The State of San Diego Small Business

by Karim Bouris, Business for Good

Since everyone’s doing their State-of-the thing, we’ll join the fun and share what we think matters. If San Diego’s going to be a world-class city, then we need to focus our efforts to achieve two outcomes:

increasing quality of life for all san diegans

Businesses care about issues. They’re impacted by the same polarizing debates at the national level and feel their effects locally. We engage them directly on the policy issues below because they have their finger on the pulse on things, so we just ask them if they’re seeing improvements in, say, the way we get around town, their energy bills, or the cost of living. We believe they’re ideally suited to weigh on our local decision-making to make sure “quality of life” is increased for all San Diegans, not just a select few.

Bolstering small business competitiveness

It’s time we match local policies to the demographic reality of our local businesses. If 97% of San Diego’s businesses are small and medium enterprises with less than a hundred employees, then the idea that growth in size – be it revenues or employees – is the only metric by which we measure their success is flawed. Let’s focus instead our investment and technical assistance dollars on strengthening how they do business, with long-term sustainability in mind.

The midterm elections changed the landscape in San Diego. In a short period of time we’ve seen the influence that fresh perspectives can bring. A quick tasting sample:

  • Less than a year ago, we spoke up against the County Board of Supervisors’ vote to join the Trump administration’s lawsuit against a set of California state laws providing basic protections to undocumented immigrants. That same body voted this week to sue the Trump administration over its migrant release program. The difference? In our mind, bolder leadership by new Supervisor Nathan Fletcher who delivers on his commitment to represent the values of most San Diegans to his work .
  • San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez’ 2019 agenda includes increased homeless outreach, better access to city contracts, relocation assistance for priced-out renters, resources to achieve our climate action plan goals, pursuing more state funds – real solutions to problems addressed historically with bandaids
  • The Metropolitan Transit System makes a strong push to transform its underused parking lots into affordable housing – again under the leadership of its new chair, Georgette Gómez.
  • SANDAG’s new executive director, Hasan Ikhrata, is beginning to address long-needed transit-oriented development strategies and putting plans in place to make sure the region meets its role in fighting climate change.

The common link in all these examples: a willingness to push for lasting solutions. We’re hopeful about the positive changes that can come when you put folks with the right values in the right places. Practically speaking, this means that each of our member-led advisory committees have been planning the issues they want to prioritize in 2019 & beyond.

Environmental Health

• Publishing and updating an online resource for businesses on the EPS/Styrofoam ban and single-use plastics ordinance
• Ensuring the County’s Climate Action Plan gets updated with better binding goals that don’t rely on carbon-offsets
• Supporting the city of San Diego’s rollout of the community choice energy program
• Finding a solution to the devastating spill of sewage, chemical waste and plastic pollution into the Tijuana River
• Updating SANDAG’s Regional Transportation Plan with a strong commitment to transit-oriented housing development strategies
• Developing a regional waste management plan that will eventually give San Diego a composting facility


• Distributing more We Welcome You posters to businesses across the region
• Researching the impacts of border tightening policies on the San Diego economy
• Creating a countywide naturalization support fund
• Tracking the number of I-9 workplace audits performed by ICE on targeted industries
• Ensuring the City’s Welcoming San Diego strategic plan recommendations get implemented
• Leveraging government financing through social impact bonds to get more new Americans on career pathways
• Launching community-based loan and financing options that provide capital for immigrant entrepreneurs


• Getting our toolkit into the hands of as many businesses as possible
• Ensuring the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless (county) and the San Diego Housing Commission (city) create actionable plans
• Supporting bond measure(s) that include clear metrics to address affordable housing shortages
• Modifying the inclusionary affordable housing fees to promote more onsite unit development
• Committing a publicly financed flexible funding pool to incentivize landlord participation
• Encouraging citywide review of community planning groups’ transparency and compliance to better inform local development projects

Business resources

• Developing a directory of financing options for small and medium enterprises
• Updating the city of San Diego’s business incentive policy
• Prioritizing city investments in Opportunity Zones in 2019
• Ensuring accurate and timely reporting on city’s Community Reinvestment Master Plan
• Creating appropriate City/County startup supports
• Supporting a Disparity Study on City contractor diversity

We expect our members to become increasingly present at the neighborhood level to encourage more housing in all neighborhoods, develop more transit, help more families thrive, support more small businesses succeed.

