An Inland Empire small business journey to responsible, clean beauty products
By Jessica Anguiano, Southern California Outreach Manager, Small Business Majority
Of all the ways of starting a new business, one that included the purchase of a Nigerian dwarf goat named Barnaby was not on the mind of Michele Jimenez. As the owners of a ranch in Riverside, Michele and her husband wanted to teach their five young daughters about caring for and raising farm animals, and Barnaby would be a perfect way to do just that.
After learning about an Inland Empire 4-H youth development and mentoring organization, Michele enrolled her daughters, ages 2 to 15, to learn about responsibilities and appreciation for nature. During the training, the young girls focused on agricultural project-based learning and chose to launch a dairy goat breeding program as their project. But after their goat population began to grow, they faced an unimaginable challenge: what to do with 3-5 gallons of milk per goat on a daily basis?
The children were quick to propose an avenue: cook and create recipes with goat milk. The idea seemed simple at the time, but they soon realized that goat food products are an acquired taste–which meant this wasn’t a recipe for success. By this time, the COVID-19 pandemic had paralyzed businesses in Riverside, and like everyone else, Michele’s daughters followed lockdown protocols and stayed home. Michele and her daughters began making soap with goat milk at home with not much to do and nearly 30 goats in stock.
At first, they gave away the soap to friends and family to see how their prospective customers would respond to this new product. And then after only [est. time], the Jimenez Sisters Ranch business was up and running, full steam ahead.
The family-owned small business exemplifies the core values of the Jimenez family: resilience, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and a fond appreciation for eco-friendly, socially responsible, and ethically sourced practices and products. In addition to stylish apparel and accessories, the Jimenez sisters sell handcrafted goat milk soaps, lotions, and creams to consumers and wholesale retailers throughout California and across Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Washington.
“My daughters have been the face of the Jimenez Sisters Ranch since its inception. I’ve encouraged them to take an active role in the business, despite their age. They deserve a seat at the table and I believe they can confidently shape their future as entrepreneurs,” said mom Michele. “Small business ownership comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities and for us, it has turned into a new source of income, inspiration and a great way to start building generational wealth.”
As the Jimenez family continues to navigate business ownership and with plans of scaling up, they are actively looking for ways to lower prices on low-volume purchases and sourcing raw materials ahead of the holiday season. Michele says, “We’re a solutions-oriented business, so we’re networking and connecting with leaders in the industry to get us in the front door. Although our competitors are beauty industry giants, we know what we offer and what sets us apart–our clean, beauty products.” This holiday season and ahead of Small Business Saturday, the Jimenez Sisters Ranch is offering a 25% discount on storewide buttercream purchases through the Small Business Majority’s holiday gift guide.
With the support of their community and peers, Michele and her family have made a number of appearances on TalkShopLive, a live streaming, social buying, and selling platform. By showcasing her small business on this platform, Michele hopes to reach more customers to eventually set up her business as an international exporter. She believes in the power of supporting women’s entrepreneurship, which is why she’s advocated and spotlighted the need for funding Women’s Business Centers. Michele explains, “these centers provide the tools and resources that entrepreneurs like my daughters and I require to scale up businesses and are an important source of community building.
20 Years of Spirit in the Making
Inland Empire visionaries, innovators, problem solvers, and risk-takers have been celebrated center-stage at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards black-tie gala for two decades.
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards recognizes the accomplishments and resilience of local entrepreneurs who have strived to build businesses into major contributors to the Inland Empire’s economy. The program was founded in 2003 by Mike Stull, Director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB), and in the years since, more than 200 entrepreneurs have been honored with a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
The IECE, established in 1999, has always been ahead of the curve and launched the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards eight years before President Barack Obama designated November as National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States. Dr. Mike Stull came up with the idea for the awards shortly after becoming director of IECE, when he discovered students in the CSUSB Entrepreneurship program couldn’t name any local entrepreneurial role models.
“Similarly, in my many conversations with leaders in the community, none could cite successful entrepreneurs that were key drivers to the local economy,” Stull said. “To me, this represented a significant gap — we have many successful entrepreneurs in the region, and our students and community leaders needed to know who they were. Thus, I endeavored to bring an event to life that would celebrate and honor local entrepreneurs in a format that would be inspiring, fun, and entertaining. Hollywood had the Academy Awards, so why couldn’t we have a similar event focused on entrepreneurs!”
