Kei found almost instant success when she launched her scones at Los Angeles farmers markets. As she grew Sugarbird Sweets, she needed working capital to keep up with demand. Two small business loans with Opportunity Fund have helped Kei keep Sugarbird on track for scalable growth.

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Kei found almost instant success when she launched her scones at Los Angeles farmers markets. As she grew Sugarbird Sweets, she needed working capital to keep up with demand. Two small business loans with Opportunity Fund have helped Kei keep Sugarbird on track for scalable growth.

Recipe for Success

Kei Okumura started her small business selling batch-blended organic teas at Los Angeles area farmers markets. Sugarbird Sweets grew when she decided to add fresh baked scones to her offerings at the farmers markets. Her brand grew organically into wholesale to cafes and restaurants across Los Angeles.

“I studied pastry making in Paris at culinary school two years prior,” Kei said. “I applied my pastry background to figure out what would go well with tea. Scones were the perfect combination.”

Kei had to create something new and fresh to make her products stand out. She had a presence at some of the biggest and most competitive farmers markets for vendors, which allowed her to establish her new business.

Her built in customer base helped get the word out about Sugarbird’s new scone offerings. The initial two flavors, Mixed Berry and Dark Chocolate Chip, grew into over 18 different unique herb, tea, and seasonal fruit inspired combinations.

“People came every week to get the scones,” Kei said. “I started out with two dozen, then twenty dozen, then thirty dozen. We’d always sell out.”

Kei’s signature creation, the white chocolate matcha scone, helped propel her business to even bigger success. The increased demand put a strain on Sugarbird’s production capacity and resources.

“For five years, I was renting kitchen spaces to keep up with the farmers market and our wholesale clients,” Kei said. “As the markets and wholesale accounts got busier, I would get inquiries for catering tea parties. That became a huge part of Sugarbird and helped us grow organically.”

Kei was able to find her own space for Sugarbird in downtown Los Angeles, thanks to the immense growth of her business. Almost every step up to bigger sales meant a roadblock for Kei to overcome. The next phase came from selling her products wholesale to vendors like Mendocino Farms and opening an Amazon.com storefront.

“I needed additional funds to keep my business going,” Kei said. “It was difficult trying to manage all the  30 plus accounts. I was running into cash flow problems.”

Rising to the Challenge

Kei reached out to Opportunity Fund. She connected with loan consultant Robert Zapata, who helped close a $10,000 loan for Sugarbird Sweets in April 2016. The working capital helped Kei finance the necessary production increase and provided her with the right funding solution for her small business.

“I tried other lenders and banks,” she said. “I had a hard time with the SBA. It took over eight months.”

Robert took the time to understand Kei’s business and work with what she needed to grow. Kei applied for a second loan in May 2017 for $20,000 to help her continue Sugarbird’s scalable growth.

Sugarbird Sweets - Scones

Sugarbird’s freshly made scones are a huge hit around Los Angeles (photo courtesy of Michael Microulis)


“We’re looking for new ventures in the retail market,” Kei said. “We’re launching a product of frozen, ready to bake scones for the supermarket in 2019. I’m looking to grow marketing, budget, and production for that.”

We’re happy to support hardworking moms like Kei and we’re proud to watch her grow from a great idea at the farmer’s market to an up-and-coming retail brand.


We hope this story has inspired you, too.  At Opportunity Fund, we offer easy-to-get, fast, and affordable small business loans to help small business owners succeed.  Visit our home page to find out more.

Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

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Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org