Centro Community Partners Helps Small Business Dreams Flourish

By Cathy Niland | 02.22.21

Starting a small business is always a challenging task, but doing so during the pandemic makes it especially difficult. Artists, crafters, and makers have spent the last year implementing new ways to create, grow, and sustain their small businesses. And fortunately the Bay Area nonprofit, Centro Community Partners (Centro) was there to help.

With funding support from the team at Citigroup, Centro and The Crucible launched our first virtual partner program in 2020, inviting members of the Crucible community to participate in entrepreneurship training. Since 2019, we’ve been lucky to work with them to hold a handful of courses, modified to support the specific needs of artisans and craftspeople.

Centro impacts the community in a variety of ways. We primarily focus on underserved communities so we work with entrepreneurs, mostly minorities and women, and we provide them with the tools to become exceptional business leaders.

– Arturo Noriega
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Participants gain knowledge and confidence with Centro Community Partners

In the most recent nine-week course, six participants learned skills for building their business plans, organizing finances, finding opportunities for capital, and much more. At the end of the program, each participant presented their next steps for their businesses and received a certificate of completion from instructor Vanita Lee-Tatum.

“I feel like whenever I talked about my business idea I was like, ‘Oh maybe one day,’ but this program has helped it feel more real and concrete,” shared Leah Ingram during their final presentation. “It’s been awesome to have this community, and to learn about everyone’s ideas, and be validated in the ideas that I have.“

Below, you can find more details about each of our most recent Centro graduates. Get to know more about their businesses and journeys through the training program. You can also sign up for Centro’s upcoming Basic Entrepreneurship Online Program for Crafters and Artisans and take your small business to the next level.

Basic Entrepreneurship Online Program

Wednesdays, April 7 – Jun 2, 5:30-8:30 pm PST
Registration Deadline: Wednesday, March 31

Join Centro Community Partners for a 9-session Online Entrepreneurship Program designed to help artisans, craftspeople, and makers start and launch a small business in these areas. You will learn basic business strategy, personal financial budgeting, market analysis, products/services, operations, marketing strategy, and business finance, all in the context of scaling your work.

Meet the Centro Community Partners Program Graduates

centro community partners graduates

LR Altman

Visual Artist

LR Altman is an accomplished visual artist with an MFA in Sculpture and Glass from CCA. For years, she relied on representation from galleries to sell her work. But with the advent of social media, greater access to e-commerce platforms, and the recent pandemic, LR wanted to shift her focus to more direct sales. Her goal in joining the Centro program was to develop her marketing skills and increase promotions for her work. “It’s a really exciting time to be an artist because the whole field is shifting really quickly,” she shared in her final presentation. “When I started as an artist, the gallery people were the gatekeepers. Now with the internet, it’s possible to have more contact with people.”

Follow LR Altman on Instagram @lr.altman

centro community partners graduates

Leah Ingram

Jewelry Designer

Leah Ingram’s laser-cut jewelry allows the wearer to express their gender and sexual identity with LGBTQIA+ vocabulary and without limitation. “I think something that makes my product unique is I sell my earrings in singles instead of a pair,” Leah explained. “I think that’s really important for queer people to have that option because we’re not just one thing, there are so many variations.” Leah joined the Centro program to validate their brand vision and learn how to expand their business. So far, Centro has helped Leah secure a Kiva interest-free business loan and will continue to provide guidance on financing opportunities.

Follow Leah on Instagram @shopqueerrings

centro community partners graduates

Krystle Chipman

Future Cafe Owner

Krystle Chipman’s background in collaborative philanthropy has led her to envision the Discover Community Cafe, an Oakland coffee and food venue that will offer apprenticeships to people overcoming barriers to employment, as well as leadership, development and financial literacy training. When sharing her vision for the business, she said, “I want to partner with nonprofits that are anchored in the community and focused on workforce development, to help with recruiting apprentices. I just really want the cafe to be a space where people can build relationships with their neighbors.” Krystle’s reason for joining the Centro program was to develop the basic business skills needed to launch her cafe, especially those related to finance.

centro community partners graduates

Tammy Welch

Fashion Designer and Seamstress

Tammy Welch came into the Centro program with one major goal in mind. “I want to learn how to run a successful business,” she shared before her first session even began. Now after the nine-week program, Tammy is that much closer to bringing her fashions and tailoring skills to the East Bay, having completed her very first business plan with Centro’s help. “Thank you everyone, it was a pleasure,” said Tammy during her final presentation. “This is something I’ll talk about for a long time. I received my certificate online in 2020—the year that was cancelled—and I was able to accomplish my business plan. I can’t believe it, but I did it!”

centro community partners graduates

Leah Vass


Leah Vass, the owner of Ta Bouche Chocolate, is a talented chocolatier specializing in high-end, designer chocolates and chocolate sculptures. She joined the Centro program with two goals in mind; improving her business operations and financial skills, and learning new tools for connecting with clients. Leah’s business is particularly suited for events and celebrations but COVID-19 has curtailed her reach in those areas. She hopes to use her Centro knowledge to adjust her business strategy. In the final session of the program, Leah shared, “This has been a really wonderful experience. It was just in the nick of time.”

Follow Leah Vass on Instagram @tabouchechocolate

centro community partners graduates

Megan Quintal

Future Arts Venue Owner

As an experienced nonprofit employee, Megan Quintal is working toward creating a space for artists and performers to showcase their talent. Joining the Centro program was a jumping off point for her in developing a business plan and working toward securing a location. During the last program session, Megan shared that she had already framed her program certificate and is ready for the next phase of her business development thanks to Centro’s guidance.

centro community partners graduates

Vanita Lee-Tatum

Centro’s Entreprenership Trainer

Vanita serves as an Entrepreneur Trainer for Centro in the Bay Area. She is a former Small Business Banking VP turned Visual Artist and Entrepreneur. Vanita believes in the power of artistic expression to inspire others to achieve their dreams. She holds a BA in Multicultural & Gender Studies from California State University, Chico as well as an MBA from the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business at Mills College. Vanita is passionate about small business education as well as opening pathways to create economic opportunities for marginalized entrepreneurs.

Are you ready to build your business with Centro Community Partners and The Crucible?

Register for the Basic Entrepreneurship Online Program for Crafters and Artisans by March 31.

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