Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Local Businesses in the News : LaRocca

From Chico ER 4/26/2014

"Chico resident Phillip LaRocca has been elected chair of the California Certified Organic Farmers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1973.

LaRocca is proprietor of LaRocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, according to his press release. LaRocca has represented the north valley chapter of CCOF on the board of directors since 1988. He previously served as vice chair in 1997, and as chair from 1998-2000.

LaRocca Vineyards was certified by the CCOF in 1975.

Two generations of LaRoccas farm more than 110 acres of organic wine grapes and specialize in organic winemaking."

For more information on LaRocca Vineyards, please visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Six Degrees Coffee Service & Distribution

Elizabeth Goldblatt and Amy Louis

           Elizabeth came from an entrepreneurial family. Her father and mother had owned their own businesses and she saw how that unique framework brought them a sense of pride and accomplishment. Amy, on the other hand, was initially against owning her own business. While she was keenly aware of the benefits, she also knew it was both inherently risky and extraordinarily stressful. In 2002, both women were confident that their business model was a solid one, their experience was a great foundation and that their passion and resultant entrepreneurial spirit would result in a continually growing enterprise.
            Both women believe that all of your experiences, both positive and negative, help to form the individual that you become. Elizabeth and Amy both started off in the financial industry, and while that was a promising and lucrative career path, I did not fulfill either’s career objectives and values. Elizabeth went on to work in a human resource capacity and then became a project coordinator at a family owned small business. Many aspects of those two positions have influenced Elizabeth in her capacity at Six Degrees. Amy subsequently entered the coffee industry. She obtained an entry-level position at Peet's Coffee & Tea. Peet's was a pioneer in the specialty coffee industry and Amy completed their Management Trainee program and went on to manage stores and be instrumental in opening new locations. Amy developed her sales acumen and consistently had a high sales ratio in her stores.
            Both are from the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoyed living there immensely. After living in the heart of San Francisco for over a decade, they were looking for a home and environment to raise a family. Amy attended Chico State and Elizabeth had visited the charming town many times. They ran into a college friend and coincidently sparked a conversation about raising a family in Chico. Both women reflected on the town's attributes and went up for a visit. It became apparent that moving to Chico was a better choice than finding an overpriced home in the Bay Area that would not allow them to be more present for a family.
            Having a business in Chico has been an extraordinary gift. It is a vibrant community with so many advantages. The town has provided a wealth of resources both in business and socially to thrive and enjoy their surroundings. They found that there was a real need for their services when they started in 2002 and continue to feel as though they have raised the bar of quality coffee and helped to illustrate how businesses and individuals can work together to achieve their desired goals. Good or bad, they enjoy making all the decisions about our business.
            The future looks very promising for the business. The core product (aside from education and customer service) is coffee. As a beverage and a commodity, it is a consumer staple. The three divisions of Six Degrees namely, wholesale, service and grocery, are all viable entities. Determining the magnitude and growth of each division is the crucial component of operations. At this juncture, the best way to describe the strategic plan for each is "controlled growth."
            In 2010 they found themselves in need of an increased sales force as well as a growing grocery and service division. 3Core had come highly recommended by business leaders in the community that they deeply respect. “We set up a meeting with Patty Hess and familiarized her with our operations. Throughout the coming eighteen months, it was clear that not only would be adding one and possibly two employees, but also would need an additional truck or two. We determined what capital that expansion require and calculated a loan package that would cover the expenses.
            3Core was instrumental in bringing our company to the next level. The staff's expertise, insight and certainly providing the capital we needed was imperative to achieve the controlled growth we desired. We have returned a majority of the capital borrowed and I am certain as we continue to analyze our prospects for growth, 3Core will continue to be a valued partner in our future.”
            As owners of the business and as a commercial entity, Elizabeth and Amy not only can give back to the community but also is a part of the company's mission. Without contributions of businesses and employees, a city cannot accomplish it's goals and remain a desirable to live. Amy, Elizabeth and the team at Six Degrees contribute to the North State by donating baskets for fundraisers, giving coffee and other beverages for community events and speaking at various organizations functions. Amy is involved with Soroptomists International of Chico. Both owners feel that each employee has their own favorite causes and organizations and they encourage the team at Six Degrees to support each other's events. Amy and Elizabeth are also involved in various trade and professional organizations and events in their industry. This translates to the customer, the community and the coffee industry as a whole.
            A challenge with starting your own business is the uncertainty that comes with a new venture. However, they felt that there was a definite need for their services in this area so they were confident that it would continue to grow. Some uncertainty always plays into a business. That is always a concern but with a more mature business and more resources, that worry is diminished. While capital investment and properly balancing product purchases with cash flow can often be a concern for a new business, their initial investment was very minimal.   
            Six Degrees is close to its 11th year of operation, for which Elizabeth and Amy are thrilled. They would like to attribute their success to their tenacity and business acumen but alas, admit it has a great deal to do with their terrific employees, faithful customers and the great community they work in. “We truly treat customers and our business the way we would want to be treated, with integrity and respect. We are not certain that this is unique but it is something we strive to do every day.” 

