing for Success

Eventually, after connecting with the California Capital WBC, Caroline enrolled in business consultant Natasha Palumbo’s 16-week Startup to Success Generator Series. Over the course of four months, Caroline worked with a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs and was guided through all of the essential pieces of starting a business, from creating a business plan to logistical and financial considerations. “Every week there was a topic that highlighted something I was unfamiliar with, but was navigating and needed to understand to open my business,” explains Caroline. “It was an incredible experience, and the WBC has been extremely helpful.”

Mission-Driven Work

While growing in her business acumen, Caroline is still grounded in her mission to provide her community with much-needed compassionate care. She chose the moniker “Sagepoint” to represent both the wisdom (sage) that would ground their operations, and the journey into themselves that clients would experience (point). For Caroline, these tenets represent the core of her treatment philosophy. While providing evidence-based clinical treatment, Sagepoint goes even further for their clients. “Typical substance use disorder treatment has looked a certain way for many years, and a growing movement in our field looks at providing addiction treatment in a more compassionate and holistic way,” she says. “Sagepoint IOP provides programming that treats substance use disorders with the same level of professional care people have come to expect when seeking treatment for any other mental health disorder.

Though still adjusting to full-time operation and building a client base, Caroline is hopeful that Sagepoint IOP will be able to move to a larger facility by the summer of 2022, and will continue to provide discrete, high-quality care to the populations of Elk Grove and Sacramento.

With Hearts Connecting LLC, Tahirah Jannah Taalib-Din Is Turning Grief Into Service

Tahirah and her husband, Antar Jannah.

January 12, 2022 | Like many entrepreneurs, Tahirah Jannah Taalib-Din started her business after identifying a problem that she could solve. Unlike most entrepreneurs, Tahirah’s business journey blossomed from the call to transform grief into a vehicle for healing in her community. The passing of her husband, Antar Jannah, in July of 2020 led Tahirah to found Hearts Connecting LLC, to offer virtual funeral services for families unable to meet in person, as well as faith-based grief counseling and support. After working with the California Capital Women’s Business Center (WBC), Hearts Connecting LLC has expanded their services, and won first place at a recent national pitch competition, earning a $15,000 award. 

A Seed Is Planted

When Tahirah’s husband passed, most of her friends and family were still in New York City, where she lived until 2012. With covid-related travel restrictions in place at the time, they could not attend the funeral. “I was completely devastated, and my family could not be by my side,” she explained. Luckily, a friend recorded the proceedings, and Tahirah was able to share the video with her loved ones. “Sharing the video brought so much comfort to my heart,” Tahirah says, explaining that the first seed of a business idea was planted then. 

Four months later, when a friend of her husband in New York passed away, Tahirah organized a virtual component to the funeral. Though her intention at that time was simply to “pay forward” the support she received, a funeral director in New Jersey let her know that they were in need of virtual services. That, says Tahirah, is when the seed started to sprout. 

Putting Ideas Into Action

Hearts Connecting LLC placed first in the Launch + Grow Pitch Competition.

She started doing market research, and learned that there were no options for faith-based virtual services. Around the same time that she was beginning business research, Tahirah was in a virtual grief support group for widows, and identified another need in her community.  

“The experience was so beneficial, and I learned a lot,” explains Tahirah. “But I was the only woman in my thirties in the group, the only African-American woman in the group, and the only Muslim woman in the group. I knew that women who reflected me needed the support, too.” With this in mind, she created a Women of Faith Widow Support Group. The group offers support to widows free of charge, and works to attain sponsorships to cover any fees.   

After identifying her target market and an accessible price point, Tahirah envisioned exactly what her business would offer. She created a spreadsheet describing what her services would be; who she should serve; how the process works, and how to hire her. To solidify her vision, she completed a business development course, and worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to establish Hearts Connecting as an LLC and open a business bank account. With this foundation in place, she invested funds from the first few funerals she operated and created a website. 

