When you think of business innovation labs, the airport may not be the first place that anyone would expect to find one, but San Diego International Airport is the site of an active program. Located in the old commuter terminal, the lab is working with its fourth group of innovators in its 16-week program. Four companies have been participating virtually since mid-March and will test their solutions at the airport this summer.

The team pivoted to the virtual format due to impacts of COVID-19 and has held virtual workshops, sessions with subject matter experts from the Airport Authority and enhanced virtual networking that has allowed the small early-stage businesses to be engaged during the pandemic.

“It is truly impressive to see these companies adapt their work environments during COVID-19 and continue to develop solutions to everyday issues that exist at airports around the country,” said Kimberly Becker, Airport Authority president and CEO.

A previous cohort that went through the program included San Diego business Baggage Nanny. CEO and Founder Crystal Browning had nothing but praise for the program.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. We went from a small idea to actually being able to test it in a live environment,” she said. Browning was named one of the 2019 San Diego Business Journal’s Business Women of the Year. Her business is an on demand baggage storage and delivery service for travelers whose plane may depart later than their hotel checkout time. She serves the San Diego airport and was looking to grow to another three airports before COVID-19. Her business employs 14.

The unique program was launched to reduce barriers for innovators to break into the aviation industry. The 3,500-square-foot former terminal space offers a functional mini-terminal area with ticket counters and a baggage claim carousel, all without passenger or security concerns to work around. Anyone wanting to apply or who is simply interested in the program may find out more information at its website: www.innovate.san.org

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In response to ongoing challenges that small businesses face, the Asian Business Association of San Diego is teaming up with several area sponsor companies to offer complimentary memberships and no cost services through the Small Business Development Center Network.

The organization states that new members will receive access or discounted professional services and trainings, business advocacy and chamber credibility, professional development and networking opportunities, and opportunities to engage and lead in making an economic impact. For the free membership, the business must have no more than 50 employees and up to $1 million in revenue. The membership is valued at $500.

According to the ABASD, helping to make this offer possible were: SDG&E, US Bank, Sycuan Casino, and Cox Communications.

More information on the program may be found at www.asasd.org.

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Chefs Latinos is partnering with the National City Chamber Foundation, Southwestern College, NALEO Educational Fund, and other community partners to provide free meals to families in need in National City and the South Bay. The food drive is planned for July 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Southwestern College’s Higher Education Center in National City. It was envisioned by Antonio Alcaraz and his coalition of Latin American chefs from Mexico, South America, and California. Alcaraz identified National City as beneficiary.

“Residents face unprecedented unemployment rates of 33 percent. Partnering with Chefs Latinos is a welcomed opportunity during these challenging times to provide hunger relief to our community,” said Jacqueline Reynoso, president of the National City Chamber Foundation and president and CEO of the National City Chamber of Commerce.

Chefs Latino was formed in 2018 by Alcaraz as an initiative to unite Latin American chefs that share a passion for culinary arts. Their goal is to share their artistry, their history, creativity, and in particular, their cultural roots with the world. They participate in food drives all over the globe.

“We do these events from the heart. We believe that humanity is fueled by compassion and the ability to share our talents for the greater good,”Alcaraz said.