SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — What appears to be a neighborhood cafe in City Heights does more than serve a few meals. It is about training the workers of tomorrow with a variety of skills.
Inside of Neighborhood Business Center is a full-service cafe, as well as a print shop that can produce anything from posters and shirts to mugs and sandals. The workers who employ them are between 15 and 22 years old and have often had difficulty finding a job.
“We’re in the City Heights community. We work with hundreds of people every year. One of the things that was missing was jobs,” said Dante Dauz of the nonprofit Pan Asian Community Union, which runs the center.
“When they were working very hard to find jobs and it just wasn’t happening, UPAC said you know what, let’s be part of the solution.”
The organization continues to hire and train young people. Itzell Mendoza, 19, has learned the ropes of printing enough to start his own clothing line, called Believe Clothing Company.
“It feels good to see people wearing my brand, Believe Clothing Company, and it’s something that little by little people are starting to recognize the brand and I get messages, ‘Oh, I saw someone wear your shirt.’ It’s nice,” she said.
While the pandemic has created challenges for all small businesses, UPAC was one of 23 nonprofits to secure a recent microgrant from the city.
The $12,500 bought a Roland printer plotter, but ultimately a key business lesson in surviving always comes down to getting customers in.
“The more people come here to use our catering, our printing press, our cafe,” Dauz said, “the more we can hire.”