For more information on Six Degrees Coffee Service & Distribution, visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Recipient TidBit: Life Lessons

As part of their participation in the Business Vitality Seed Fund, we asked each of our recipients a series of questions to get their view on entrepreneurship, the Seed Fund process, and other entrepreneurial related TidBits. The following is their answers to the question: What are some life lessons you learned while starting your business and participating in the Seed Fund?

Five by Five Tonics
"I guess the biggest lesson I am learning is time management. Once my company started to take off, it became all-consuming and I found myself constantly working “in” the business. I am working through how to move to working “on” the business by managing my time and delegating tasks that don’t require my time to others. Other than that, I suppose that I have learned to roll with the ups and downs that happen in a new business. One day everything is peachy and then the next it feels like imminent doom. The very next morning you might be on top of the world. Seems like I do better if I let the goods and bads roll off my shoulder a bit."

For more information on Five by Five Tonics, please visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Upper Park Designs
"The biggest life lesson that we have learned since starting our company is estimating time frames. Always overestimate the time something will take to accomplish. Underestimating will always hurt you, and trying to be exact is a huge gamble. It is better to aim beyond your expected date and deliver earlier then kill yourself trying to deliver on the date you said you would. Learning to give your customers a good time frame can make your business look fantastic, especially when your company is product based. If a customer is expecting to wait 4 months for a product and receives it early or even on time (if unforeseen things happen, which they will) you will still look good in the eyes of your customers and save you potentially hours of time apologizing, refunding, and trying to rebuild your company image.

It’s simple. Things happen that are out of your control. When you are giving a time frame to customers who have preordered or are awaiting a release, it always pays to plan for longer then come up short."

For more information on Upper Park Designs, please visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Social High Rise
"Many entrepreneurs will say that starting a company requires a tremendous amount of resilience to adversity. I have learned that to be the absolute truth. It's been a little over a year since Social High Rise was formed, and we have had our share of challenges. There are two things that stand out to me as lessons learned which have had the greatest impact on me personally. 

The first is to hire great people and get rid of the ones who aren't great. As an entrepreneur, your company is so fragile that you can only afford to bring on individuals who will not only do the job they're given, but will fight as hard as you will to push your company to succeed. Anyone without that mindset will only drag you down. In the early months of Social High Rise, I had to replace a few people who were not a good fit at the time. Some were not a good fit, period. I learned that if I had the wrong people working for me, they didn't just perform below expectations, but they exponentially drove the company closer to failure. I found that a large chunk of my time, energy, and emotional capacity was spent on managing these people who were not a good fit. In turn, I was far less effective and could not focus on what mattered most.

The second lesson I've learned is how important it is to focus on the things that will drive your company forward. It's extremely easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia of running your start-up, and you can quickly find days and weeks passing by without any measurable steps in the right direction. Answering emails, tinkering with your website, researching your competition, or crafting the perfect power point presentation are all things that may seem important at the time, but will usually not result in closing more deals or increasing retention; at least not when your company is young and small. If you focus half your time on the 2-3 most important things that will actually drive your company forward, and have the discipline to not let yourself get distracted, you will be amazed at how quickly your company will begin to move forward in the right direction."

