As a freelance writer, I find myself interviewing small business owners and entrepreneurs a lot. That’s the nature of reporting on arts & culture and city life — I get to constantly encounter people who are in the midst of creating new things and embarking on new social enterprises, people who gird their loins and invest in an empty storefront before they feel totally prepared, people who had an idea one morning and made it a reality a year later (or a month later… I talked with one guy who decided to open an apothecary one day, and opened the doors to his apothecary literally five weeks later, no joke).

I love this work. I love hearing all of these stories and getting to know people who have big and small dreams of making their own ways in the world. I’ve become professional acquaintances with many of them, good friends with some of them. Through them and with them, I also love the city of Oakland more and more every day, and all of the vibrancy people create in this city.

My goal is to interview and photograph at least 100 Oakland small business owners, no real deadline, just to keep going with it.

Here are the first ten:


(1) Amy and Blake
“If I can get a couple extra people to wonder where their fish or flour is coming from or what’s happening to the farmers who are farming pesticide-ridden fields, that’s great; it’s important to me.” -Amy

(2) Jeff
“We’re gonna carry ourselves more powerfully to help make change and support others if we’re feeling good about ourselves – like if I have a decent pair of shoes that’s well-made and, you know, matches my pants.”

(3) Nola
“We want to educate people, to change policies, to change the community in response to a community problem.”

(4) Candice and Dion
“We became friends in high school ’cause we liked each others’ styles. I saw her and was like, ‘Oh, she dresses cute.’” -Dion

(5) Nicholas
“I’m not really fond of capitalism. I tried to start this shop as a collective, but it wasn’t right. I was pushing something that was supposed to be my contribution to the community and trying to make it community-based in the space where it was supposed to be just my contribution.”

(6) Jaynelle
“Once I decided to start this thing, I never looked back. So that meant just working with whatever I had – which was not anything. Not a pie box. At one point I didn’t have a rolling pin; I was using some PVC pipe.”

(7) Ruth (second from left) and Diane (far right)
“Just like people, there’s a correlation between what we eat and how we live. We educated ourselves and we support consumers to educate themselves.”

(8) Moses
“We’ve now worked out about 90 percent of the things we wish we’d worked out before we opened.”

(9) Preeti
“My partner and I met really young and we moved to San Francisco in 1996. We kinda have always had a desire and a knack for entertaining, just amongst our friends. Nowadays people are really into food, but in the late ’90s no one cared about food the way we do now, and the two of us would throw these elaborate dinner parties when we were, like, 24 years old. Nobody did that shit. But we were really into it. We would make people dress up and have table settings and place cards and do several-coursed meals.”

(10) Fred
“Film crews have come in here and dragged their cords all through my shop… That movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,’ they came in here a while back. I’ve been here 30 years. I’ve seen all kinds of things.”