Founder of San Francisco-based Off the Grid Named 2018 SBA California Small Business Person of the Year

Owner Matt Cohen of Off the Grid Takes Top Honors, Finalist for 2018 SBA National Small Business Person of the Year
Release Date: 
Friday, March 30, 2018
Contact: 
Marlow Schindler, 415-744-6771, marlow.schindler@sba.gov

March 14, 2018 – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2018 California Small Business Person of the Year is Matt Cohen, CEO of Off the Grid in San Francisco, CA.  Founded in 2010, Off the Grid has grouped Street Food creators together to create an experience that allows neighbors to connect with friends, and families to reconnect with each other.

 Off the Grid continues to unlock the value of space through curated food and event design services, offering innovative public and private event production and scalable employee dining programs. Credited with reviving and keeping street food alive in San Francisco, Off the Grid operates 60 events in 15 locations throughout the Bay Area routinely serving more than 100,000 people per week.

 “We are excited to recognize and celebrate Matt Cohen and Off the Grid’s success,” SBA San Francisco District Director Julie Clowes said. “Matt provides a great example of how to turn passion and innovation into business success. He faced adversity and leveraged his experiences to create the growing business of today.  We hope Matt’s story will inspire future entrepreneurs. ”

 The SBA Small Business Person of the Year award – part of National Small Business Week April 29-May 5, 2018 – recognizes small business owners who demonstrate staying power and substantiated history as an established business with at least three years of business operation. Winners must also show growth in net worth and business expansion, increase in jobs and sales, innovativeness of products or services, response to adversity and contributions to community-oriented projects.

 Cohen initially founded his own food pop-up, Tabe Ramen, after working and living for several years in Japan. Although the Tabe Ramen business didn’t turn into a food truck itself, it helped him learn the ins-and-outs of the San Francisco food truck business and led to the idea of Off the Grid.

When Cohen was working on his business plan he reached out to SBA’s local resource partner the San Francisco Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for free 1:1 counseling.  The mission of America’s nationwide network of SBDCs is to help new and existing entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses through no-cost business consulting and low-cost training.

“I believed that Street Food as market segment was underserved within the larger Bay Area food community,” said Cohen. “Food trucks offered a new pathway to culinary entrepreneurship that was both approachable and exciting. My belief was that by grouping these food businesses together, powerful communities would result. It’s this sense of social engagement that continues to power us today.”

Off the Grid was able to accelerate their growth by taking advantage of the SBA 7(a) Loan program.  Off the Grid has received four SBA 7(a) loans for over $3 million from the Bank of San Francisco.

“The SBA funding has allowed us to evolve from food markets, to corporate dining, to manufacturing and now software development. None of this would have been possible without the financial support of the SBA and our partners at Bank of San Francisco who’ve supported and believed in growing our business,” said Cohen.

“Small businesses like Off the Grid are vital to the Bay Area economy and community,” said Bank of San Francisco CEO and Director, Ed Obuchowski. “We are thankful that our partnership with the SBA has enabled so many of our clients to realize their dreams of buying and growing their businesses. It is an absolute honor to work with Off the Grid, and we are rejoicing along with Matt and his team as they celebrate this well-deserved recognition.”

As a result of the tools that Off the Grid has built, the company is now considering expansion outside of Northern California.

“California leads the country with almost 4 million small businesses in the Golden State. These businesses make up 49% of the state’s workforce in the private sector, and create jobs and opportunity for business owners, their families, their employees and their community,” SBA Regional Administrator Mike Vallante said.  “I congratulate Matt Cohen on his award, and celebrate Matt and all the small business entrepreneurs who overcome obstacles, create jobs, and keep America’s economy running strong.”

Small Business Person of the Year winners from 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam will converge in Washington, D.C. April 29-30 when one of them will be selected as the National Small Business Person of the Year.

A celebration honoring local SBA winners from California and the SBA San Francisco District – which serves Northern California – will be held during San Francisco Small Business Week.  Other SBA local awards that will be recognized at the celebration include:

·         Family-Owned Small Business of the Year: Tommaso's Ristorante Italiano, Carmen Serafina Crotti

·         Young Entrepreneur of the year: Bow N Arrow Clothing, Mercedes Hernandez

·         Women-Owned Small Business of the year: Nectary, Gia Irene Baiocchi

Each year since 1963, the President has issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of National Small Business Week. SBA recognizes outstanding small business owners for their personal successes and contributions to our nation.

For more information about National Small Business Week, visit www.sba.gov/nsbw 

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012 has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.  Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. For more information visit www.sba.gov.

About the SBA San Francisco District Office:

The SBA San Francisco District serves the Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Solano, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties with a single office in San Francisco. SBA San Francisco District staff provides resources and services in three areas referred to as “the three C’s” – counseling, capital and contracting. Visit www.sba.gov/ca/sf or follow @SBA_SF for more information including resource partners, lenders, workshops, success stories and other resources to help business start, grow and succeed.