For more information on Social High Rise, please visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

CSU, Chico Center for Entrepreneurship: Future Four 2014 Judges

Bob Bozeman - Lead Judge
General Partner, Eastlake Ventures

Bob Bozeman loves being involved in entrepreneurship events because entrepreneurship is the only thing he does, and has seen true entrepreneurship work very well. Bob decided to be a judge for the Future Four event because entrepreneurs need feedback, “the best adjust based on the best feedback, so that circle is important to understand and to participate in”. He believes that the Future Four event is important for students to participate in because "students who learn from these kinds of experiments become motivated to become involved with business, and they relate to the demands and requirements to package solutions in the best way to be successful."

Executive Director, 3Core Inc.

Both of Marc Nemanic’s parents each owned their own businesses, so he has lived and breathed entrepreneurship from an early age. Running 3Core is an exercise in change and novelty so he has to be entrepreneurial each day. “In today’s changing economy, creating new enterprises, whether for profit or for social objectives, will become the norm as opposed to the exception. Jobs will increasingly be self-developed by people as institutions shed traditional jobs and rely on a contingent workforce,” something which he has seen and experienced over many years as the executive director of 3Core, and previously as the Deputy Director of the Shasta County Private Industry Council. Marc chose to be a Future Four judge because he believes that an event like this is the first step in building momentum for entrepreneurship regionally and with partner institutions. He believes that it is essential for young entrepreneurs to get involved with events such as the Future Four because, “every journey starts with the first step. Involvement will spark students to see the possibilities and opportunities. Like-minded people can share and support each other as the journey begins. Not everyone will be a prototypical entrepreneur, but it takes many different skills and creative talents so that something is created and gives consumers something of value. Events like this open doors and minds to the future.”

Thomas Villa
Product Director, Education Products & Services, Verizon Wireless

“In today’s business environment, innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.” Thomas Villa has over 20 years of service and management experience both domestically and overseas within the wireless industry, and throughout that time has worked for some true entrepreneurial companies. Those companies have in common the ability to look out into the future, identify needs, and translate those needs back to present day roadmaps that deliver disruptive, innovative, value added products and experiences. Tom loves that CSU, Chico’s Center for Entrepreneurship is promoting an environment of Ideation, “free thinking that could change our lives”. Being given the opportunity to judge this event where students are “at the bleeding edge of changes that could and should occur…it would be difficult for me not to support that both professionally and personally.”

Lance Blanshei
Managing Partner, Blanshei Partners, Brand & New Products Development Consultancy
Founder, Tea Innovations, Inc.

Lance Blanshei has had over 20 years of driving food and beverage innovation vis-a-vis new product and brand development for Fortune 100 CPG firms. He also created what is described as the most innovative and successful foodservice tea concept in the country. Lance chose to be a judge for the Future Four event as he is pleased to support Peter Straus and his amazing program. Lance believes that the Future Four event is, “an exceptional opportunity for CSU, Chico’s aspiring entrepreneurs to realize the potential of putting their ideas and passions on the line in a competitive review”.

Serial Technology Entrepreneur

Jeff Spence has been involved in buying, building, and selling technology companies for more than 15 years. He has raised capital and built teams on six continents across dozens of countries, and currently advises a half dozen technology companies. Jeff chose to be a judge for the Future Four event because he believes that “entrepreneurial leadership skills are learned, not inherited at birth” and that “these skills will have the greatest impact on our economy and society over the course of the next 20 to 50 years.” Jeff believes that an event like the Future Four is important because the type of competition allows students to gain the benefits of in-market successes and failures without having to endure the typical time and expense of these in real life. He says, “the business and innovative discipline that participants have to exercise to be successful in these competitions is difficult to teach through traditional classroom business curriculum.”

