Cathie Anderson: SBA will open Sacramento center to help women entrepreneurs

Published: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 - 11:32 am

The phone rings every day at California Capital, the small business lender on O Street in midtown Sacramento, with calls from people who want money to start or expand a business.

Over 30 years, many applications have come from women, including Ginger Haun of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, Donna Gary, who created the Client Tickler software, and Bobbi Little at Bobbi's House of Balance.

The nonprofit lender's president, Clarence Williams, has found that women face particular obstacles when they try to get started or to expand.

"Typically, we find that sales or gross receipts are not as high for women's businesses because they're usually selling straight to retail whereas most businesses that have higher sales are doing business-to-business," Williams said. "You also see certain issues, like the inability to penetrate networks and to be able to market and extend their businesses."

Williams wanted a Women's Business Center in the Central Valley to advise entrepreneurs on how to meet such challenges, and over several years, he asked the Small Business Administration to fund one. The federal agency maintains a network of nearly 100 such centers nationally.

Last Friday, California Capital learned that the SBA would give them a five-year, $650,000 contract to run a center, the first in the state outside Southern California or the Bay Area.

The new director of the Women's Business Center will be Deborah Lowe Muramoto, who's served as director of fund development and marketing for many of her 20-plus years at California Capital.

Capsity comes of age

Back in 2008, Jeff Louie and partner Ricardo Robles opened Capsity on P Street in Sacramento. It was an office where entrepreneurs and telecommuters could work independently but share ideas and the costs of the space.

Called "co-working" spaces, such offices had existed for years in San Francisco, but Louie and Robles were the first to try it here.

The idea worked so well that Robles found other ventures and pursued them. Louie, 29, found other partners and kept the Capsity community going. Today, he'll have a coming-of-age party, of sorts.

Louie is welcoming visitors to an open house at Capsity's new building in Sacramento's Tower District. Located at 2572 21st St., it's a space that Louie and his partners own.

Talk about grown-up responsibility. It still feels new to Louie, who focuses on connecting people who can help each other get ideas off the ground.

"We want people to feel inspired – whether it's a business or a nonprofit or if they are working on an event," Louie told me.

It's a party at Big Top

The Wishing Well chain of party stores closed its last location in January 2010 after a 61-year run, but a month afterward, customers were still expressing sadness on the business' page at

Mike McClure, the son of two of Wishing Well's founders, was so certain that Sacramento still missed the Wishing Well that he and his wife, Sara, decided to invest their own money to open a new store.

"We have a whole new venture with the same feeling as Wishing Well," Sara McClure said. "We put our heart and soul into it. Sacramento was missing it. We knew it."

The store, called Under the Big Top, opened Oct. 1 at a former Wishing Well location, 5121 College Oak Drive, in Sacramento. Customers will find bulk party supplies, $6.99 piñatas, balloons galore, party favors, bins of cheap tchotchkes and much, much more.

When the Wishing Well closed, the owners blamed competition from Wal-Mart, but the McClures are confident they can make it work.

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