Inspiration, Guidance, and Results

After a referral from the SBA, Tahirah connected with the California Capital WBC. With guidance from WBC business consultant, Danielle Marshall, Tahirah completed the self-paced DreamBuilder business plan creator. Several months later, Tahirah participated in the WBC’s Pitch Competition during Small Business Success Series 2021. Hearts Connecting LLC’s pitch placed fourth–for Tahirah, that was the perfect opportunity for feedback. 

“I connected with Danielle and asked her two questions,” she says. “Why did I make it to the top five, and why didn’t I make it to number one?” The feedback provided by Danielle helped Tahirah to refine her pitch for future funding opportunities, and ultimately was instrumental in her success at the Launch + Grow Pitch Competition, hosted by Operation Hope and CIT. Hearts Connecting LLC placed first, earning a $15,000 grand prize sponsored by the Francine A Lefrak Foundation, which Tahirah plans to use to achieve her business goals. 

Planning for Success

Throughout the year, Tahirah will continue to work with the WBC–from whom she receives information on available grants and other funding opportunities–, as well as the California Capital Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), who is assisting her in completing the requisite paperwork to begin winning government contracts. In 2022, Tahirah hopes to strengthen her connections with local hospitals and funeral homes; hire on-call facilitators for virtual services; launch a monthlyadvice column in Muslim Journal; facilitate 395 funerals; serve 100 widows in the Women of Faith Widow Support Group, and to provide monthly online classes to the general public in the area of pre-, during, and post-death preparedness. 

In all of this, says Tahirah, she is staying true to the core of her mission. “It’s paramount that as a business owner, I stay in the space of inspiration and intuitive guidance,” she says. “Coupled with an undertone of urgency and knowing that my next decision in business is divinely inspired.”

Emily Autenrieth is Meeting a Need for Inclusive Community Space in Elk Grove with Grand Opening of A Seat at the Table Bookstore and Cafe

December 15, 2021 | When Emily Autenrieth attended a Facebook Community Summit in February of 2019, she didn’t intend to leave with a business idea. But two encounters led her to a vision for a new business that would meet a need for an inclusive bookstore and cafe in Sacramento County. Now, after building an online and pop-up business, Emily’s vision has come full circle with the grand opening of A Seat at the Table Bookstore and Cafe in Elk Grove. 

A Seat at the Table’s cafe offers local Temple Coffee and Kalani Kakes cupcakes.


While attending the summit as the administrator of a popular parenting Facebook group, Emily met the owners of EyeSeeMe, a multicultural children’s bookstore in Missouri, and Eden Torres, Houston-based photographer and founder of PridePortraits.Org. Shortly after, Torres, whose work largely focuses on advocating for a more inclusive world for LGBTQIA+ people, shared on   social media that she would like to open an LGBT bookstore in the Houston area. Reflecting on the conversation about the impact that EyeSeeMe was having in their community, Emily connected with Eden’s sentiment.  

“I thought, ‘We need an inclusive bookstore and cafe in Elk Grove’,” says Emily, who immediately began envisioning all that this inclusive space could offer. She pictured a bookstore featuring titles from diverse up and coming authors; a cafe offering fresh, local food to encourage connection; a playroom for children to safely socialize while parents browsed the bookstore; and a quiet room where neurodiverse individuals and nursing parents could find calm and privacy. “My concept was so clear, I realized that I would have to be the one to create it.”  


Emily began her work in January of 2020, with pop-up bookstores at small businesses in Elk Grove like Savvy House Coffee Bar and Neighborhood Market. The community response was strong and positive. Ultimately, says Emily, that’s what has carried the project through the uncertainty of the covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve built a strong community who already believes we will succeed, and it’s given us a chance to get feedback from the community,” explains Emily, whose spouse Ryan has been a key partner while maintaining his full-time job as a school counselor.  

The build out of the brick and mortar space took up much of 2021, with pandemic-related delays and supply chain issues necessitating adaptability. Fortunately, Emily began working with Women’s Business Center consultant, Natasha Palumbo, in November of 2020. Through regular counseling sessions, Natasha played a key role in helping Emily translate her mission into an actionable business plan. Overall, says Emily, the challenges faced leading up to the grand opening were navigable because she was unwavering in her mission to manifest an equitable and inclusive space in Elk Grove. 