Upgrade Our Take-Out Containers or Protect Business? San Diego Can Do Both


By Phil Blair, Executive Officer at Manpower and Laurie Britton, Owner of Café Virtuoso

It’s no surprise that our daily routines as a café owner and an executive for one of San Diego’s largest employers are pretty different. However, the two of us – Laurie Britton of Café Virtuoso and Phil Blair of Manpower Staffing – stand together in our belief that great local leaders strive to do right by business owners and their customers. By limiting harmful single-use food containers in our restaurants, it is possible for San Diego’s City Council to support healthy business and a healthy community all at once. Continue reading “Upgrade Our Take-Out Containers or Protect Business? San Diego Can Do Both”

San Diego, the Welcoming City

by Juan Pablo Sanchez, Owner of Super Cocina

Creating “an inclusive economy in San Diego” has been a regional buzzword for the last couple of years. But what does that really mean for those of us who don’t spend their time in economic development think-tanks, government hallways or philanthropic board rooms?

Continue reading “San Diego, the Welcoming City”

In The New Economy, Everyone Is An Investor

by Alan Haghighi, owner of FruitCraft Fermentery & Distillery

There is something about the desire to get reacquainted with what it means to be human that drives the next generation of business owners we see today. We want our businesses to serve our clients’ needs while advocating social justice, a clean environment, and compassion for each other.

Most of all, we strive to return to a sense of community. A place where we know and trust one another and actually care about our shared fate.

But ironically, in order to bring these social enterprises into existence, business owners like me — who had little start-up capital — often have to turn to funding sources whose values couldn’t be further from our own. Continue reading “In The New Economy, Everyone Is An Investor”

Why Keeping Up Appearances Is The Only Way Forward

by Hasani James, Owner of Exclusive Window Cleaning

As business owners, we all wear it. We have to. That professional veil that projects our most competent, confident selves to the world. The thing that puts mandatory grins on our faces and keeps the high-fives coming despite dismal sales forecasts, sluggish growth, or near-empty bank accounts.

The perception that we have it all figured out is as crucial for our own sanity as it is for our clients’ tranquility and our employees’ motivation.

Continue reading “Why Keeping Up Appearances Is The Only Way Forward”

The business case for a ban on (certain) single-use plastics

by Mike Torti of C&M Motors, Inc.

Something amazing is brewing in San Diego, and not a new craft beer this time: our city officials are proposing a ban on certain single-use plastics that include expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers.  

Which means that we’re all likely to hear confusing thoughts about this topic in the weeks to come, especially from groups who’ll make it sound like a death sentence for businesses and consumers. Seeing as I’m both in business and spend the bulk of my free time chairing the San Diego chapter of Surfrider Foundation, I feel well positioned to provide this primer on why banning styrofoam plates and single-use plastic utensils is good for all of us in San Diego. Continue reading “The business case for a ban on (certain) single-use plastics”

When Marriage Isn’t Forever And Your Business Might Not Be, Either

by George Thornton, owner of The Homebrewer

The idea of starting your own business can be infectious. In fact, I often joke that entrepreneurism is a disease.

And one of the symptoms of this disease is the rosey lens through which we view our entrepreneurial partnerships. Continue reading “When Marriage Isn’t Forever And Your Business Might Not Be, Either”

Raising Businesses and Children

by Lauren Passero Brookes, Owner/Operator of Kensington Cafe, The Haven PizzeriaDEL SUR Mexican Cantina

I’m a woman, a business owner and a mother. That’s all you need to know about me in no particular order. And my story’s punch line is really an exercise in circular logic: Pregnancy turned me into a better business owner; being a better business owner made me a better mother.

Now let’s mix in a few more stereotypes and judgmental factors about my business acumen:

  • I opened a restaurant but I can’t cook.
  • I launched it at the height of the Great Recession.
  • I try to make everyone happy and dread upsetting anyone.
  • I opened a second restaurant when I started my family.
  • I opened a third restaurant with a toddler and newborn.

Continue reading “Raising Businesses and Children”

Figuring out Council Policy 900-12

By: Vilavanh Sanginthirath, CEO of Innovations City

After 17 years, small business owners are working directly with the City to create the right kinds of supports to help us grow. Spoiler alert: it’s how the City can invest $57,000 in small businesses instead of a large grocery chain, so keep reading…

Engaged. Excited. Empowered.

Those were some of my emotions as I was listening to each speaker and waiting for my turn to make public comments at the last City Council meeting on this topic. Or, for the fact-checkers out there, the city council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations committee – ED&IR, for those in the know.

Continue reading “Figuring out Council Policy 900-12”