ICA Fund is excited to announce our latest round of Seed Capital investments: Annie’s T Cakes, negozee, and Projo*. These companies are making a mark on our local Bay Area small business ecosystem, and ICA is thrilled to support them in their mission to create positive change and build quality jobs in their communities.
Low-cost, flexible financing, like ICA’s Seed Capital, is often not available to early-stage founders, outside of a ‘friends and family round,’ which are less accessible to Black, Brown, and other people of color due to lower levels of generational wealth caused by systemic inequality.
At ICA Fund, companies become eligible to apply for equity investment from the ICA Seed Fund after graduating from the Lab. This type of capital is critical for underrepresented founders and — paired with ICA’s ongoing supportive services — helps them get their businesses off the ground at a critical juncture.
Learn how our three newest Seed Capital recipients — Annie’s T Cakes, negozee, and Projo* — are cultivating social impact within their local communities.
Annie’s T Cakes | Annie Wang
Annie's T Cakes is an Asian American, woman-owned bakery creating vegan treats inspired by East Asian treats from childhood.
Can you talk about the role that your personal identity played in building your business? As a Chinese-American. English was my first language, and then Mandarin came after that. First broken Mandarin, then slowly more fluent. But there was always that disconnect. Because of that, I grew up making a lot of my cultural connections through food. I'd cook with my mom in the kitchen and make dumplings with my family when we would visit China. We'd sit around a lazy Susan with my dad's side of the family on the Sundays we'd visit. When I became vegetarian—now vegan—a lot of the foods I grew up making these memories around were foods I no longer chose to eat. There weren't really any accessible options for me to still have these core experiences in a vegan way. So I wanted to make that for myself and others in a similar position.
What’s next for your company? It's been almost three years of hacking it mostly alone. I'd like to hire and create good jobs!
What was the most surprising thing about your journey with ICA? ICA is one of the most supportive communities I've been a part of since starting my business. Even before I qualified to participate in The Lab, I connected with Hannah who was helpful and introduced me to folks. ICA is a gem!
The investment was made through the ICA Impact Note — what social good do you plan to achieve through your business? I aim to build a company that truly takes care of its employees and community. One way we’ll do that is through a percentage of profits shared with employees to start.”
negozee | Tony Martinez
negozee is a San Jose-based company supporting Latino immigrant entrepreneurs by offering expert-led, peer-driven business content en Español.
Can you talk about the role that your personal identity played in building your business? We started negozee for my parents, uncles, aunts and millions of immigrants like them. We noticed the desire to succeed in the US but the challenge to understand laws and regulation due to the language barrier. By simply explaining things in Spanish, we open the world to the US capital market.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur? The biggest challenge I've faced is "building the plane and flying it at the same time". There's no time to "manage" the team if you're busy closing sales. Should I work in the business or on the business today?
What’s next for your company? Our next phase is to increase user acquisition, close more brand deals, expand to Puerto Rico and Colombia, and launch "Emprende Startups" which is a "startup school" in Spanish.
What was the most surprising thing about your journey with ICA? The most surprising thing in my journey with ICA is how available and accessible everyone is. Anytime I need something I reach out and they're available. I feel like ICA helps me "break into" Silicon Valley.
The investment was made through the ICA Impact Note — what social good do you plan to achieve through your business? Right now we're focusing on growing revenue. This will allow us to hire more staff and provide benefits.
Projo* | Charbel Mawad
Projo* is easy to digest and lactose-free, and a good alternative to plant-based options which typically aren’t a complete source of protein and tend to have a lot of fillers and preservatives.
What inspired you to start your company? I was struggling to consume enough protein and the options out there weren't the best fit because of the ingredients and the reactions they were giving me. I ended up switching to coffee as a source of energy because it is all natural. I realized how many people were also struggling to consume enough protein, so to combine my knowledge in health and wellness with my love of coffee, I created Projo*.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur? Focusing on how to create and evolve the best product for our consumers. I sourced dozens and dozens of ingredients to find the right formula for our product, and focused on packaging that would appeal to our consumers. This was a massive challenge with our supply chain.
What’s next for your company? We have been focused on our local community and laying out a footprint of who we are in the bay area. Now, we are growing our retail and brand presence nationally through partnerships with grocery stores and other retailers. We’re excited to make it more accessible and convenient to buy Projo* so that people nationwide have the right nutrition and energy to fuel them on their journeys.
What was the most surprising thing about your journey with ICA? I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. Going through the Lab really helped me understand the financials of my business and how to make it more capital efficient and sustainable with a long-term, profitable business model.
What are the impact note metrics you’re focused on achieving? Job creation. You can find incredibly talented people who haven’t been provided the right resources and opportunities to step into their communities and accomplish their goals. At Projo*, we are sourcing the right people just like we did with our ingredients — we focus on understanding people's backgrounds, passions, and their why.
Investing in Long-term Community Impact
By investing in the growth and success of underestimated businesses, we help diverse Bay Area founders create good jobs, wealth, and economic resilience. Our comprehensive support empowers these business owners to unleash their full potential, create sustainable growth, and contribute to a more inclusive and resilient economy.
About ICA Fund
ICA Fund is an impact-focused nonprofit venture capital firm in the Bay Area. We help diverse founders grow their businesses and create wealth for themselves, their employees, and their communities.