Stories of Hope – EPAMade

Stories of Hope


~ 7 Things we are thankful for from having this job at EPAMade & EPAShop

Day 1: Opportunities
I am very thankful for the opportunities that have opened up since being hired on at EPA Shop. I have had the blessing of being coached with High performance modules, visiting the local campuses for Facebook, Instagram, and Google
. I got a chance to experience the Oculus VR! I’ve been able to travel and attend conferences that pertain to helping the community and developing my leadership skills. I’ve been allowed to be a part of this “start up” with no prior experience required. That’s the most valued opportunity for me. I had little relevant skills to perform the job duties, and they have faith and trust that I would be trainable and would be able to fulfill my role within our organization.

Day 2: Village that’s rooting for your success
Eh venido a la tienda EPA SHOP a trabajar no solo con companeras de trabajo si no con amigas de años. Además de trabajar con buena gente que me apoya, yo he tenido la dicha y el privilegio de conocer a gente que me comprende y me da consejos. Alguna de esa gente ha sido clientes que vienen a la tienda. Al igual me han ayudado voluntarios y los tutores que vienen a darnos lecciones en varios aspectos. Tambien le doy gracias a mi patrona y a mi amiga porque han sido pacientes y comprensivas. 

Day 3: Mentorship
Yo he tenido el gusto te de ser retada en mi trabajo pero para mi crecimiento. La tutoría es algo tan importante para poder desarrollarse y seguir creciendo. En esta vida no solo se aprende de la escuela si no de las lecciones de la vida. Se lo recomiendo a todos, de ir a buscar a alguien que les de consejos en asuntos que les interesan. Siempre y cuando sea con alguien que tiene bastante o suficiente experiencia para servirle como tutor. Para mí, poder trabajar en un ambiente donde el aprendizaje es bienvenido y hasta se incita es algo que para siempre apreciare.

Day 4: Flexibility
At EPA Shop I have the flexibility to keep adding skills to my resume/tool belt without sacrificing my most important role… MOTHERHOOD. When my sons IEP comes up, my counseling appointments, when my son has a school function, my employer makes it possible to be present for my kid, and not make me feel like an inconvenience.. They understand that being a mom consists of appointments, taking care of sick children, and self care. I am very thankful to have that flexibility.

Day 5: Encouragement
I was hired with no experience, no sort of background, barely able to manage my life! (hah) and they went out on faith and offered me a position. There is so much encouragement in that. I have never come across a company that encourages growth as much as us. We have Monday meetings with guest speakers and we’ve covered topics such as high performance training (a 12 week training with a certified coach), hope, life skills, self care and so much more. We are able to encourage one another with positive words and actions. We give kudos through our Gratitude box that was made by one of our volunteers. Overall there is an air of Hope within the company. The minimum wage cycle will be broken with training and experience. Seeing how hard my boss Ayaka works in getting people involved and all the meetings, and late night emails is encouragement for me to keep on keepin’ on. If she is fighting so hard to make this happen, there must be value in us single moms. When we are first hired here, we don’t see it. As time goes on, we learn our value through opportunity, mentorship, flexibility, support system (our village!), and the mindset of hope.

Day 6: Great lessons
I have learned many amazing lessons while working at the Shop and talking to my boss, my co-workers, and some awesome customers. I have also been exposed to many other forms of acquiring an understanding that were not in a class setting. During staff meetings and outside of them I had good conversations about life and how to be patient most of the times. I consider my boss a friend, family even. My co-workers also kept me up and would give wise words as a good friend or a sister. I definitely learned to be open with those I work with because I may not know what others could pour into me if i do not allow it. There have also been people that walked into our store with their own narratives. All of which I was glad to hear. Every single story allowed me to learn more about that person and understand things about them. I will definitely remember those exchange of words and will treasure those moments.

Day 7: Hope!
Not only are we given opportunity, a support system, mentorship, flexibility, encouragement and great lessons; we are also given hope.
I know I do not only speak for myself when I say that. But anyone and everyone who has ever worked for our shop has benefited in one way or another. This is a place that offers empowerment for anyone who can and will take it. A dignified job for a mother who is the sole provider to her household is not only essential but rare. It builds relationships with its employees that in turn help a whole family. Hope for a mother that spreads to her children. I can not imagine anything more beautiful than that. For that I thank the inspiring co-founders, my supportive co-workers, the awesome volunteers, lovely customers and all the amazing supporters. Thank you all!




With these palms I held the phone that gave the news...
He was not to come back, he said he would only return to pack.  
He left a bruise on my heart, leaving me with my sadness and to deal with all the madness 
So with the sleeves of my sweater I wiped away my tears, that did not make me feel better.
Soon enough with these fingers I held a test that said positive, 
yet I could not allow myself to remain positive and optimistic.
I lost it, pushed to the point of going ballistic... 
Then I felt you grow inside my womb.
I quickly resented wanting to be 6 feet under laying in a tomb. 
I fell more in love everyday as i sensed your presence. 
You were a true little blessing, God sent me the greatest present. 
Now with these palms, now with these palms, 
I hold yours, they are so sweet, a divine treat.
And with the sleeves of my sweater 
I wipe my eyes and I blink twice. 
I am so thankful that you are here, you have made me feel so much better. 
With these fingers I felt your fragile body 
There is no way I would allow anyone to hurt your body 
because you came from my body.
You are mine to love and to hold. 
I'll be the one to mold you.   