Emily Autenrieth says she is “good tired” after business grand opening.

Now, with the bookstore and cafe officially open, the work of uplifting the greater Sacramento community can really take off.  “The biggest overarching success to me was that the community is clearly ready for our movement and mission,” says Emily, reflecting on the grand opening this past weekend. “I met so many people who were very moved by the representation on our shelves, and near tears because they’ve needed this in their life and community.” 

Emily is confident that she has put together a dedicated and passionate team, and they are eager to work with local authors, and to open their space to community organizations to host various events. (If you are an author in the Sacramento area and would like to inquire about author events or getting your book carried, head to their FAQ For Authors page!). Even their cafe is community-focused, offering cupcakes from Kalani Kakes, a local Woman of Color-owned bakery, and a full espresso bar with Sacramento-based Temple Coffee.  

With the successful opening, Emily is hopeful that more folks will catch on to all that they have to offer–a full menu, online and in-person sales, gift cards–and see A Seat at the Table as a resource for books, coffee, snacks, play dates, and education.  

“It was exhausting, but I’m good tired,” explains Emily with a chuckle. “It’s clear that people are ready to learn how to get everyone a seat at the table.” 

A Seat at the Table Books is also featured in the California Capital 2021 Holiday Shopping Guide. Visit them online at and in person at  9257 Laguna Springs Dr, Suite 130 Elk Grove CA. 

ICYMI: Small Business Success Series 2021 Highlights and Small Business Award Winners

October 29, 2021 | The California Capital Women’s Business Center’s second annual Small Business Success Series wrapped up today with the Small Business Awards & Recognition Ceremony. The series featured five days of business celebration, advice, and friendly competition. If you weren’t able to attend, check out the highlights below, and get excited for next year.

Monday 10/25: Get to Know Your Women’s Business Center Team

During this hour-long session, the counseling, program, and communications staff of the California Capital Women’s Business Center (WBC) introduced themselves and shared their “Top 5” tips and words of encouragement for entrepreneurs. 

Recurring themes included the importance of resilience, networking, and making use of free resources and services offered by California Capital FDC and other business development groups. To become a WBC client, click here


Tuesday 10/26: Small Business Owner Panel

The Small Business Panel featured entrepreneurs from a variety of industries in conversation with moderator and WBC business consultant Danielle Marshall. Panelists discussed their reasons for getting into business in their particular industries, the challenges they have overcome during the covid-19 pandemic, tips for keeping customers engaged, and their advice for aspiring business owners. Key takeaways included the importance of networking, the constant redefinition of “success”, and how large accomplishments can result from momentary failures. 

Click here to view the full panel


Wednesday 10/27: Pitch Competition Winners Announced 

The 2021 WBC Pitch Competition wrapped up on Wednesday, with five finalists selected for prizes ranging from $100 to $1000. The winners were: 

To learn more about each winner and tips for a successful pitch, watch the recorded session here.


Thursday 10/28: WBC Virtual Marketplace

The WBC Virtual Marketplace allowed small business owners to showcase their products and/or services to buyers and procurement specialists from boutique retailer Marshall Retail Group (MRG) and the Sacramento International Airport (SMF). 

The Virtual Marketplace featured six vendors, who are currently being highlighted on the California Capital website, (click here to view and get a head start on your holiday shopping!) and a live session during which representatives from MRG and SMF shared about upcoming opportunities and the process of doing business with them. 

View the full session here


Friday 10/29: Small Business Awards & Recognition 

The Small Business Awards & Recognition Ceremony capped off the week of celebrating the resilience and success of California’s small businesses. The title of Small Business of the Year was given to businesses across eight categories. Join us in congratulating the winners of the 2021 Small Business Awards! Click here to view the full awards ceremony.


Start-Up/Entrepreneur of the Year: Clutch

Founders: Anne Descalzo and Rachel Zillner
About: Clutch provides event management, project coordination, and staff management services. They connect organizations to the resources they need to achieve their goals including staffing, strategies, business services, and project management.


