New Nonprofit ‘Ocean Incubators’ Hatches Neighborhood Small Businesses

Fernando Gomez and Mike Sorrels at Ocean Incubators. Photograph courtesy of Shrey Purohit

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Co-working space, art gallery and dance studio so far, what small business Ingleside’s newest nonprofit organization hatches next could be filling a vacant storefront in the neighborhood soon.

Ocean Paws co-owners Fernando Gomez and Mike Sorrels leased the former North East Medical Services intake center for Ocean Incubators, a small business development center. The partners were inspired by the high number of inactive storefronts along Ingleside’s stretch of Ocean Avenue, which topped off at 26% in 2020 during the height of the pandemic according to a count conducted by the Ingleside Light.

“Being able to fulfill other people’s dreams and helping them take the steps to get to results that they’re wanting is why Ocean Incubators formed,” Sorrels told the Ingleside Light. “And that’s sort of the idea behind it is to help others succeed in business, by giving them a platform to test and prove that their theories and their wants and desires can be successful with help.”

Ocean Incubators offers help with business licensing, business permitting, ABC licensing, written negotiations, best business practices, ADA compliance, marketing and promotion, human resources, training and more.

Gomez and Sorrels recently obtained nonprofit status from the IRS and formed a four-person board of directors. They also put in to form their first client, Ingleside Gallery, with artist Shrey Purohit in September.

First Client

An award-winning oil painter, Purohit is known for painting neighborhood homes and buildings, teamed up with Fernando and Sorrels to open Ingleside Gallery, a pop-up art show held in the Ocean Incubators storefront on weekends.

“They have given me business and financial assistance and expertise in how to start a business and helped me be confident in starting the business and once I started the business they helped me put in the floors, advertising and more,” Purohit told the Ingleside Light. “It was business help that I, as an artist, would have trouble doing on my own. Having Mike and Fernando as partners who have experience really helped me.”

Ocean Incubators’ latest small business to take off is a dance studio started by neighborhood resident Tacha Santana.

Sunshine Dance Studio began offering classes in the storefront on weekday evenings this October and offers a range of styles from Samba to Hip Hop.

“So far it’s good,” Santana told the Ingleside Light. “I’m able to start a new business on the street and bring more business to Ocean Avenue.”

What’s Next

There are a number of interested would-be small business owners interested in signing up with Ocean Incubators, including an older adult exercise studio, according to Sorrels.

“The idea is to incubate for a period of four to six months, and then for each to be able to afford their own space and get their own space and to keep moving,” Sorrels said.

Self-employed since 25, Sorrels holds a hospitality management degree from Indiana University Purdue-University Indianapolis. After a stint working for Marriott, he discovered the benefits of small business working for a bed and breakfast in Key West. He went on to flip four bed and breakfast businesses. He provides consultation services for new businesses.

“We want to have at least six businesses start and form and begin the growth process,” Sorrels said. “Hopefully, at least two or three will evolve into their own spaces within the first year.”

The co-working space has yet to launch. The international supply chain woes caused by the pandemic have led to a delay in acquiring all the needed furniture. A ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening is tentatively planned for November.

Aside from assisting new businesses, Ocean Incubators will also help existing small businesses with marketing.

“We want to help the other businesses with marketing because there is a need, there is that niche of things that we are not covering in the area, like how to market on social media,” Sorrels said.

“People who are here know about us,” he added. “But there’s the rest of the city who doesn’t.”

Ocean Incubators is located at 1507 Ocean Ave. For more information, call (650) 416-4595 or visit sfincubator.org.