Business

What Motivates Millennial Entrepreneurs In Santa Cruz County

By Jondi Gumz
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.

SANTA CRUZ

Millennial entrepreneurs are so hot they have their own TV reality show, “Startup U,” but more millennials are doing their thing right here in Santa Cruz County. Four of them shared their stories by answering five questions for the Sentinel.

Anthony Alcala
Anthony Alcala, 35, started The Booth Bus in Capitola.
Q When did your business open?

A July 1, 2014. The Booth Bus is a one-of-a-kind Volkswagen bus photo booth. We custom converted our charming 1970 Westfalia bus named Georgia into a high-quality and modern photo booth. We bring pictures to the people throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area and Georgia’s a guaranteed hit for any occasion.

Q What motivated you?

A My wife Jenna and I seek adventure and have always dreamed about building a business that encompassed the pursuit of fun, slowing-down, lightheartedness, and creativity. The idea of a Volkswagen bus photo booth just popped into my mind and it was an idea we got really excited about. Volkswagen buses and photo booths have a lot in common. They are storytellers, smile-makers, and catalysts for laughter, silliness and genuine good times. We love photography so creating a Volkswagen bus photo booth brought all our interests, passions, and values together in one place.

Q How’s it going?

A Business is great and we’re having a lot of fun. We travel throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area, attend fun events, meet new and interesting people, but most importantly we make people happy. It’s been an honor to be invited into people’s lives and capture them smiling with their friends and family.

Q What was the biggest challenge?

A The toughest challenge we face is finding a consistent work-life balance. As an entrepreneur, every aspect of our business, at least in the beginning started and ended with our involvement. At times, this can be daunting particularly since our goal is to always exceed the expectations of our customers. It’s a constant work in progress, but we aim to achieve a work/life balance by maintaining manageable to-do lists and by keeping perspective of the many blessings we have in our life. We also consider ourselves very lucky to have the support and encouragement from our friends and family.

Q What tips do you have for others?

A Business ownership is very rewarding but it’s also a lot of hard work. Not all business ownership is created equal. Similar to any job, the type of business you own and operate will heavily influence your professional and personal life both positively and negatively. Don’t just pursue business ownership; instead pursue your passion through business ownership. As cliché as it sounds, build your company around something you’re truly passionate about. Entrepreneurship is a marathon and you’ll need your passion to help refuel and recharge you along your journey.

Kendra McQueen and Michael Goble
Kendra McQueen, 34, and husband Michael Goble juggle growing Goble Coffee Roasting in Boulder Creek and raising two children.

Q When did your business open?

A January 2015.

Q What motivated you?

A We feel like coffee culture has begun to over-complicate things to the point where people don’t know what they are looking for in a great cup. Not only does everyone deserve to be given the opportunity to prioritize well-handled, fresh roasted beans, but they should be given the tools to understand those choices as well. We believe that we can facilitate this much better than it is being done. After realizing that excellent coffee is our passion, putting energy into anything else didn’t make sense.

Q How’s it going?

A It’s going great. We’ve been so well-received, and watching our customers benefit from our product in so many ways has been a lot of fun. We will very likely be moving our shop to either Santa Cruz or Scotts Valley within the next month and a half. We’re in the process of negotiating with a couple of different locations.

Q What was the biggest challenge?

A Navigating the county and permitting. We have worked closely with Barbara Mason, the county economic development coordinator, and she has been such a great mentor for us. Beyond that, it has been difficult to bootstrap our way through the system.

Q What tips do you have for others?

A Define milestones on the road to success. Begin with how you envision your business at its most successful, and work backwards to identify each step you need to take to get there. Be clear about your goals, but let go of your pre-conceptions, be willing to adapt and open to making alterations along the way.

Erica Gregory
Erica Gregory, 26, opened Archery Santa Cruz with Ian Garner 37. Both are USA Archery instructors and Junior Olympic coaches.

Q When did your business open?

A Mid April 2015. Our grand opening celebration was First Friday June 5. We worked on the business plan and model for almost a year before that.

Q What motivated you?

A Ian and I love archery. We even met at an archery range. Who doesn’t want a job doing what they love? As a community, archery is full of supportive, kind, helpful people. Everywhere you go, archers are willing to help you with your form or equipment. Ian and I wanted to create a place where people could come and shoot (or learn to shoot) without the fear of being judged or treated like another faceless number. We wanted to create a space where the same kind of community would flourish, and it has. We already have the most incredible regular customers who are more like family than clients. Some people come by the store just to hang out and visit with us and we love that.

Q How’s it going?

A It is always a process — of failing, learning, succeeding, guessing, hoping and working your tail off. There are definitely moments where things don’t work as planned or at all and it is entirely out of your control. Those moments are frustrating and occasionally make you question your decisions. But ultimately, when you get to see people cheering because they hit the center or smiling ear to ear because they just bought their first bow…
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it’s all worth it. The joy this sport brings to others is worth everything we have to deal with along the way.

Q What was the biggest challenge?

A Honestly? Dealing with the City of Santa Cruz. The fees and amount of hoops you have to jump through are astounding. It has been our biggest and most expensive frustration to date. Did you know that businesses have to pay if they cannot provide parking? Even though you cannot change the infrastructure of the building/city. And yet every single one of our clients has to pay for parking, too.

Q What tips do you have for others?

A We worked with the College’s Small Business Development Center and Keith Holtaway, definitely one of the smartest choices we made. Keith is not only a wonderful person but was instrumental in getting our business up and running. Having someone experienced in your corner is invaluable.

Remember that your sanity should come first. “The customer is always right” will kill you in this day and age. Instant gratification is rampant and people often feel entitled to a service just because you provide it or because it exists. Sometimes you have to just smile and save yourself because if you don’t, you won’t have the energy to help the people who really love and appreciate what you do.

Noelle Weatherwax
Noelle Weatherwax, 29, opened Concrete Rose Salon in Santa Cruz.

Q When did your business open?

A Aug. 27, 2014.

Q What motivated you?

A It has been my dream to own a salon since I was 16 when I started beauty school. I wanted to create the salon I always wished was here in Santa Cruz. A place that believes in the power of beauty, gives back to the community and where it’s totally okay to wear glitter on a Tuesday.

Q How’s it going?

A It’s been incredible. We haven’t even been open a year and we’ve grown so fast. We have more clients than we know what to do with. We won ‘Most Innovative New Business’ in the Good Times this year, which was a total dream come true to be recognized so quickly. People really seem to love our space and what we’re doing, which is so fulfilling and wonderful.

Q What was the biggest challenge?

A I would say work-life balance. No one will work you as hard as you work yourself.

Q What tips do you have for others?

A So many things: Do your research. Obsessively. You can’t know too much about running a business. There is so much information out there for little to no cost. I can’t tell you how many books I read. I also took classes through the Small Business Development Center on writing my business plan, marketing, social media, etc. Have a mentor. I got a business consultant (Keith Holtaway) through the Small Business Development Center who helped me every step of the way. Be flexible. Things come up so you may need to shift your original plan. And last don’t give up. Starting a business was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. Things will go awry, but if you are solution-oriented and just try and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place everything will fall into place.

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