Tag Archives: client success story

Keeping Her Community Mobile: How Josephine Odom Pivoted Her Used Car Business with a Loan from California Capital

For Josephine Odom, the Founder and CEO of Stepping Stone Auto Sales, commitment to her business journey has meant everything. With over 30 years of professional and business experience, Josephine has always had a passion for helping others and ensuring they receive the best service and experience possible. Stepping Stone Auto Sales was inspired by Josephine’s desire to provide reliable transportation for individuals in underserved communities, and was established as a wholesale used car dealership in March of 2019. With support from the WBC, and a loan from the Lending Center made possible through the Wells Fargo Open for Business Grant, Josephine entered the retail car sales space in 2021. 

SEEKING GUIDANCE

In October of 2020, Josephine began working with the California Capital Women’s Business Center. Looking to overcome the challenges of operating her business during COVID-19, while also working full time as a truck driver for Old Dominion Freight, Josephine was matched with WBC counselor, Charles Thomas. She had completed the online business plan creat

ion course available through the Women’s Business Center, but still had plenty to work on. 

“[Mr. Thomas] helped me tremendously,” explains Josephine, who had not received one-on-one business guidance before. “I had a business plan, but I wasn’t sure how to do a balance sheet, and I didn’t know how to write a profit and loss statement.”

 Over the course of several months, Josephine overcame the challenges she was facing and was ready to begin advancing her business.  

PIVOTING FOR SUCCESS

Seeking a larger return on her investments in used car inventory, Josephine transitioned from wholesale to retail used car sales in 2021—but doing so required increasing inventory, and a significant capital infusion.

Working with the Lending Center, Josephine applied for a sizeable loan that would go towards buying new inventory and having working capital. The loan application process was detailed, but thanks to the work she had done creating her business plan, Josephine was prepared. “ I had learned about the 5 Cs of Credit and other topics, which helped me to answer the questions in more detail,” explains Josephine, who was ultimately approved for a sizable loan.  

AGILE CLIENT SERVICE

All that was needed was for the closing paperwork to be signed and processed, but with the California Capital office still closed and Josephine’s truck driving job keeping her schedule packed, the Lending Center got creative. The Lending Center’s portfolio manager met Josephine at the Stepping Stone Auto Sales lot in Stockton, and the two were joined by the chief lending officer via Zoom to finalize the closing documents. 

Since securing the loan, Josephine was able to increase her inventory, and Stepping Stone Auto Sales is now located on a lot with increased visibility. In addition to leveraging word-of-mouth marketing and increasing her inventory in 2022, Josephine recently established Stepping Stone Registration Services. With this new venture, Stepping Stone will be able not only to sell used cars, but to complete the automobile registration process for their customers in-house. “I am serving my community and keeping services in my community,” says Josephine, who is looking forward to building her clientele this year. 

Meet Emily Sanders, Founder of Connect to Change and Winner of Fall 2021 Startup to Success Pitch Competition

Emily Sanders is a survivor of human trafficking and homelessness, and founder of Connect to Change.

December 13, 2021 | When speaking with small business owners, it becomes clear that for many, entrepreneurship starts with a mission. For Emily Sanders, that mission is profoundly personal. Through her nonprofit, Connect to Change, Emily has begun a mission of “Empowering Lives Today for Success Tomorrow!” by connecting women experiencing homelessness who have become victims of human trafficking on the street to the resources and support they need to escape abusive situations and build fulfilling lives.  

As a survivor of homelessness and human trafficking, Emily knows how pressing the threat of both is in the Sacramento area. “Sex trafficking and homelessness are serious issues. In fact, Sacramento is a hot spot according to detectives, KCRA3 reports,” she explains. “I have a profound passion for helping these women in need as I understand what they are currently up against.”

 

BUSINESS SUPPORT THROUGH WOMEN’S BUSINESS CENTER 

Last week, Emily graduated from the 16-week Startup to Success Generator Series offered by business consultant Natasha Palumbo via the California Capital Women’s Business Center (WBC). Over the course of the program, she worked with a cohort of other early-stage entrepreneurs to gain in-depth knowledge of how to create a workable business plan, prepare financial projections, and successfully pitch Connect to Change to possible funding sources. The course culminated in a friendly pitch competition, during which all participants pitched their businesses to a panel of judges made up of WBC consultants and local small business advocates. Emily was named the winner of the competition, with the judges commenting on her impressive preparation, knowledge of the industry, and personal dedication to the endeavor.

 

STARTING SMALL FOR BIG CHANGE

While she is in the process of establishing the business  foundation of Connect to Change, Emily has begun to network with the populations she ultimately hopes to reach with her services. She is beginning with outreach events to build relationships within these communities, and express to women in crisis the options that are available to them. 

 “Baby steps will lead to big leaps,” she says, expressing her ambition to someday offer comprehensive services within Connect to Change. As she grows, she hopes to offer housing programs and safe houses, and become the main resource center that women can depend on as a way out of crisis. 

Emily’s accomplishment and vision for Connect to Change are proof that entrepreneurship is about much more than just offering a product or service–it is about hope.