|Feb 01, 2014 --
El Pájaro Community Development Corporation (El Pájaro CDC) has been nurturing and assisting small businesses and microenterprises in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties since its inception in 1979. They offer a range of educational services, programs, technical assistance, and resources for current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
El Pájaro CDC‘s service area incorporates principally rural communities, and much of the area is filled with lush agricultural lands. All three counties are home to large Mexican immigrant communities primarily employed in agriculture. Famous for its fertile farming land, this region’s major produce includes strawberries, lettuce, and artichokes. The tri-county region is an area where persistent concentrations of poverty exist among rural communities, particularly in the poorer, inland, and primarily Latino communities.
USDA Rural Development awarded El Pájaro CDC with a $60,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) to provide comprehensive bilingual business technical assistance. Participants in the program receive business education including financial literacy and knowledge of best practices for business-based technology through workshops. Participants who complete the workshops have greater access to capital for business startups, and as well as access to El Pájaro CDC’s Commercial Kitchen Incubator program.
When Vicente Quintana first came to El Pájaro CDC's Business Education and Loan Program, he was looking to write a business plan to formalize an informal business. On his time off from working in agriculture fields, he was gleaning cactus paddles from local gardens. He would clean, cut and package and sell the bagged nopales. Vicente hoped to formalize and grow his business, with a dream to increase output to about 500,000 lbs per year. He attended a 13-week training with El Pájaro CDC, completed his business plan, and for the last five years has been a steady client, returning for help with barcoding and other aspects of growing his business. When El Pájaro CDC opened the Kitchen Incubator in fall 2013, Vicente embarked on a new chapter of his business. He is now processing over 2,000 lbs of nopales a week and delivering them to various markets throughout the Central Coast and lower Santa Clara County area. His simple, traditional and healthy product is well known in Latino communities. The market for his product remains Hispanic grocery stores, but he is hoping to expand into mainstream markets with a line of ready-made salads.