This post is part of a series celebrating San Francisco small businesses as part of the Kiva SF launch. Learn more>

Turtle Tower is a popular Vietnamese restaurant renowned for their Northern Vietnamese style chicken soup. Started by a Vietnamese immigrant couple, Turtle Tower has become a staple of the Tenderloin district over the last 15 years and attracts San Franciscans from all walks of life to the area.

Thao is the family’s eldest daughter and began working at Turtle Tower from an early age.

“We have been here for 15 years and have seen this community transform,” Thao said. “Businesses make a huge impact on the community. We are a landmark here in the Tenderloin by providing jobs for the community.”

When the restaurant expanded to its new location, Thao became the manager, but she was worried about keeping up with the competition in the neighborhood, especially during the lunchtime rush. She saw the local competition using technology her family’s business didn’t have, specifically a Point of Sales System that expedites the process of taking and organizing food orders.

While she wanted to upgrade the restaurants order taking system, Turtle Tower didn’t have the funds to make the upgrade after investing in new locations. `

“Kiva helped us accomplish something we had to put on the back burner and would not have been able to do without a loan,” Thao said.

Thao says she experiences the impact of her Kiva loan daily.

“Everyday we have a large lunch time rush. The technological upgrade has helped us handle demand and keep up with the competition,” she said. “It has made it easier to serve people and be a better business.”

By becoming a better business and attracting more customers, Turtle Tower can continue to be a strong part of the community and an employer of local residents. Thao says without the support from their network and the larger Kiva community none of it would be possible.

“One of the biggest challenges in San Francisco is the cost of living and we are doing our part to help that by hiring people within the community,” Thao said. “And all of this starts with a loan to open or improve your business.”

Though Thao’s story is a successful one, she emphasizes that small business owners need to be prepared to give it their all if they apply for a Kiva loan.

“[I]f you take out a loan you have to be very involved in making it happen for yourself,” Thao said. “Be educated in Kiva process and hold events for lenders.”
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