SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — What appears to be a neighborhood cafe in City Heights is doing more than serving up some eats. It's training the workers of tomorrow with a variety of skills.
Inside the Neighborhood Enterprise Center is a full-service cafe, plus a print shop that can produce anything from posters to shirts to mugs to sandals. The workers who staff both are between 15 and 22 and often have had trouble finding employment.
"We're in the City Heights community. We work with hundreds every year. One of the things that was lacking was jobs," said Dante Dauz, of the nonprofit Union of Pan Asian Communities, which operates the center.
"While they were working very hard to get jobs and it just wasn't happening, UPAC said you know what, let's be part of the solution."
The organization is continuing to hire and train youth. Itzell Mendoza, 19, learned the ropes of the print shop well enough to launch her own clothing line, called Believe Clothing Company.
"It feels great seeing people wear my brand, Believe Clothing Company, and it's something that little by little people start recognizing the brand and I'll get messages, 'Oh, I saw someone wearing your shirt.' It feels nice," she said.
While the pandemic has created challenges for all small businesses, UPAC was one of 23 nonprofits to get a recent microgrant from the city.
The $12,500 helped buy a Roland Printer Plotter, but at the end of the day, one key business lesson p- surviving still comes down to getting customers in the door.
"The more people come in here to use our catering, our print shop, our cafe," Dauz said, "The more we can hire."