Astrid Lopez, Elite Sport Soccer and Financial Consultant

Who would have guessed that getting in financial difficulties can turn someone in a financial expert! It happened to Astrid Lopez.

The Lopez family immigrated to the U.S. in the late eighties from Bogotá in order to escape Colombia’s political, social, and economic unrest, and live in a safer environment. Astrid and her husband pursued the economic opportunity afforded them and opened Elite Sports Soccer, Inc., a retail business selling soccer clothing and accessories like their shop in Colombia. Having built a successful business in Colombia Astrid enrolled in Women’s Initiative, where she learned how to do business in the U.S. Eventually Astrid’s family business helped pay for her childrens’ college tuition, purchase a home in San Francisco, hire eight part-time employees and open a second store.

In 2014, their new landlord discussed plans of using their building for a different purpose when the lease ended. Astrid’s family entered a period of crisis. They worried about the future of their business constantly. If they were to close the store, she wondered, would they be able to afford to sign a lease at a new location or pay off her mortgage and children’s college debt? They considered selling everything and moving back to Colombia.

Fortunately, a friend encouraged Astrid to study finance. She enrolled in a seminar, which made her eager to learn how she could save her business. She soon realized how much she would need to work in order to plan for retirement and accumulate family savings, which she did not have at the time. She continued her studies, earned a license as a certified financial planner and started a financial coaching business.

Astrid enrolled in Renaissance’s Women’s Paso a Paso class in 2016. She appreciated learning business concepts in her native language and the comfort of being with peers with similar cultural backgrounds. She said the class was “like fresh water where I could reminisce my early years as a business owner and share my knowledge with classmates, reexamine my values, and look at how I can improve upon my new financial consulting business.” Astrid enjoyed the empowerment classes and positive class environment, which gave her the confidence to know that anything is possible with sufficient preparation and planning. As a result, she is now conducting market research, researching the competition, organizing her finances and building strong relationships with clients.

She became passionate about educating individuals and business owners on the importance of budgeting, savings, investments or retirement plans and organizing business taxes. Although she works with clients of all backgrounds, she especially enjoys working with Latinos and confronting the cultural barriers they have to offer lessons on the value of financial planning. She strives to reach as many families as possible so the number of parents passing financial literacy down to their children is tremendous. Finally, she wants to make sure that small business owners don’t go through 26 years of being in business without financial planning like her family.

Today Astrid stands without fear of what the future will bring. She plans to keep Elite Sports Soccer, Inc. operational as long as she is able. At the same time, she will continue to build her clientele for her financial consulting business and grow her own financial investments. Renaissance is proud that Astrid is now a consultant in Futuros Seguros, our financial empowerment program for Latino women.

12 Ways of Giving!

By Janice Nesamani, Communications Professional 

Looking for the perfect gifts – ones that provide true meaning this holiday season –  a partridge in a pear tree or seven swans a swimming? We’ve put together a curated gift guide that gives you the opportunity to purchase products from companies run by women in the Renaissance community who not only offer fabulous products, but are also dedicated to using their business to making the world a better place. Each one contributes a portion of her sales to make a real difference to those in need, or are shepherds of our environment, running conscientious, eco-friendly businesses. What do they say about gifting…it’s the thought that counts!


1. Wholeself Health

Tobi Lessem Wholeself Health massage therapistTobi Lessem is a massage therapist and fitness training and health education expert. She found the strength to start her own company after receiving instruction and guidance from Renaissance Center in Marin. She aims to integrate a healthy lifestyle within everyday lives, and to contribute to the wellness of her community – she donates 2 percent of proceeds from her sports and community events to affiliated non-profits. A gift certificate for her Ice and Fire massage or Couples Massage is a relaxing holiday surprise. Price Range: $15- $200



2. 12 Small Things

Renaissance Business, 12 Small Things Laurie Kanes scours the globe for fair trade products that can add a touch of elegance to any home and wardrobe. Each season Laurie presents items from different artisans who are given the opportunity to make a living wage from the sale of their products. Whether it is Matiox cushions from the Guatemalan Highlands or handmade jewelry from the Maasai community in Tanzania, you will empower a community. This holiday season Laurie gives you the opportunity of wrapping up in a luxurious cashmere shawl, made from cashmere collected by Tibetan tribes and woven into fine designs by Tibetan, Newari and Nepali women. Price Range: $120 onwards


3. Callina

Callina Sweater Collection Fall 2016This is the brainchild of Michelle Sheppard who collaborates with communities across the world to bring you luxury fashion that’s designed using sustainable fibers, honors master artisans and empowers communities. Sheppard’s knitwear collection with its clean, simple lines makes a woman feel comfortable and confident. As with each of her products, this collection tells a story of the lives of shepherds and their families in the Peruvian Highlands. Previously, the Alpaca shepherds were forced to travel long distances at the expense of their children’s education. The Mirasol Project funded the creation of a boarding school in remote Puno, where their children stay and attend school Monday through Friday and return home on weekends. Sustaining this Peruvian community is a meaningful byproduct of owning one of Michelle’s elegant piecesPrice Range: $120 onwards


4. Clairesquares

Claire Squares Gift BoxThe holidays demand sweet treats and Claire whips them up with authentic Irish flair. Give someone a bite of her award winning, buttery shortbread or her rich chocolate and caramel bites, or tempt them with her caramelized oat chocolate bars. If there’s a wannabe chef on your friends list, help them whip up a banoffee pie with her easy pie box kit. Claire actively supports charitable organizations and local food banks, including Food Runners, that help alleviate hunger in San Francisco. Here’s a little secret… Claire is creating a special holiday Christmas Cake that will be available in November and December. Get your hands on that! Price Range: $5-$100


5. Etnochick

Etnochick Decoupage BoxesHandcrafted pinewood boxes that showcase images shot by Veronica Sanchez make perfect and unique gifts for friends, family and colleagues. The decoupage wooden boxes can be used as chests, wine cases, jewelry boxes, keepsakes, magnets, magazine racks, or chocolate and tea boxes. Her San Francisco line includes a tea box with two cut-out slits for ventilation that can store 18 tea bags. The image of the iconic San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge taken by Veronica adorns the box and gives it a distinct antique finish. Etnochick donates 15% of sales from events to The Lima Center – a drop-in center for the homeless in San Francisco. Price: $22.99 – $85.99



6. Fiber Florist

mistletoe by fiber floristIf you’re thinking of going the floral route this holiday season, consider making it a bouquet that lasts a lifetime. Vivian Truong is an entrepreneur who turned her love for nature and textiles into a blooming business. She creates wearable and decorative floral arrangements with American felt crafted from a blend of sustainable materials including wool, bamboo and recycled plastic bottles. Decorate your fireplace or doorway with her felt mistletoe and give the very special gift of something handmade. Price Range: $8 onwards


7. Global Teas

Global Teas Change the world, one cup at a time. That’s the motto that has defined Dezerai Seitzer’s company from the start. Seitzer works with communities across the globe to source teas such as Earl Grey and Green Tea to Rich Vanilla Chai, Strawberry Bliss, and Dark Chocolate Blood Orange. Dezerai donates one dollar from every pack to Destiny Rescue, an organization that protects some of the 1.2 million children that are trafficked into the sex trade every year. An additional portion of her company’s profits helps send workers on the ground to remove unexploded bombs in Vietnam through Legacies of War and make medical aid available to the poorest parts of the world through Medical Ministries International (MMI). Price Range: $7.99-$9.99


8. Melissa Joy Manning

mjm_headshot_2015The high quality design of Melissa’s jewelry is paralleled by her business’ high standard for ethics. All of her jewelry is made by hand and by artists who are paid fair wages. Her studio is Green Certified by the state of California and she sources materials responsibly. Most of the metal she uses is upcycled, recycled and green certified. She produces lovely pieces of handcrafted jewelry for both men and women. Price Range: $25 and up



9. Regina’s Door

img_2456Regina Evans curates exquisite vintage dresses, costumes and pieces from the Victorian era to the 1980s at her boutique. Regina’s Door offers much more than a fashionable blast from the past. The boutique operates as a performing artist space for Bay Area creatives and artists. Additionally, Regina’s Door is a safe haven and healing zone for at-risk youth, survivors of sex trafficking, homeless youth, homeless women and young artists. It is no wonder why Regina’s Door was honored with the 2015 Oakland Indie Award for Social Changemaker and Nancy’s Hero Award by DA Nancy O’Malley. A piece from her store will make a memorable holiday present while you support a worthy cause. Price Range: $25-$125


10. Samudra Skin & Sea

Sumadra Skin and Sea skincare productsContribute to ocean conservation and end up with hydrated, healthy skin! Shilpi Chhotray has been a strong advocate for the conservation of oceans for nine years and discovered the benefits of seaweed by using it on her dry and eczema-prone skin. Samudra is an eco-conscious line of four products that includes facial cream, body butter, a facial mask and soap for hair and body enriched with wild-harvested seaweed sourced locally and sustainably. Price Range: $12-$45



11. SPA Radiance

Spa RadianceAngelina Umansky is an esthetician whose expertise has stood the test of time. Organic and Oxygen facials are part of her spa menu, but if you want something really special, her Super Duper Facial is considered by her clients to be amazing. A gift card for the person who has slaved over a hot stove to put a holiday feast on the table is the perfect reward. Spa Radiance gives generously to local non-profits and hospitals. Price Range: $120 onwards



12. Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center

Renaissance staff at the annual galaLooking for the perfect gift for yourself – or for that person who has everything? Renaissance empowers women and men in the Bay Area to start their own businesses through entrepreneurial classes and support services conducted in English and Spanish. Our clients in turn build assets, nurture their families, and contribute to local economic vitality. This holiday season, you can help Bay Area women and men turn entrepreneurial dreams into reality by either starting a fundraiser of your own or giving a gift directly to Renaissance. Donate directly at or start a fundraiser at Range: $1-$1,000,000