Women-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs are a dynamic part of the local economy. Their losses in 2020 due to pandemic lockdowns hurt us all. But their outlook is changing. Women-owned retailers and operators are poised for growth as businesses reopen their doors.
Entrepreneur Tegsti Woldemichael says her future is bright. She is about to open an Ethiopian bakery and deli called La Dolce Vita near the MacArthur BART station in Oakland. New countertops, floors, and baking equipment were purchased with an SBA small business loan. “I’m very excited for people to come into my place,” she said.
Her current optimism is born from the months she struggled to navigate last year after Covid-19 shuttered her other retail business, spice company Shamden Spice.
Headquartered in Oakland, Shamden Spice represented four years of hard work growing a home-based business into a national retailer of Ethiopian and Eritrean spices. The closure meant Ms. Woldemichael could no longer use her commercial space for warehousing and operations.
The closure was a “shock,” Ms. Woldemichael said. “I didn’t know what to do.” She thought she couldn’t qualify for a federal PPP loan because she didn’t have many employees. However, she did apply for an SBA small business loan. The money arrived in September, a few weeks after she had already lost her commercial lease. Unable to pay her mortgage, she worried she would lose her house too.
But then things began to shift. First, CBB community partner Oakland Black Business Fund suggested she apply for a PPP loan and referred her to Community Bank of the Bay to process her application. The $18,600 she received was enough to pay off back-owed rent and utilities. With her SBA money, Ms. Woldemichael suddenly saw new opportunities.
She used the money to rent another space for her spice operations and has turned part of it into the bakery selling Italian-inspired sandwiches and pastries (Ethiopia was once colonized by Italy). Ms. Woldemichael will be the breadmaker and she’s hiring a pastry chef. “People told me it’s a big risk,” she said. “But I decided to do it. I just needed a little push to get started.”
Ms. Woldemichael says she encourages every female entrepreneur to chase her dreams. “When anyone asks me how to run a business, I tell them my story. I tell them about Community Bank of the Bay and SBA loans.”
Ms. Woldemichael sweeps up after the construction of her newly installed bakery counters. She is planning two grand openings and already has 50 attendees who said they’ll come. “I’m so happy. When I think about the future, it looks very bright.