Matt Kreutz and his Firebrand bakery "empire" featured in the SF Business Times

Matt Kreutz in front of his Downtown Oakland bakery. Photo credit: SF Business Times. 

Matt Kreutz in front of his Downtown Oakland bakery. Photo credit: SF Business Times. 

Matt Kreutz, founder and owner of Firebrand Artisan Breads, was recently featured in the San Francisco Business Times. Firebrand is one ICA Fund Good Jobs' seed investment companies.

In the interview, published in print and online today, Matt talks about founding Firebrand almost 10 years ago, and about what it takes to grow a successful business in Oakland. He touches on the challenges of living the entrepreneur lifestyle, the meaning of business success, and his vision for continued growth. 

I want to raise the wages here to be at least one or two dollars higher on average. [...] I want to move the business into doing more hiring for people with barriers to employment.
— Matt Kreutz (in conversation with SF Business Times)

But the most inspiring part of the article features what Matt still wants to accomplish, which is to continue creating good jobs. Matt is determined to provide his workers (now numbering more than 75) with higher wages, increase his community impact, and do more to hire people with barriers to employment.

All goals we can get behind! 

Read the rest of this article on the San Francisco Business Time website or download a PDF here. To read more about our work with Firebrand and about their growth, mission, and commitment to good jobs, check out our 2017 Impact Report.

A day of Hands-on Capital Advising at Path 2 Cash 2017

Rob Davenport, Path 2 Cash 2017 advisor. 

Rob Davenport, Path 2 Cash 2017 advisor. 

Dozens of local entrepreneurs recently gathered at the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College, to receive hands-on, tailored advice on how to access capital and grow their businesses. On July 12, 54 entrepreneurs were paired with expert financial advisors to participate in our one-day educational workshop, called Path 2 Cash.

Path 2 Cash is designed to help entrepreneurs understand the different types of financing that are available to small businesses, which type of capital may be the most appropriate for them, and what it takes to secure different kinds of financing.

Path 2 Cash catapults your knowledge and takes you to the next level of understanding in your business
— Ernest Nee-Nueh Nortey, Kube Nice Cream
Path 2 Cash 2017 in Session at Mills College. 

Path 2 Cash 2017 in Session at Mills College. 

Over the course of two hours, entrepreneurs had the opportunity to take a deep dive into their financial statements and growth strategy, in order to identify where they are on the Path 2 Cash. Each entrepreneur left the session with practical action steps to take toward securing a loan or equity financing for their business.

“Path 2 Cash catapults your knowledge and takes you to the next level of understanding in your business,” said Ernest Nee-Nueh Nortey, President and Co-Founder of Kube Nice Cream, a company that produces frozen desserts from raw coconut cream. “We have action steps we can take advantage of this afternoon, that we can build on right now.”

Path 2 Cash is made possible by the support of several sponsors and partners, including New Resource Bank, Community Bank of the Bay, Working Solutions, and Beneficial State Bank. Additionally, our pro bono advisors are critical for delivering these highly valuable programs for entrepreneurs.

For Path 2 Cash, all advisors were financial experts, including bankers, investors, attorneys and tax professionals. Advisors prepared for the sessions in advance, and came prepared to ask thoughtful questions and contribute toward solutions for the entrepreneurs.

“My advisor was attentive, detailed, and offered great, direct feedback. She checked in with how I felt about the suggestions,” said Elizabeth Foggie, Founder, CEO and Director of People’s Studio, an interdisciplinary arts lab and media production company. “I feel 1000 times more prepared now than before I arrived.”

ICA Fund Good Jobs is committed to providing high-quality education, advice and resources that entrepreneurs can use to strengthen their businesses immediately, in the pursuit of creating good jobs.

It's a Wrap – celebrating at the last Growth Strategies class of 2017!

Growth Strategies 2017 wrapped today!

It's hard to believe it's already been 10 weeks and that we're done for the summer. It's been a great year – filled with great energy, inspiring entrepreneurs, and amazing business ideas. We can't wait to watch your businesses grow! 

Up next: Path 2 Cash, our one-day financial advising workshop for business seeking capital in the next year. Look below for an opportunity to stay in touch by email.  