The annual Spirit of the Entrepreneur black-tie awards program — held this year on November 17 at the Riverside Convention Center — starts with networking receptions, where mingling can often lead to deal-making. The main event is a mix of entertainment, with performances by acclaimed musicians and performers, heartfelt acceptance speeches from featured award recipients from categories such as General Entrepreneur, Service-based Entrepreneur, Social Entrepreneur, Emerging Entrepreneur, and The Mary Anne Fox Top Female Entrepreneur of the Year. At the end of the program, one recipient will also receive the Best of the Best Award, sponsored by Best Best & Krieger LLP. This honor goes to the person who best exemplifies what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“We come up with award categories in two ways,” Stull said. “First, over the 20 years of the program, we have developed a large number of standard categories that capture just about every type or industry represented in the region. Second, each year we carefully review all the submitted nominee profiles and adjust or add award categories as appropriate. For example, in recent years we have added a Healthcare Entrepreneur category, and in some years we have so many great manufacturing company nominees that we segment them by focus area, such as consumer products manufacturing and industrial manufacturing.”
In order to be nominated, a person must meet two requirements: they need to have been in business for at least two years and have a minimum annual revenue of $400,000. Beyond that, they should be an innovator with a solid character known for having an entrepreneurial mindset and a record of strong leadership and performance. Judges, who are selected based on their business experience and integrity, work independently of one another to evaluate the nominees, with almost all being previous winners of a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award.
Several notable names have received the signature Spirit Award — Garner Holt, founder of Garner Holt Productions, the late Stater Bros. CEO Jack Brown, and the late Baker’s Burgers founder Neal Baker all were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Looking back on the last 20 years, Stull has countless fond memories of ceremonies past, including performances by Eddie Money and Troy Clarke & His Big Band Orchestra, but his favorite just might be when Holt was recognized with this Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. “We completely surprised him, and his emotional speech was one for the ages,” Stull said.
When the winners are revealed, Stull hopes they feel “all the great positive emotions at once. Surprise, joy, excitement, happiness, pride, gratitude — all those we tend to see from the moment their name is announced to the completion of their acceptance speech. It gives us no greater satisfaction than to see entrepreneurs be overwhelmed at that moment and realize that their hard work and commitment are being recognized in front of their families, team members, the business community, and their peer entrepreneurs. As one past award recipient told me, ‘Mike, this is the pat on the back and recognition that we hardly ever get as entrepreneurs.'”
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, there will be a few surprises during this year’s ceremony, with the biggest being the announcement of the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Legacy Awards. Two previous Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award recipients — one from the first ten years, and one from the second — will be selected by a judging panel for this special, one-time-only honor.
“The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards has reached an incredible milestone, and we hope that everyone comes out to join the celebration,” Stull said. “Our last full-scale event prior to the pandemic had over 1,000 attendees, so we’d love to see a record turnout in 2022.” Starting with the very first ceremony in 2003, “the event wouldn’t be possible without the incredible nominations we get each year, and of course, the fantastic support we get from our sponsors,” Stull added. “We have nine sponsors that have supported us for more than 10 years, and two that have been with us for 16 of our 20 years.”
The Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards isn’t solely about recognizing the ingenuity of Inland Empire business leaders. Proceeds from the event go to the IECE’s Spirit of the Entrepreneur Scholarship Fund, which provides grants to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since 2003, more than $225,000 worth of scholarships have been awarded to CSUSB students with measurable needs who are studying entrepreneurship.
CSUSB students also have the opportunity to participate in the Garner Holt Student Fast Pitch Competition. Every year, the IECE holds this innovative semi-final qualifying competition at the event’s named sponsor’s headquarters – Garner Holt Productions a week prior to the Spirit Awards gala. Up to 15 student entrepreneurs have the chance to give a 90-second pitch of their business idea to local investors. The students are judged by the panel, and the top five student pitchers move on to the finals at the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards. There, they deliver their pitches in front of the live audience, where the audience will vote to determine the winner who will receive the $4,000 cash prize. In years past, students who presented especially impressive pitches have dazzled investors in the crowd and secured funding for their ventures.
Purva Taur is a graduate assistant at IECE and enrolled in the Master of Science Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MSEI) program at CSUSB. An international student from India, Taur grew up in a family where many of her relatives owned businesses, and she knew that one day, she would follow in their footsteps. By working at the IECE with Stull and Assistant Director Stacey Allis, Taur has already noticed a change in how she approaches situations.
“I’ve learned how to be on my toes all the time,” she said. “If there’s a problem, you have to be quick with a solution and back up.” Taur is now working on a business plan to present in front of investors and feels that the comprehensive education she is receiving will give her a boost over her peers. “Being in this program has given me a lot of confidence that not every 22-year-old would have to begin their start-up, or any business,” she said. “I’ve learned how important it is to cultivate your business mindset.”
While Taur is preparing to launch her career, one CSUSB student-led venture named AxoTech is already commercializing technology developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona.
