Watsonville, CA, July 11, 2019 - In 1979, Watsonville became the epicenter of social change as the community rallied to support Latino and Spanish-speaking business owners.
Protecting rights and providing equal access to business opportunities helped provide a voice to the voiceless, while giving rise to El Pájaro Community Development Corporation.
El Pájaro CDC celebrates 40 years of transforming people’s lives through entrepreneurship by taking the confusion, guesswork and complexity out of starting small businesses. By offering technical, legal, financial and managerial assistance, El Pájaro CDC has helped launch and nurture countless small businesses while bolstering economic development within the community.
“If you give someone an opportunity in can change lives, and lead to generations of success,” said Carmel Hererra, executive director of El Pajaro CDC. “To see a journey from farmworker to entrepreneur — many started that way when they came to us — is so rewarding.”
El Pájaro CDC also offers low-cost and free bilingual business education and training workshops to low-income entrepreneurs. Workshops cover business plan preparation, marketing and sales, customer service, bookkeeping, computer basics, business management, and financial literacy.
The growth of El Pájaro CDC has been monumental. In 1997, it created a retail business incubator at 23 Beach St. in downtown Watsonville to assist low- to moderate-income, Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs with starting and operating a successful business. Named Plaza Vigil, the incubator houses dozens of businesses, with another 44 food purveyors using the separate Commercial Kitchen Incubator Program, a fully equipped, shared-use facility at 412 Riverside Drive. By using the commercial kitchen services, local food entrepreneurs can save the costs of restaurant-grade equipment and county licenses that can restrict their ability to start or expand food businesses.
In 1999, El Pájaro CDC board decided to expand its mission to include housing development. El Pájaro CDC was one of three partners that developed Northgate Apartments in Watsonville, an 84-unit, affordable housing complex for families of 4-7 members.
Following a charter expansion in 2007, El Pájaro CDC now serves Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, and is available to anyone with plans to open a small business. While many businesses helped by El Pájaro CDC are food and produce-related, all business concepts — lawyers, mechanics, contractors, small farmers, landscapers, musicians and more — are eligible for assistance.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, El Pájaro CDC will hold a special Tacos and Tapas event on Thursday, Aug. 29 (6-9 p.m.) at the organization’s Commercial Kitchen Incubator at 412 Riverside Drive in Watsonville.
“It’s a celebration of a very strong legacy of passion for helping the community,” Hererra said. “We’re grateful for everyone who has played a role in helping us grow.”
As El Pajaro CDC looks back proudly on 40 years, it still looks forward to the future, including a handful of projects planned for the next two years, including:
● A kitchen retail store at Plaza Vigil Incubator named Food Artezano, offering food products created in the kitchen incubator, as well as local art, including painting and sculpture, ceramics, T-shirts, postcards and jewelry. It will also include an online store.
● A 5,000-square-foot, small-batch, co-packing facility at the kitchen incubator, allowing food businesses to expand their business and markets.
● A new microloan program that will give small businesses more control, better access and expanded loan opportunities.
● Improved programs to help entrepreneurs manage their financing, credit, record-keeping and more.
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901