Calling All Dreamers: Meet the Semi-Finalists

Ten aspiring business owners will compete to open a storefront in Downtown Sacramento and a business start up package valued at an estimated $135,000. The annual Calling All Dreamers competition is produced by the Downtown Sacramento Foundation.

“The pool of applicants seemed especially strong this year. I was impressed by the quality of the applications and the diversity of concepts submitted,” said Ali Youssefi, Vice President of CFY Development and selection committee member. “Our city is filled with passionate entrepreneurs, who see value in opening a business in Downtown, and this year’s contest is a testament to that fact.”

The 10 semi-finalists, who will advance in the competition, were selected from a field of 33 applicants. Over the next month, contestants will work with a SCORE counselor to refine their business plans in preparation for the public vote in April and final pitch in May. The winner will be announced in May with the intent to open their storefront in November.

“The field of competitors was impressive, and selecting semi-finalists was no easy feat,” said Valerie Mamone-Werder, DSP Senior Manager of Business Development. “We had to limit ourselves to just 10 semi-finalists so that we could pair each contestant with their personal business mentor through SCORE.”

The 2014 Calling All Dreamers semi-finalists represent a range of first-time and experienced business owners as well as soft-good retailers, service businesses, and eateries.

Meet the 2014 Calling All Dreamers Finalists:

Click here for full bios

Ana Manzano, Ana Apple
This multi-use space would include a retail store and workshop studio for local artists to work with children and provide community-driven programming and benefits. The retail boutique would offer Ana Apple’s clothing brand, which creates quirky, eco-friendly apparel for infants and youth that celebrates childhood whimsy and inspires generosity. 

Nicholas Russo, Better Foods Deli
Better Foods Deli’s downtown location will continue providing the highest quality sandwiches as well as showcasing local products. A key piece to the new location is an “in house” pop-up restaurant that will occur once a week and be run like an underground supper club. Dinners will be low-key, but made from the freshest meats, produce and breads gathered from the local farmers’ markets and bakeries.

Kati Kouklis, Juice-A-Peel
Juice-A-Peel will offer raw juice, smoothies, raw almond milk, Kombucha, and one or three-day juice cleanses. Juice-A-Peel will promote well-being by providing high-quality and nutrient dense beverages that are from organically grown and locally sourced produce. 

Alma & Armando Rodriguez, Las Islitas
Las Islitas is a 14-year old family owned restaurant business offering a unique menu consisting of tropical authentic Latin style seafood platters. This Latin-style seafood restaurant will combine both tropical and traditional Mexican styles of cooking using family recipes that have been around for 25 years. 

Ernesto Delgado, Mercado Urbano
Mercado Urbano will be a full service one-stop-shop urban market with foods and products that have been carefully prepared and selected for our community from our region for our region. Mercado Urbano’s specialty products will reflect a mix of old favorites as well as emerging “favorites-to-be.” Many of specialty products are organic and from small producers from our region that will satisfy inner Sacramento’s emergent demand for dinning, shopping, and education that supports the farm-to-fork philosophy.

Lisa Musilli Johnson, Metro Juice Company
Metro Juice is a vibrant lifestyle food and beverage company unique to Sacramento. They will handcraft original and delicious organic nut milks, cold-pressed juices, whole-food smoothies, and creative organic salads. Our flagship store will be located in the Sacramento urban core. 

Todd Sebastian & Jason Biessinger, Off the Chain Bike Bus Tours
Off The Chain Bike Bus Tours is the eco-friendly way to enjoy Sacramento. Experience a trip with up to 14 of your friends on a pedal-powered adventure. Their customized bike bus blends comfort and safety into an interactive social activity you will never forget.

Seth Sears & Chris Kettmann, Quick Draw Pizza
Quick Draw Pizza will be one of Sacramento’s first true fast casual pizza places. When you walk into this western-themed restaurant you will have two choices. You can sit down and order off one of the many iPads, or go through the line and watch your artisan-style pizza pass through every station, including dough press, sauce, cheese, toppings, and finally watch it bake in less than five minutes.

Nicholas Wray Wilson & Mike Coffman, Sacramento Climbing and Mountaineering
This rock climbing and mountaineering retail shop will provide workshops, clinics, ride shares and meet ups, bringing together a community of outdoor enthusiasts while promoting stewardship of our world class climbing areas. 

Shawn Ramos, Shawn’s Soap Shop
Shawn’s Soap Shop is the place to find unique, hand-crafted body care products using the best ingredients available to make soaps, lip balms, lotion bars, shampoo bars, bath salts, bath bombs, massage oils, salves, and body scrubs. Our skin is our largest organ—so take care of it with the best products available.


“Downtown Sacramento is going through an urban revival unlike any period in the last 50 years. Our central city is becoming a more vibrant place to live, work and play, and these new and emerging businesses are playing a vital role in shaping this city’s urban fabric,” said Youssefi. “Calling All Dreamers is encouraging entrepreneurs to come Downtown at one of the most critical moment’s in this City’s history.”

 Calling All Dreamers is made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors who continue to be champions for the economic growth of the Downtown core and the Sacramento region: Sacramento State, College of Business Administration, SMUD, Wells Fargo, Big Hairy Dog, Vision Launchers, MarketOne Builders, Sactown Magazine, MeringCarson, LJ2 Interiors, Sacramento Magazine, Inside Publications, Brown Fink Boyce & Astle, LLP, Inside Publications, Law Office of Kristina M. Reed, and SCORE.

For more information on the competition and timeline, visit