“The company is innovating the diagnostic technology space, and is currently a part of the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Foundry program,” Stull said. “Overall, the impact to the region is tangible — over 40 percent of our more than 1,000 entrepreneurship alumni have created one or more ventures since graduation, and a large number of our graduates are intrapreneurs: managers and leaders in existing organizations who are innovative changemakers.”
IECE HAS IMPACT
The IECE has been leading the charge since it first opened its doors at CSUSB, with the mission of inspiring, developing, and nurturing up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the Inland Empire. It is the largest organization in the region supporting small business and entrepreneurial growth, and its staff is there every step of the way as people learn the ins and outs of starting and running a business, meeting with investors, finding mentors, and developing business models.
“We have an incredible team of professionals in the IECE — more than 60 — that are in the community every day having an impact on startup and existing companies,” Stull said. “The IECE has been recognized many times for its growth and impact, most recently by AACSB International, the accreditation body for business schools worldwide, as a Top 35 Program for Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation.”
There is always something in the works at the IECE, and in 2021, the center collaborated with the CSUSB School of Entrepreneurship to produce the region’s first-ever State of Entrepreneurship Report, which examined the trends and challenges of entrepreneurship in the Inland Empire. This year, the IECE has launched several new initiatives, including the Catapult Business Growth Network. Over the course of this intensive six-session program, entrepreneurs learn how to position their businesses for measurable growth.
The IECE is a driving force behind the economic expansion in the Inland Empire, and the proof is in the numbers — through its counseling, mentoring, and training programs, the IECE has served more than 150,000 entrepreneurs, supported the creation and retention of nearly 40,000 jobs, assisted with the startup of almost 2,000 new ventures, and had an economic impact in excess of $400 million.
“We are very proud that the IECE has grown to become one of the largest university-based Centers for Entrepreneurship in the world,” Stull said. “Since entrepreneurship is such an important driver of our local economy, having such a vibrant and impactful program such as the IECE is critical to supporting local businesses and their startup and growth.”
Saybridge Technologies’ Board of Directors Announces Byron J. Paul as CEO
The SyBridge Technologies’ Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Byron J. Paul has joined SyBridge Technologies (“SyBridge” or the “Company”) as Chief Executive Officer and will also serve as a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Paul will build upon the Company’s strategic vision of becoming a global technological leader in value-added design and manufacturing solutions ranging from design and prototyping to production-as-a-service and aftermarket services for customers. Mr. Paul brings extensive experience in industrial technology and a 20+ year track record of driving profitable growth in complex, global enterprises.
Mr. Paul was most recently Group President at Signode Industrial Group where he led a global portfolio of businesses focused on end-of-line packaging technologies and warehouse automation solutions. He previously served as President of Destaco, a leading designer and manufacturer of precision engineered components for industrial automation and robotics applications. Mr. Paul has also held senior leadership roles at John Crane, a leader in rotating equipment solutions, and at the Boston Consulting Group. Mr. Paul holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He also attended the University of Western Australia where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce with first class honors in accounting and finance.
Mr. Paul stated, “I am thrilled to be joining a world-class team at SyBridge Technologies. They have done an outstanding job expanding SyBridge Technologies’ global reach, growing from three sites in 2019 to 16 locations today. I look forward to partnering with the Board and Crestview Partners as we embark on the next phase of growth to build an unrivaled leader in digital manufacturing.”
Jason Luo, Chairman of SyBridge Technologies and Crestview Operating Executive noted, “Byron is a committed leader with a proven track record of successfully growing businesses and we are excited to partner with him as we plan to execute on the Company’s next chapter of growth.”
Mr. Paul succeeds Tony Nardone who has departed the company to pursue other interests. “We appreciate the many contributions Tony has made to SyBridge and wish him well in his future endeavors,” said Mr. Luo.
Tips on Accessing Capital as an Under-resourced Small Business Owner
Interview with Peter E. Jackson, MBA, Vice President, Sr. Business Consultant at J.P. Morgan Chase
By Josaline Cuesta, California Program Director, Small Business Majority
Entrepreneurship is essential to a thriving and equitable economy. Yet, too many of our smallest businesses—especially those owned by people of color, women, rural business owners, and other under-resourced communities—face significant hurdles in accessing capital from banks and other traditional financial institutions.
Small Business Majority prides itself on partnering with experts in the field to mitigate the unnecessary impacts of inequitable access to capital and help to break down systematic barriers.
Peter E. Jackson, MBA is Vice President, Sr. Business Consultant at J.P. Morgan Chase. His work in California has been integral to creating pathways for minority and women entrepreneurs to access capital successfully. I sat down with Peter for a Q&A to discuss his experiences, share his expertise and tips, and learn more about expanded opportunities for capital in a unique community.
Do you believe there is a barrier to accessing responsible capital for small business owners? If yes, do you believe that a certain group of small business owners are more susceptible to experiencing challenges? Why?
