Mentorship and Connection: The Keys to Economic Empowerment

Every day, we support various businesses from the second we wake up until we go to sleep at night. Everything from how we consume news to the place we buy our groceries shows our support for various companies and their ideals.

More and more, we expect the companies we support to have a positive impact on their local communities and society as a whole.

In this respect, it doesn’t get much better than Mamacitas Cafe, which is why LONA was thrilled to award Shana, their founder and executive director, our first grant of 2019.

What makes Mamacitas Cafe so special? Their #1 priority is to create employment and leadership opportunities for women who are having the hardest time finding and maintaining jobs. They focus on hiring women transitioning from the juvenile justice or child welfare system, and mentor them in so many aspects of the business: food service, management and leadership skills, customer service, event planning and entrepreneurship. All while making incredibly delicious food.

Shana has demonstrated unbelievable business acumen since the inception of Mamacitas. They launched as a pop-up coffee and donut shop in 2014, and opened a brick and mortar shop in 2016. At the time, this wasn’t a sustainable option for them, so they moved out of this space into a commercial kitchen, and began to focus heavily on event catering. They became a full-service catering business in March 2018 and their food is out of this world. We know, we’ve tried it!

However, we didn’t award Shana a grant simply because she is business savvy. Moreso, we are in awe of how she pours her heart and soul into creating a positive social impact in the community where she was born and raised.

She places her employees at the forefront of all business decisions, and guides them in becoming strong, skilled and financially stable women.

Because of this, we felt confident in awarding Shana a $3500 grant to go towards the purchase of a catering van. A catering van would allow them to increase their service area by more than 25%, improve day-to-day efficiency in delivering for their events and use the van itself as a way to advertise!

Notably, as further evidence of their commitment to Oakland’s young women, Mamacitas Cafe plans to launch a paid fellowship program in partnership with the Young Women’s Freedom Center this July. The program aims to provide young women, aged 18-24 who have been previously incarcerated, with opportunities to gain professional, personal and leadership skills that will allow them to explore their true passions and realize their future career goals.

We cannot overstate the value in Shana’s work: recognizing capable leaders in Oakland’s young women, and giving them the resources and opportunities that will allow them to thrive. LONA is extremely proud to support Shana’s vision of using mentorship and connection as tools to create concrete economic opportunities for her employees, and look forward to supporting them along on their journey!

-Amy Gragnolati, LONA Co-founder

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