Here's to growing good businesses, good jobs, and a great summer!

Thank you to Chef Chew of the Veg Hub and all of the other entrepreneurs who shared their delicious snacks today! 

Thank you to Chef Chew of the Veg Hub and all of the other entrepreneurs who shared their delicious snacks today! 

And to all of the entrepreneurs in our class: we'll be in touch!

Look for an opportunity to celebrate at the end of the summer. We're excited to watch you grow and want to stay connected with you. And in the meantime scroll down to check out some photos from this morning's celebration and join our mailing list so you never miss any news.

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Advising Matchmaking: behind the scenes with Path 2 Cash 

Path 2 cash, our one-on-one advising workshop for capital-seeking businesses is almost here. 

Behind the scenes during Path 2 Cash selection time. 

Behind the scenes during Path 2 Cash selection time. 

This year’s cohort is bigger than ever, featuring over 50 entrepreneurs and 25 hand-picked advisors. While Path 2 Cash is a one-day, half-day session hosted at the Mills College Lorry I Lokey School of Business and Public Policy, the preparation involved in creating and hosting the session takes is a many-week process.  

Here’s how it happens: 
After receiving many online applications to Path 2 Cash through our online portal, the Entrepreneur Services team sorts, organizes, and categorizes the applicants by need, industry, business size, along with a few other metrics. The team, aided by our two MBA fellows, evaluates each company, strategizes on the best opportunities for advisor engagement, and make a short list of accepted companies, their needs, and potential advisor matches. 

There’s an advisor for that; the matchmaking process is the way ICA Fund Good Jobs companeis get the support they need.

Baba Afolabi talks with Ingrid Jacobson at Path 2 Cash 2016. 

Baba Afolabi talks with Ingrid Jacobson at Path 2 Cash 2016. 

Our advisors really meet the entrepreneurs where they’re at. Raising capital is complicated, and everyone’s needs are different.
— Nina Robinson, Senior Program Manager
Chinwe Onyeagoro at Path 2 Cash 2016. 

Chinwe Onyeagoro at Path 2 Cash 2016. 

Path 2 Cash participants are companies that are looking to secure capital within the next 12 months and that demonstrate a commitment to the creation of good jobs. But their specific needs diverge greatly. Some companies are looking for ways to speak more clearly about their business by the numbers, and others are looking to identify the best types of capital for their business stage. Others still have a clear path towards investment but need support on compiling and presenting the right type of financial documents. 

“Our advisors really meet the entrepreneurs where they’re at. Raising capital is complicated, and everyone’s needs are different.” says Nina Robinson. Our advisors are hand-picked by our team to match the needs of our entrepreneurs and to provide expertise relevant to their industries.  

The team organizes a series of conversations with the entrepreneurs before the Path 2 Cash session to dive in to the issues they need most help with. Relying on an amazing network of talented advisors, to provide realtime, practical, and actionable advice. 

The end goal is that when Path 2 Cash happens on July 12th, the entrepreneur and advisors know each other. The entrepreneurs are able to vocalize their needs, and the advisors have an intimate understanding of the small businesses they are supporting. 

And the rest happens at Path 2 Cash. 

Four Growth Strategy Lessons from Diishan Imira 


Diishan Imira, Founder and CEO of Mayvenn, recently spoke to entrepreneurs in our Growth Strategies course. Diishan, an Oakland native founded Mayvenn in 2012 and is making waves in the African-American hair industry, an industry valued, according to Diishan, at more than $9 billion. 

Mayvenn sells hair extensions through a network of stylists-cum-brand ambassadors and is dedicated to “changing the way people purchase hair extensions” and to empowering local stylists in the process.

In conversation with Michael Bush, Diishan talked candidly about finding your way as a business leader, shared lessons learned in closing his Series A venture capital funding round, navigating the VC world as a Black CEO, and discussed his work to “bring the Black beauty dollar back to Oakland”. 

Mayvenn has closed over $10 million in venture capital investments, has recently entered a phase of extreme growth, and is empowering hundreds of individual stylists to make money in the process. Yet the Mayvenn story is particularly inspiring because of the combination of hustle and humility that drives its founder. And because so many of the lessons that Diishan shared, are applicable to all entrepreneurs. 

