Bob Shallit

Dreamers competition boosts Sacramento startups

Sun & Soil owner Tatiana Kaiser is on the verge of opening her third location.
Sun & Soil owner Tatiana Kaiser is on the verge of opening her third location. Bob Shallit

One local business startup competition has become a great launching pad even for the losers.

We’re talking about Calling All Dreamers, a 3-year-old contest started by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. The event has entrepreneurs putting forward business plans in hopes of getting a top prize of startup incentives valued at about $100,000, including up to six months of free rent, accounting help, legal services and cash.

Winners in the first three years all have done well. But what’s remarkable is the track record of semifinalists that didn’t collect the winners’ benefits but still went on to open successful operations either downtown or elsewhere in the city.

Indeed, since 2012, nine entrepreneurs besides the three first-place winners have opened up operations, according to Valerie Mamone-Werder, senior manager of business development with the DSP.

“It’s really exceeded our goals,” Mamone-Werder said, noting that the initial hope was to produce one “thriving” company each year. It’s producing about three times that amount.

She credits the contest’s rigorous requirements that have contestants continually refining their business plans, consulting with representatives from the Small Business Administration’s SCORE program and then doing “Shark Tank”-style pitches before committees with experienced entrepreneurs.

“No stone goes unturned,” she said, describing the scrutiny directed at the participants’ plans.

Past winners are Andy’s Candy Apothecary in downtown, children’s clothing boutique Ana Apple in Old Sacramento, and spice shop Allspicery, set to open this quarter at 1125 11th St.

Among the more successful also-rans: Sun & Soil, an organic juice bar that opened at 1912 P St, then started a satellite operation at 16 Powerhouse in midtown and now is readying a third location in Davis.

Co-owner Tatiana Kaiser credits the emotional support she and partner Molly Brown received from program leaders and the contest’s demanding deadline requirements to help “solidify a realistic business plan.”

I was going to open a sweets shop but decided I wanted to help get better nutrition out there.

Tatiana Kaiser, co-owner of Sun & Soil

Another successful semifinalist, The Workspace: Fashion Incubator, opened last week at 717 K St. Co-founder Karisa Gold said the goal eventually is to develop the business into a much larger enterprise where designers can work together in shared space.

Applications for this year’s contest are available now at and the entry deadline is March 29. This year’s winner will be announced in June.

Investor cashing in

Two more pieces of Abe Alizadeh’s real estate empire are coming on the market, eight years after the local developer’s business flameout.

For sale: a 30-acre parcel near the William Jessup University campus along Highway 65 in Rocklin and a partially completed office complex nearby.

Both were acquired from banks by local investor and developer Joseph Mohamed Sr. following the 2008 bankruptcy of Alizadeh’s Kobra Properties.

The 30-acre parcel, with an asking price of $30 million, was originally going to be a retail center called Rocklin Marketplace. It’s “the last really freeway-visible property in that part of Rocklin,” said Ranga Pathak, a Re/Max Gold broker who is listing both properties.

The office property, called the Atherton Corporate Center and priced at $12.75 million, has underground improvements completed and pads for six office buildings that would range from about 10,000 square feet to 66,000 square feet.

Mohamed bought and completed another unfinished Alizadeh project – a four-story office building at Oak and South Grant streets in downtown Roseville – and said he originally intended to finish up these two properties as well.

But, nearing 87, he said he’s slowed down a bit. Regarding the Rocklin sites, he said, “I’m going to let someone else pick it up from here.”