- Susan, a mom of 2





We were featured on CBS This Morning on March 2, 2106. Thankful for Facebook and their support of small businesses like ours as we train and employ single-mothers in the East Palo Alto community. It was an honor to chat with a ‪#‎mamapreneur‬ Sheryl Sandberg. Thank you for spending your morning with us. Let hope rise in East Palo Alto, one solo mom at a time! 
Watch the video. Shoutouts at 1:56 and 3:19. 


We finally have a roof over our heads! We've been dreaming up this idea since 2013 and operating in the "pop up mode" over the past 2 years. EPAShop was a Saturday street sale with popcorns for kids. EPAMade was a group of nomad artisans screen-printing under the scorching sun and sewing in a borrowed space with supplies that we had to pack up at the end of every work day. 
Dreams DO come true. Our lives CAN change. LET HOPE RISE in all of us! 

It takes a village! An amazing group of friends, including big kids, spent the entire Saturday to build our shop space, shelves, POS counters, tables, and more. 

We had artsy mamas dream up the store decor and decorate the windows.

Various groups of volunteers built this shop. 


We hope that EPAMade can be the 'leveled ground' in the Silicon Valley where both the rich and the poor can come together as peers to learn, work, grow, and have fun.  #letHopeRiseintheSiliconValley  

Struggling Single Mom Of 2 Rents San Mateo Garage For $1,000 A Month
NPR news about Menlo Park's Belle Haven Neighborhood 

It’s very hard. Children don’t have room to play, and one doesn’t have enough space either."
Where I live is probably 10 miles from some of the most prosperous corporations in the world. And some of my neighbors will not necessarily make it through college.... My children and grandchildren will not be able to stay in this community."
"If we are going to have a healthy sustainable economy, we have to find a way to house our workers.

From NYTimes article The Shaky Moral Compass of Silicon Valley
"... thinking about how to give back, and solving intractable problems like homelessness, can be a lot more difficult than coming up with a good idea for a start-up. Especially a start-up that is 'making the world a better place.' "

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 8.49.09 AM


We finally got official 501c3 non-profit and tax exempt status! This solidifies the foundation for the start of two businesses, EPAMade and EPAShop (yes we changed from EPARack).
Over the past 18 months, Allen and Ayaka liquidated most of their savings to test the theory that marginalized communities needed people focused on creating jobs. We piloted this idea with SF City Impact and co-founded TLMade with Amanda Phelps. We also launched 2 more social enterprises: TLClean (street cleaning) and TLMunch (coffee & fancy toasts) with the support from local non-profits in the Tenderloin, San Francisco Economic Development and Tenderloin Economic Development Projects. 

Several interactive stations were set up: 
TLMade & TLWash (social enterprises in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco by our founders Allen and Ayaka - It was great to have one of the TL artisans come out to support!)
EPAMade products and tools are used to make our products
Future micro-business ideas in East Palo Alto: EPACare (daycare), EPARack (thrift store), and EPABeauty (hair & nail salon).
Thanks to 
Mogo BBQ Food Truck for donating 10% of the sales from the night to EPAMade!


Housing prices are skyrocketing in the Silicon Valley and it was nearly impossible to find a space within our budget. Then we met Ben & Kat who were looking for someone to rent their 'unusually large backyard' which used to be a home of California Fern Company. We shared our audacious dream of EPAMade and they said, "You guys can use the garage and another roofed area for a small rent fee if you are willing to clean and fix them." Yeah! We cleaned up an old barn with the help of friends who love East Palo Alto. This was a pure miracle. 

Vision was casted. Testimony was given by the founder couple. Stories were shared by EPA
 mothers about the endless cycle that single parents feel trapped in, between the challenging job hunt but needing a steady income, or the responsibilities of having a job but needing reliable childcare during working hours. 
Special thanks to Andrew & Kelly who hosting the night, friends who provided food and drinks, Whole Cakes for the #lethoperise cake. 

Our first Mother's Day popup sale in Palo Alto. Humble beginnings! 


Dreams of a City: Creating East Palo Alto
Music video "My Home" by H20 ft. Freddy Flopez

"At the Jubilee it shall revert. You shall not wrong one another, but fear your God, for I am the Lord your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.  And if your brother has become poor and his hand wavers [from poverty, sickness, or age and he is unable to support himself], then you shall uphold (strengthen, relieve) him, [treating him with the courtesy and consideration that you would] a stranger or a temporary resident with you, so that he may live [along] with you.- Leviticus 25