Know your community and get immersed.
Early on in his career at Mayvenn, Diishan spent time in China learning the language, getting to know his suppliers, and understanding the business process. The time allowed him to understand what it’s like to be immersed in a new environment and what it takes to find your way in an uncomfortable position. These lessons proved useful when he was pitching Mayvenn to investors in Silicon Valley. Diishan recounts that he quickly realized that even with his MBA and business expertise, in Silcon Valley he was an outsider. So he needed to speak the VC language. Again, he became immersed in the Silicon Valley culture, began understanding its quirks, its ins and outs, its notoriously closed circles, and doing everything he could to learn its ways. 

Diisahn Imira speaks to the Growth Strategies class. 

Diisahn Imira speaks to the Growth Strategies class. 

The learning paid off when Mayvenn closed a seven-figure investment from Andreessen Horowitz, one of the premier venture capital firms in the country. Yet, critically, Diishan points out, that no matter how proud he is of his accomplishments (securing funding from Andreessen was an early goal of his), he’s always kept his mission and community at the forefront and remained true to his values. 

Trust and empower your people. 
As Michael points out in the 8 Factors, values should drive who you hire. And when you hire the right people, you can be confident that they have your company’s best interests in mind. Diishan spoke about resisting the urge to be involved in every decision and knowing when to remove yourself from the decision making cycle. Trust the organizational structure you’ve put in place and let others do the job you’ve entrusted them with. 

Trusting your internal team to make decisions builds leadership and strengthens the culture of your organization. 

Know your values and take risks. 
Company culture is critical to its success. In fact, much of the Growth Strategies is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs cultivate it. But just because you spend time cultivating a culture at your business, doesn’t mean that it can’t shift. 

As CEO, Diishan shared, he has to make difficult decisions, particularly now that Mayvenn has taken on investment and is undergoing rapid growth, he has to make decisions that may be unpopular with his management team. As Diishan says, culture is malleable and while you should always stay true to your organizational values, you can shape to fit the current needs of your company. 

Empower others. 
As he’s grown as a CEO, Diishan says one thing Michael teaches has always stuck with him: in order to have true success, you have to empower others to be financially successful. Diishan makes no bones about the fact that growing his business is of utmost importance, but maintains that a critical piece of his company’s mission is about bulding a platform where others can make money in the process. 

This lesson is true whether you have a network of stylists selling your products or are looking to hire, retain, and cultivate the right employees by providing them with the career ladders they need.  

Diishan modeled for the 60+ entrepreneurs participating in Growth Strategies that growth-minded leaders hold onto the hustle that got them to where they are, and step into the shoes of the vision they are moving towards. With the mission as his compass, Diishan is creating jobs intentionally for those inside his company and in his community. 

You can find Mayvenn on Facebook and follow Diishan on Instagram. And stay in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too. 

6 ICA Fund Good Jobs Companies among Indie Awards Winners!

The Oakland community celebrated the Eleventh Annual Oakland Indie Awards last week. The awards ceremony, mixer, and celebration, held at the Oakland Museum of California were hosted by the Beneficial State Foundation and were a testament to the energy, community, and positive impact of our local entrepreneurs and independent small business owners. 

Pollinate Farm and Garden, a 2017 Greenie Award Indie Award winner and an ICA Fund Good Jobs Education company.  

Pollinate Farm and Garden, a 2017 Greenie Award Indie Award winner and an ICA Fund Good Jobs Education company.  

Town Biz won the Ripple Effect award at the 2017 Indie Awards. Town Biz is an ICA Fund Good Jobs Education company. 

Town Biz won the Ripple Effect award at the 2017 Indie Awards. Town Biz is an ICA Fund Good Jobs Education company. 

The ICA Fund Good Jobs team joined friends, supporters, and hundreds from the local small business community at the awards. 

And we were even more excited to see six ICA Fund Good Jobs past and present companies on stage as Indie Award winners! 

The ICA Fund Good Jobs companies in the winners circle:

And of course a big, heartfelt congratulations to all of the inspiring nominees and winners of the 2017 Oakland Indie Awards. 

PS: Mamacitas Cafe has a Kickstarter to help fund their new location! Support them now: