Santa Cruz County Small Business Development Center

Success Stories

Success Stories

LA SELVA LAVENDER

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Bill & Kim Miller

Website

In 2017 Bill and Kim Miller started their La Selva Lavender farm after reviewing options for the best types of crops to grow on their 5 acres parcel. Being concerned about water usage due to California’s on again off again drought they sought a crop with low water usage. Since the farm is located in a rural area they also had to take into consideration the local deer and gopher populations. On all counts, lavender seemed like a good fit for their new venture. Bill and Kim practice sustainable farming practices. They do not use pesticides, fertilizers and the only weed spray is an all organic biosafe weed spray that is selectively used near the plants.

The Miller team is currently working with the SBDC on their social media marketing and website optimization. For more information about how your business can benefit from free one-on-one business consulting, contact us at 831-479-6136

"We were amazed by every team member that we interacted with. Just starting out, we had already make mistakes that cost us more money than it should have. Having a mentor that we could call on has been an invaluable asset."

LEAF AND VINE, URBAN PLANT SHOP

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Maria Alvarez

Website

With the help of the SBDC, Maria was able to negotiate a lease space in downtown Santa Cruz and start her business in the fall of 2019. At Leaf & Vine, their mission is to spread the love of plants throughout our community.

Their intention is to have a plant for everyone. So whether you are a new plant parent or a more seasoned plant hobbyist/collector, They've got you covered. From traditional and starter houseplants to uncommon and rare species, they have the tools and information to help you incorporate them into your home.

“The SBDC has provided me with assistance in the form of counseling, which has been instrumental to my success in starting my business. For this, I say thank you!" -Maria I. Alvarez

LEGENDS OF REC

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Hollie & Jared Loson

Website

Ben Lomond couple Hollie and Jared Loson have launched a successful basketball scorekeeping app. After experience in hackathons, and the idea for a fantasy sports league, the duo shifted their focus to the scorekeeping resource for recreational basketball leagues.

Hollie has been working closely with SBDC advisors in general business consulting, marketing, social media, and SEO. Their app has recently been implemented with Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation and Los Gatos Parks & Recreation basketball leagues with much success.

Read about Hollie, Jared, and Legends of Rec in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

"The SBDC has been incredibly instrumental in moving our business forward.  As a husband and wife team -each advisor brings clarity and insightful perspectives to our small two-person team.  Among many things, we are the most grateful for the successful strategic planning for our beta test, preparing for our online launch, and implementing systems to help target the right customers. Working with SBDC has dramatically changed how I approach my work at Legends of Rec for the better. Thank you Keith, Bryce, and Mary!"

ZIG ZAG ASIAN COLLECTIONS

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Afrid Ghoffrani

Zig Zag Asian Collection is a women-owned and operated company that specializes in unique, ethically curated apparel from Nepal & Thailand. Founded in 1998 amongst the Santa Cruz mountains, every member of the team must be administrators, designers, vendors, and wholesale shipping specialists on any given day. Founder, Afrid, always knew that she wanted to be the bridge that connects Santa Cruz to the magic of Asia. Working with family businesses, small workshops, women's collectives, and cottage industries, their collection is entirely handmade. They believe that an appreciation for color, textile, and craftsmanship keeps us connected to artisans abroad and have been working with some of the same families for twenty years. While mostly wholesale, anyone is welcome to browse their treasure trove. Such as at their annual Holiday Warehouse Sale on December 6th and 7th, 10 am-7 pm on Friday, and 10 am - 5 pm on Saturday

ZigZagRetail.com

Facebook

Instagram

"The SBDC in Santa Cruz has been super helpful and supportive. Their team helped us to directly implement strategies that enabled us to navigate the current economic climate and exceed this year's goal. We want to thank everybody for their friendly and professional guidance and continued support." Afrid Ghoffrani, Owner

CASSIDY'S PIZZA

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Kimberly Hammill

BACKGROUND
Cassidy’s Pizza is a well-loved family owned restaurant, serving the greater Watsonville community for more than 20 years.  In those 20 years, Cassidy’s has steadily grown and is a proud employer for many local youth.

CHALLENGES
They faced some operational issues and were eager to improve their profit margins to retain their loyal employees.  The business was started by Kimberly's father and needed to update their HR policies and procedures in order to be in compliance with current legislative requirements and to retain their employees in this tight job market.

ACTIONS
A Santa Cruz SBDC business advisor worked with Kimberly, improving HR systems by defining hiring and firing practices, I-9 compliance, and updating the policies and procedures manuals.

RESULTS
Cassidy’s Pizza reported the retention of 33 jobs due the Santa Cruz SBDC's assistance.

“I would just like to start out by saying thank you for all your help you have provided for us. It has really helped us improve our company. Joy has been nothing short of perfect. We have loved working with her.”-

BOTANIC & LUXE

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Ariel Carlson and Lelani Kanter

Website

Botanic and Luxe was created by two childhood friends who grew up in Hawaii. Co-owners, Ariel Carlson and Lelani Zehnder, have combined their knowledge of landscape design, health and wellness to create a retail store in Santa Cruz. Some of the products sold at Botanic and Luxe are curated home goods, unique gifts and plants.

“As a brand new business we couldn’t be more grateful for the SBDC and everyone we have worked with from there-from someone guiding us through the process of securing a commercial lease, to someone helping us manage and set up systems to run our business successfully and now a brand specialist is helping us hone in on our target market and brand image. We can’t say enough good things about the SBDC for helping us put our best foot forward. We feel confident our business will succeed with the tools the SBDC has given us and happy to know we have them in our corner.”

SHANTY SHACK BREWING

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Nathan Van Zandt & Brandon Padilla

Website

Shanty Shack Brewing began in the back yard of a typical Santa Cruz beach shack on Chanticleer Ave.  With a loving community of friends and housemates, all of whom were thirsty, Nathan Van Zandt began brewing experimental beers.  But giving his thirsty friends beer for free (as much as they deserved it) was not sustainable.  He signed up for a business class at Cabrillo college and little did he know a great friendship and exciting journey lay ahead.

Brandon Padilla sat in class, he also envisioned a brewery of his own and he also came from a loving community of beer-thirsty friends.  The two joined forces and began putting together events in an old Church where Brandon and crew lived.  They brought together their friends with all sorts of talents; musicians, artists, craft makers, chefs, dancers.  They called it Beer Church and the experimental flavors flowed through the crowd, delighting and uniting.

But it was not enough, Nathan and Brandon had more flavors in mind.  They started bottling their beers and delivering them like the milk man to friends and family.  They called it a CSB (community supported brewing) and modeled it after the boxes of farm fresh produce offered by local farms called a CSA (community supported agriculture).  This gave the brew brothers freedom  to explore new styles and new ingredients.  Mint, sage, lemon verbena, lavender, jasmine, ginger, and beets all went into their beers.  IPA's, saisons, Belgians, stouts, sours, and bitters, the styles kept on coming.  With each delivery poetry and prose accompanied the different flavors so that the drinker could fully understand the creation.  With each delivery the old bottles were collected washed and reused.

They started collaborating with local chefs to put together beer and food pairings.  They took their beer on the road and on their backs to music festivals and camp outs.  They buried sours and barleywines in beautiful places where someday they could return and enjoy them, aged to perfection under the natural beauty of their setting.

All the while, their business plan was fermenting, their brewing skills were maturing, and they hunted down a location like a long lost recipe.  They finally found it in May 2015, an old warehouse with a large parking lot in the Harvey West neighborhood.  Visions of a patio and tasting room quickly blossomed, a lease was signed and a new journey began.

"Under the guidance of Keith Holtaway and the Santa Cruz SBDC we were able to navigate the building permit process, secure crowd and private funding, and build the brewery of our dreams. Now we are open with good reviews and ahead of our payback plans thanks in part to the excellent planning and coaching form the experienced business consultants." - Nathan Van Zandt

THE PENNY ICE CREAMERY, SANTA CRUZ

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Kendra Baker & Zachary Davis

Website

Artisan Ice Cream Grabs National Attention

BACKGROUND
The Penny Ice Creamery is an artisan ice cream shop licensed to make small batches of ice cream from scratch in house, featuring locally-farmed and organic ingredients. Chef Kendra Baker is a pastry chef who came to the SBDC in 2009 with business partner Zachary Davis.

They went to the Central Coast SBDC for help with financing and business planning for a food establishment. SBDC Business Advisor Keith Holtaway helped them with their business plan to better position them for an SBA loan with The Lighthouse Bank, and helped them with location options in the downtown Santa Cruz area.

CHALLENGES
The recession all but halted bank lending in 2009 and entrepreneurs were unsure if they would be able to start their business. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided Baker and Davis the hope for their loan application to be considered by the bank with the incentives ARRA provided.

ACTIONS
Holtaway discussed their business plan in their first few sessions and suggested changes to improve their cost projections. They considered and discussed multiple location options before settling on the current location. Holtaway assisted in finalizing the loan package for The Lighthouse Bank. By the summer of 2010, the loan was approved and increased so that they could buy and improve the building, and the location remodel was completed following LEED best practices. Baker and Davis were able to employ 20 local businesses to complete the remodel, hired 10 employees, and they held a very successful grand opening.

RESULTS
The secured SBA loan was $250K, owners invested $40K, Other investors $60K. The business created 12 jobs.

The business opening went national due to a Thank you Video for ARRA to communicate their appreciation. It was completed in late October, and 3 days later the White House had the video on its Twitter feed as well as being mentioned in the Huffington Post. Congressman Sam Farr stopped by the shop, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel did a front-page story. By Nov. 11, Vice President Joe Biden called to thank the owners. The White House called again in January 2011, this time to invite the entrepreneurs to represent business owners across the nation and sit in Michelle Obama’s box during the State of the Union address. Baker and Davis were featured in The Sentinel again Jan. 25, and TV stations interviewed them when they arrived home from Washington, DC.

“Not only did (the SBDC) give us support and encouragement during the planning process, (they) also offered first-hand knowledge and insight into operating a food service business in Santa Cruz.”

BIG MIKE'S PERFORMANCE PARTS, PRUNEDALE

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Michael McKinney

Website

BACKGROUND
Michael McKinney is a Retired Disabled Veteran of the United States Air Force from 1980-2004, who was injured while training for combat. He had a great idea to design a detachable front license plate for performance vehicles, so he came to the Central Coast SBDC in early 2012. Mike’s first goal was to create a system for those who want to maintain the look and character of a high performance vehicle without doing permanent damage to the front of their vehicle. The second was to comply with state laws of those states requiring a front license plate to be displayed at all times. It is very important for Mike to give back, so a percentage of all sales are donated to disabled veterans through such programs as the Wounded Warriors Project and the Disabled American Veterans Organization.

CHALLENGES
The first challenge was to begin the patent process, for which Mike met with the Central Coast Patent Advisor. who assisted him with a provisional patent. As the SBDC continued with the business plan development, the most difficult challenge was locating a good manufacturer, with the goal of a local business to build the part. The first choice did not work out, and with the SBDC's help, Mike found a Santa Clara manufacturer who could produce a quality product. Another challenge was the unit pricing, and reducing the cost of goods sold to get the margins at a realistic level for market acceptance. Lastly, Mike needed funding for the patent and to start the product manufacturing.

ACTIONS
The SBDC assisted in securing the provisional patent for the STO N SHO™, and reviewed the business plan over a few months to help Mike solidify his pricing, as well as to qualify for the SBA Patriot Loan. With this funding, Mike started his business, and he had prototypes ready for a test market at local car dealerships in the summer.

RESULTS
Mike completed his provisional patent, and he was able to develop a solid business plan that allowed him to qualify for an SBA Patriot Loan for $25,000. He started his business, hired a sales representative, created a website, and test marketed his product at the local Dodge dealership.  He also is finalizing dealer commitments with Mitsubishi and Ford, and other coastal representatives.  He plans to extend his sales into the 31 states that require two license plates, and serve the many high performance car customers who will value his patented design.

“The SBDC is phenomenal, they brought up details that I would have never considered in starting this business, and I look forward to building our relationship and continuing with the SBDC in the future.”

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Our Team
The Santa Cruz SBDC is staffed with experienced leaders who assist SBDC clients grow and develop their businesses.

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Our Partners
The Santa Cruz Small Business Development Center network is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration

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