From where I sit, one of the biggest hurdles facing minority small businesses is access to financial education. Many Black and Latino business owners we work with through the Chase mentorship program, believe it or not, cite access to education as their top need, e.g., understanding working capital, credit readiness, financial planning, managing debt and cash flow, etc. Working knowledge of these principles is the foundation of building a small business. That means having your bookkeeping and financial operations to help you make your best case when seeking funding/capital from any lender. Not having this in order may delay any financing for your business. There are also questions to ask yourself, e.g. ‘Am I in a healthy financial position to pay back a loan or is a bank loan the right financing option for my business needs at this time?’ This is where a banking relationship or banker can come in handy.
Often, minority entrepreneurs may not have had the best relationship with a bank or may not have had a parent or close individual to seek guidance from related to entrepreneurship – the list goes on. The pandemic exacerbated many of the underlying racial disparities that already existed in the U.S., including the banking system. As a firm, we recognize these challenges and do everything we can to address them.
In 2020, JPMorgan Chase announced a $30 billion racial equity commitment to create an inclusive economic recovery and help Black and Latino small businesses, families, and local communities create and sustain generational wealth. We’re creating the infrastructure to help more minority-owned businesses grow and recover through new programs, products, and hiring. This service is free, and business owners do not have to be Chase customers to receive coaching and mentorship.
Information about the JP Morgan Chase Minority Owned – Business Program is available at: https://www.chase.com/es/business/minority-businesses
What stories have you heard about the ease of accessing capital for small business owners? Can you please share a few typical challenges and some success stories? Did any success stories involve innovation? Did owners have to think outside the box to gain continued access to capital?
Yes, thinking out of the box is an everyday part of what we as Sr. Business Consultants do. Every business owner comes from a different place financially and operates their business differently. An example of this was a local smoothie bar owned by a Latina entrepreneur in Fontana, California. I discussed her goals and challenges, and she needed to obtain a small working capital loan to hire a part-time employee to extend her business hours and add signage. I helped her calculate and understand her break-even to determine the right price she needed to charge for her product to be able to pay for an additional employee and add a sign to the front of her store. This was important because she established new sales goals to drive more revenue. Also, the loan underwriter could see her business now had sufficient income capacity to borrow and pay back a loan by charging enough to support the loan payment. Business owners often borrow without a plan to demonstrate they can repay the loan or without consulting their CPA to ensure they leave enough money in their business to borrow. Part of my role is to help small business owners understand their business finances and how to leverage them to scale and grow their businesses.
What are some ways to increase small business funding to expand access to capital?
From JPMorgan Chase’s standpoint, here’s what we are doing to expand access to capital for underrepresented communities. We have committed $396 million (page 23-25) in small business philanthropy to grow Black, Hispanic and women-owned small businesses and create a more inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- ~$42.5 million to expand the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund (EOCF) in more U.S. cities, the program will offer low-cost loans and technical assistance to small businesses through LISC and CFDI network
- Philanthropic investments to build the capacity of diverse-led nonprofits across the globe and support the signature Ascend Program
- Policy solutions through the JPMorgan Chase Policy Center to improve U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) program to better meet the needs of minority- and women-owned small businesses.
Within Business Banking, we plan to provide an additional 15,000 loans -totaling $2 billion- to small businesses in majority-Black, -Hispanic and Latino communities over the next five years. To further expand access to credit to minority business owners, we’re:
- Exploring targeted adjustments to how the firm evaluates credit applications
- Introducing new products, including a digital lending platform, to better support the needs of small Black, Hispanic and Latino-owned businesses seeking quick access to capital.
What are some of your recommended, trusted community resources or training opportunities within the Inland Empire that will help with understanding ways to access legitimate capital?
- Mentorship, dedicated coaching, and education are critical to helping people get credit ready. Look into Chase’s 1:1 coaching for minority entrepreneurs across 21 U.S. cities, where they work with a senior business consultant to help them scale. Visit www.chase.com/businessconsultant to learn more.
- Visit the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE), an SBDC program within California State University, San Bernardino, which delivers a wide range of programs, technical assistance, and services to existing small business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs in the community. Every state has a small business development center offered through U.S. SBA and colleges/universities.
- Lastly, I think AmPac, UCR, and the University of La Verne also have some of the strongest community resources that speak to access to capital, readiness, training, grant programs, microfinancing, etc.
Peter will join other financial experts for a Small Business Majority hosted event on September 14, 5:30pm PT. “Breaking Barriers: Accessing capital as women business owners of color” is a free event to learn tips for remaining resilient in business and how to navigate non-predatory debt financing options that will help grow or strengthen your woman-owned small business to help build generational wealth.
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