This nonprofit cultivates Filipino entrepreneurship in SF’s South of Market district
Amid pandemic-induced business closures in San Francisco’s South of Market district, a ray of hope shines in the form of Kultivate Labs, a nonprofit on a mission to help revamp the neighborhood with Filipino culture.
Dubbed “SoMa,” the neighborhood has long been struggling in the aftermath of COVID-19. Desi Danganan, the founder and executive director of Kultivate Labs, paints the pre-pandemic picture vibrantly. “The economy was white hot [before the pandemic],” says Danganan to Prism. “Everybody wanted to set up shop in San Francisco, and space was a very scarce commodity. Post-pandemic that completely went 180.”
Founded in 2016, Kultivate Labs aims to rekindle the flames of SoMa and transform it from a regular commercial area into a buzzing cultural hotspot.
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Danganan saw the pandemic’s repercussions and envisioned new, primarily Filipino, businesses that would revitalize the once-dynamic streets. Currently, eight Filipino ventures ranging from clothing to food have been invited. To mark these recent gains, the organization will also celebrate through its yearly creative market called Undiscovered.
After World War II, San Francisco became a testing ground for urban redevelopment. The city knocked down neighborhoods and shuffled businesses around, forcing residents to move to other areas. Even the culturally rich Fillmore, Western Addition, and SoMa neighborhoods weren’t exempted from the developments.
In April 2016, the city’s Board of Supervisors passed a law to turn a part of SoMa into a trendy Filipino cultural district called SoMa Pilipinas. In the middle of the year, Kultivate Labs was born. Armed with their goals to create cool spaces for the Filipinx community, make businesses thrive, and turn up artsy vibes through Filipino history, their mission to revive the once-dynamic neighborhood was clear.
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Kultivate Labs’ collective efforts have set an economic upheaval. A staggering $130,000 in economic activity was earned in 2022 through Undiscovered. Collaborations have flourished through this event, infusing the Bay Area with innovation and creativity.
As the SoMa streets head to life once more, here’s a toast to Kultivate Labs for orchestrating a positive change for the Filipino community in San Francisco.