Community Engagement Business of the Year: Kaplan Solutions, Inc 

Founders: Glenn and Jill Kaplan
About: A small business focused on international trade and chemical distribution and expanded with the help of PTAC as an SB Vendor supplying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sanitizers, and disinfectants to State Agencies.

Small Business Community Impact Award: Resilient Families 

Founder: Jillian Van Ness

About: Resilient Families connects new and growing families through classes and discussion groups—outdoors and on Zoom—through touch, sound, and movement.


Small Business Expansion of the Year: Wear Your Love 

Founder: Jillian Lotz

About: Wear Your Love sells custom made wedding dresses all over the world via the internet. Each dress is made to order based on each bride’s measurements. Their gross sales grew significantly from $10,000 in 2015 to $550,000 in 2020. 


Veteran Owned Small Business of the Year: Words Unite Bookstore 

Founder: Ashley Booker-Knight 

About: Ashley Booker-Knight is a US Army Veteran and bestselling author. Words Unite Bookstore It is a traveling bookstore that operates as a pop-up bookstore that presents signed copies of books written by independent authors. She partners with AAFES Military Exchange to operate pop-ups.

Sustainable Small Business of the Year: All Events & Management Group

Founder: Lisa Montes

About: Formed to specifically benefit service, non-profit and local organizations that are community oriented. They pivoted during the pandemic to offer covid-safe events and support community organizations. 


Small Business Innovator of the Year: Kalbinur Tursunjan, owner of Deluxe Limousines LLC.

About: Kalbinur Tursunjan began working as a limousine driver, and at just was 22 years old, in March 2016 she took over ownership of Deluxe Limousines LLC from the previous owner. In that time, she has grown the business from one to four vehicles.  

Women’s Business Center Business of the Year: Connect Consulting Services 

Founder: Nora O’Brien

About: CCS consults with businesses to help them launch or enhance an emergency management program. They take a holistic approach to emergency management, business continuity and disaster recovery for organizations, businesses and government agencies.


California Capital PTAC Counselors Earn Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Training Certifications

September 8, 2021 | In a show of continued dedication to serving small businesses across the state with the highest quality technical assistance available, the California Capital PTAC has expanded its capability by certifying two of its counselors as trainers for the SBA-powered Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. As SBIR/STTR trainers, Alex McCracken and Ralph “Skip” Masters are now positioned to lead California Capital clients towards unique opportunities for business growth. 

     The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are highly competitive programs that encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) with the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR and STTR enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

     Central to the STTR program is the partnership between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. The STTR program requires the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II. STTR’s most important role is to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations. This expansion of our capabilities position the California Capital PTAC as a resource for organizations who are interested in navigating the intricacies of either the SBIR and/or STTR programs.

     “This accomplishment increases our ability as a team to respond to the needs of the PTAC clients and to train other team members as needed,” explained PTAC Director Ivor Newman, adding that SBIR/STTR Webinars will be added to the list of recurring PTAC Webinars

     To explore the SBIR/STTR programs, register with the California Capital PTAC  or stay tuned for virtual classes on the SBIR and STTR programs.

Ralph”Skip” Masters has worked with California Capital since 2019.

Alex McCracken joined the PTAC team in February of 2021.

How One Veteran-Owned Barbecue Restaurant Is Looking To Government Contracts As An Expansion Opportunity

Mack Thomas is a father, a Disabled United States Marine Corps Veteran, a Black business owner—and someone who knows good barbecue.

Mack Thomas co-founded MacQue’s Barbecue with his wife, Charlie, in 1986.

In 1986, he and his wife, Charlie, founded MacQue’s Barbecue in Sacramento as a catering business to serve customers across the area smoked meats and sides made from scratch. As a graduate of California State University Sacramento, Mack is passionate about serving his community. 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: in addition to catering, they now boast two restaurant locations, a bottled hot sauce business, and earned the title of “Small Business of the Year” from the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce in February.

Even with this success, The Thomases have had to adapt to the uncertain business environment caused by the pandemic. As agile business owners, they have looked to enter new markets with their product, and California Capital FDC is helping them get there. 

