Our 2010 Small Business Awards - Page 2

Break the chains! From a spunky salon to a 100-year-old speakeasy, our annual salute to small business highlights local entrepeneurs who blow away the competition

Deena Davenport of Glama-Rama, our 2010 Woman in Business
Photo by Pat Mazzera. Additional photos by Ben Hopfer

The intimate basement space retains its speakeasy vibe and velvet-curtained, cabaret-like setting, while playing host to mighty big names and burgeoning local upstarts. As a "venue with a menu" that serves food and puts on all ages and 18+ shows, Café Du Nord has been specifically targeted by the city and ABC for what Carson calls "differing interpretations of the law." He looks forward to the upcoming launch of the new California Music and Culture Association, which will bring together several local venues and nightlife activists to fight the tide of local nightlife repression. "When we all work together, we can return the city's nightlife to its former glory," Carson says. (Marke B.)


3174 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016





Eric Weaver put his first nonprofit loan package together in 1995. His small startup, called Opportunity Fund, helped brothers who wanted to expand their pet shop borrow $17,000 for aquariums and fish. The deal worked out well; the pet store prospered, the money got repaid, and Opportunity Fund was on its way to becoming one of the most successful microlending outfits in California.

Weaver, a Stanford MBA and the fund's CEO, now oversees a staff of 35 that makes loans to small businesses, most of them minority owned, that might have trouble getting financing from a traditional bank. And the nonprofit continues to grow by helping entrepreneurs in the Bay Area get the financing they need to create jobs and build community businesses. "We just made our 1,000th loan," he told me. "We're on target to make 200 loans this year, more than ever."

Unlike most banks, Opportunity Fund sees its clients almost as partners. The staff takes time to help borrowers work up a successful business plan and learn how to manage their finances. "We do one-on-one business counseling with almost all of our clients," Weaver said.

The group also helps finance affordable housing developments and offers individual development accounts (IDAs)— special savings accounts that come with financial training and grants — for everything from education to home purchases to putting aside the cash it now takes to become a U.S. citizen.

A recent study showed that Opportunity Fund has created or retained 1,200 in the Bay Area. "With a median loan size of $7,000, and a focus on making loans to people who have historically been underserved by banks, Opportunity Fund has been a particularly valuable resource for women, minority, and low-income entrepreneurs," Weaver noted. He added that 73 percent of Opportunity Fund borrowers are members of an ethnic minority, and 90 percent of borrowers have incomes at or below 80 percent of area median income.

Imagine a traditional bank making a statement like that. (Tim Redmond)


785 Market Street, Suite 1700, SF