Business Buzz: August 10th, 2017

New Director Seeks More Help For Local Small Business


Special to the Imperial Valley Weekly and Calexico Chronicle

Name: Small Business Development Center

Location: 1405 N. Imperial Ave., El Centro

Contact information: Director Diana Moreno / (760) 312-9800 /

Director Diana Moreno

While Imperial County is known as fertile ground for farming, the new head of the Small Business Development Center in El Centro also sees it as a fruitful locale for entrepreneurs.

“Every town you go to has its own problems, but we have it better than a lot of areas,” said SBDC Director Diana Moreno, explaining that spending nearly 15 years of her career in central California allows her to appreciate what her home county has to offer.

“It really is a great place when you compare crime statistics, the affordability and it is a great place to raise a family,” said Moreno, who took the helm at SBDC on July 10.

SBDC has been assisting county residents establish and grow small businesses since first entering the market 20 years ago. After a recent re-organization that includes a partnering with the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp., Moreno said expansion of services is on the fast track.

“I see the SBDC as a place where people are helping people face to face. You don’t have to call San Diego or go online. You can get the services to start, expand or troubleshoot your business, work through an idea and get help following it through,” she said.

The El Centro SBDC operates under a regional network of business-assistance centers administered by Southwestern College in National City. It’s primary funding mechanism is through the U.S. Small Business Administration, a federal agency that matches funds raised by the local SBDC. The El Centro office also has an advisory board.

Moreno said fundraising is one of her most urgent tasks. The cities of Brawley, El Centro and Holtville, along with Community Valley Bank, Lidco and Oasis Partners have committed to funding and Moreno said she expects more to pledge soon.

Also, being sought are nonfinancial “in kind” contributions where, for instance, SBDC would swap its services for assistance with
technology, she added.

SBDC’s primary function is assisting businesses, often startups, with the many requirements needed to achieve success, including creating a plan, managing finances, finding a location and obtaining necessary licenses and permits. It also helps companies expand and works with those that are struggling to identify their problems and fix them.

But Moreno said she seeks to establish a program where entrepreneurs access on-going enrichment. She noted her varied experience allows her to understand those needs.

Moreno earned a degree in international business with an emphasis in Latin American studies from San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus, in Calexico. She has worked in marketing, specializing in outreach to Latin American, Spanish-speaking populations; business financing; credit counseling;
and owned a management consulting firm.

“We don’t have entrepreneurial programs here. We need to have workshops, courses and seminars. Imperial Valley College and SDSU recognize that gap and we will be working with them to get programs moving.” she said.

Examples of focus areas include workshops on how to start a business, social media and cybersecurity, Moreno explained. She also hopes to obtain grants to finance such activities.

“We want to see that we’re fostering innovation and creativity. Rather than just looking for jobs, they can (establish a business and) create jobs,” Moreno said. “The entrepreneurial spirit is here. I hope to be a dedicated advocate for small business in the Imperial Valley.

Imperial Coffee Shop Moves Location


Imperial Coffee Company opened Monday; July 17th; at 447 West Aten Rd. Suite A. Owner Anna Thelen began her first cafe in 2015, and is moving to a new location to keep up with demand. That first location was called The Coffeeshop. It was located in the south western area of the city of Imperial on Aten Road. The Coffeeshop flourished. The mission statement of The Coffeeshop, “Giving back to and serving the community. We care for people first and coffee is a very close second. The Coffeeshop is dedicated to not being just another local coffee shop, rather the ultimate coffee shop; a coffee community.” Imperial Coffee Company looks to keep with the high standards of the original cafe while adding the convenience of a drive through.

Anna Thelen is the owner of Imperial Coffee Company. She moved to Imperial in 2014. The reason she moved to Imperial is because her husband, Austen, got a job at Imperial Valley College. He is a geography professor. Austen is from Michigan and Anna was born in Russia. Anna Thelen, owner of Imperial Coffee Company, said, ” I looked for a job for about a year and couldn’t find anything, so I decided to make my own job. Something that we really missed were small cafes and coffee shops that served fresh (small batch) coffee and healthy food items, so we wanted to create this kind of shop here in the Imperial Valley.”

When asked why her cafe was moving locations, and what new products to expect, Thelen said, “Our new address is 447 West Aten Rd. Suite A. Jerry Tucker, the owner of Tucker Auto Body, 4:13 Fitness, and a few other businesses, liked our old shop, so he offered us a primer spot in his new building, the “Lisa Tucker Center. We felt it was a great opportunity. Our old shop was pretty cozy, but the building wasn’t really designed to be a restaurant, and it ended up being a bit too small.” Now that there is adequate space, Imperial Coffee Company is open Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. “Please stop by and check us out.”


E.C. Chamber Prepping For Popular ‘Summer Bash’ Mixer


Special to the Imperial Valley Weekly and Calexico Chronicle

Hosting a chamber of commerce mixer is a great way to promote a business, yet some establishments have neither the space nor the staff to do so on their own. The El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau found an answer in 2006 when it started its annual coop mixer.

Now rebranded as the Summer Bash Mixer, the event will be held from 5-7 p.m., Thurs., Aug. 17 in Ryerson Hall at Desert Trails RV Park, 225 Wake Ave., El Centro. “Our members love it. They can generate new leads and new customers,” said Anthony Moreno, chamber membership/program director.

This year’s event has 17 “sponsors” that will have informational booths at the event, Moreno added. “It’s actually a few more than last year. We average between 15 and 20,” he said. “For attendance, we get 150-200 people throughout the event.”

The mixer includes refreshments, appetizers, and card and prize drawings. While monthly mixers are only open to El Centro Chamber members, the Summer Bash invites perspective members to attend as well. Moreno added the chamber does have a similar event from which new members can benefit too.

“On April 19, 2018, we will host our annual new member mixer. It introduces our new members to our existing members,” he explained. The format will be the same as the Summer Bash with new members listed as sponsors and afforded the opportunity to have a display booth at the event, Moreno said. The location of the new-member event will be chosen in early 2018, he added.

This year’s Summer Bash Mixer sponsors include Carrows Restaurant, Costco, El Centro Chamber Ambassadors, Hague Quality Water Solutions, Imperial Valley Chiropractic, Imperial Valley Community Foundation, Payless Auto Insurance, Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District, Servpro, State Farm Insurance Agent Sierra Jaime, Spread the Love Charity, The Desert Review Newspaper, The Local Pages and Yuma International Airport. As a member from a neighboring community, the Yuma airport sees its chamber membership and participation in the mixer as a chance to show Imperial Valley businesses all it has to offer, said Gen Grosse, who oversees airport property and community relations.

“We’d love people to consider flying from Yuma. But we also have airplane hangars available and many aviators from Imperial Valley use hangars in Yuma,” Grosse said of the message airport representatives will bring to next week’s mixer. “We also offer pilot training, quarterly socials for aviators and flight instructions.”