Experience Drives Expansion

Mack and Charlie began selling MacQue’s Barbecue sauces wholesale since the mid-1990s, with a presence in national grocery chains like Sam’s Club and regional outlets like Raley’s. But with the expansion of their restaurant operations—MacQue’s Barbecue opened a second location in Elk Grove, California in August of 2019, adding to their flagship restaurant in Sacramento—the wholesale sauce enterprise was less of a focus. Plus, partnerships with grocery chains proved challenging to maintain. 

“The company’s buyers would change and we no longer had a relationship, so we would get dropped as a client,” reveals Mack, who would spend hours each week sampling sauces at the stores, “or a larger brand would see our success and edge in with a lower price.”

When Covid-19 caused many office workers near both MacQue’s locations to transition to remote work, and the restaurants lost much of their reliable lunchtime clientele, the need for diversification became clear. It was time to find new wholesale opportunities for MacQue’s sauces, and Mack had an idea that felt more promising than relying on grocery chains. 

“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.” 

The Promise of Contracting Opportunities

MacQue’s BBQ Hot Sauce can be purchased at both MacQue’s BBQ restaurant locations.

Like many government agencies and operations, mess halls and commissaries—essentially the cafeterias and general stores on military bases—source their products from private business through a fine-tuned procurement process. Businesses must have the proper certifications, know how to search out contracts and bid on them, and ultimately have the capacity to perform on the contracts. 

Contracts can be particularly impactful for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) owned businesses. Data for businesses of color indicate that they are highly concentrated in the retail sector, where sales volume is relatively lower—which can cause disparities in overall business growth. 

Moving from retail into business-to-business or business-to-government sales is a huge opportunity to grow, especially for diverse businesses” explains Clarence Williams, Chairman of California Capital’s Board of Directors. “But it is one of the most difficult things for a business to do.” 

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. 

“The fact that California Capital operates a Procurement Technical Assistance Center is extremely important to the way that our continuum of services is able to help businesses, particularly those owned by people of color, expand and succeed,” explains Clarence. 

Procurement as a Catalyst for Equity 

Seeing more businesses owned by people of color pursue procurement opportunities is reason for hope, says Clarence. Income and revenue inequality for BIPOC-owned businesses in retail spaces is prevalent at national, local, and regional levels. 

When you look at the data, the reality is that small businesses of color are still very small in terms of revenue relative to total sales,” says Clarence. 

Mack Thomas at the original MacQue’s BBQ Stand

As Clarence explains, procurement opportunitieslike those with the Federal Government that MacQue’s BBQ is pursuingare key for addressing that disparity and building equity in the business landscape.

“[Procurement] is an avenue for them to grow their revenue in a way that can be more impactful than retail expansion,” says Clarence, “California Capital’s services are designed to build that capacity for business owners and create more inclusive opportunities for disadvantaged businesses.”

Procurement can be, in many ways, an expansion of business owners’ view of what is possible. When entering into a contract with a government agency, small businesses also gain access to networks that can lead to even more opportunities, and the fortuitous cycle continues. Building the ability of disadvantaged and diverse businesses to pursue and be prepared to take advantage of these opportunities is where the expertise of California Capital’s business counselors lays.

“You Have to Have The Best Opportunities”

Knowing this, Mack and his family are determined to take advantage of procurement opportunities, and use them as an avenue for growth. MacQue’s Barbecue is a true family operation, and with their son Michael Thomas at the helm of the restaurant locations, Mack and his wife Charlie are able to continue envisioning the future of the enterprise. 

“I’ve improved myself,” Mack says, reflecting on his decision to pivot away from traditional wholesale ventures. “I’m being more strategic with the growth opportunities I pursue.” 

MacQue’s journey is proof that even with years of experience in your industry, searching for unique opportunities and continuing to learn is crucial to expand and thrive. With decades of wisdom acquired, Mack has learned to be patient while working towards a goal. 

“You may have the best product, but you have to have the best opportunities,” Mack says. “We have the capability to make great hot sauce, now we’re just building the capacity to get it out there.”