Louis Stewart
Deputy Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz)

Louis Stewart’s current role is to help California develop an ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship, promotes long term economic growth and facilitates job creation through innovation. He wanted to be a judge for the Future Four because he saw it as an “excellent opportunity to get involved at the grassroots level of entrepreneurship as well as become aware of up and coming innovation in the region.” Louis believes that events like the Future Four are important because “students are the future of innovation and I believe innovation drives the global economy so it is imperative for students to participate in events such as these so that we understand how to reduce barriers based on what is presented and they inform us about what is coming.”

Associate Dean of Business (interim), CSU Chico

Julie Indvik’s involvement with entrepreneurship has been “layered”. As the department chair in the early 2000’s, she initiated the development for the CSUC Entrepreneurship Program in the Management program. In 2007-09, she redesigned the academic program as the current major for Business students and the current Minor available to any student on campus. “Our program is definitely an example of bricolage: making the most of the resources at hand to create something new.” Being so involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship since its development in 2005, it was an easy choice for Julie to be a part of this landmark event. The academic entrepreneurship program, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and the student club Collegiate Entrepreneurial Association have spent a great deal of time offering tools, practice, experience, and guidance so that students can start new ventures. “This event is the culmination of many faculty and many students across the four campuses working and learning for months to turn creative ideas into viable ventures.”

Dan Ripke
Director, Center for Economic Development and Northeastern California SBDC

Dan Ripke has spent 26 years of his life supporting entrepreneurs, and works with approximately 3,000 small businesses annually. He has been a strong supporter for student entrepreneurs across 23 counties, so being a judge for the Future Four event was an easy decision for him. Dan believes that it is essential for students to be involved in events like the Future Four, because “students need to understand the important opportunities created by applying their technical skills, natural talents, and energy to start new enterprises.”

3Core, Inc. is proud to be a partner with the Chico State Center for Entrepreneurship, and to sponsor eWeek.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Local Chico: Home Ec

          After growing up in Chico, moving to Seattle to try something new, and then returning to Chico, in 2011, Christianne Belles finally realized where her heart and future belonged. With past experience working for Macy’s and in Nordstrom’s back office, she learned all about retail, how to run a store, how not to run a store, and (after trying out working for a non-profit in downtown Chico) that retail was where she wanted to stay.

          Having a self-proclaimed “quirky personality”, it’s no wonder that Christianne had such an affinity with the downtown Chico area, and refused to look anywhere else to start her new business. With visions of a "Modcloth meets urban outfitters meets anthropologie" style shop selling home wares and gifts that customers would find ‘oddly appealing’, Home Ec was born. It is Christianne’s mission to have customers either fall in love with, or simply just giggle at each and every “random awesome” hand selected item that is placed in the quaint shop on Main Street.

 “For decorations in a home, everything should have a reason”

          Christianne’s favorite things about owning a business are having creative control, seeing her vision come to life, inspiring and making people happy, and most importantly scheduling. Being a mom of two delightfully beautiful baby girls is her main priority, and being able to create her own schedule for her shop and her two employees helps her balance all things that make her truly happy – family and her business.

          For Christianne, being an entrepreneur meant that she had to take risks and throw herself out there without knowing what the outcome was, but still doing it. It was scary, but an amazing adventure, and credits her ability to be an absolute optimist for giving her the strength to push on. She has no idea what the future holds for Home Ec, but just hopes that it continues to grow and inspire its customers.

For more information on Home Ec, please visit their website or find them on Facebook!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Recipient TidBits - Who Do You Wish You Had Met Before Applying For The Seed Fund?

As part of their participation in the Business Vitality Seed Fund, we asked each of our recipients a series of questions to get their view on entrepreneurship, the Seed Fund process, and other entrepreneurial related TidBits. The following is their answers to the question: Who do you wish you had met before applying to the Seed Fund?

I wish I would have been able to reach out and talk to a previous recipient of the Seed Fund. Since I was the first candidate and first recipient of the seed fund, I didn't have that chance. But if I were to give advice to someone who is thinking about applying to the seed fund, I would tell them to reach out to a current seed fund recipient and ask their advice for how to get the most out of their time in front of the review board. 
For more information about Social High Rise, please visit their website or find them on facebook!

I wish we had met someone who knew a little more about selling physical products. We have since met a few advisors who have helped us with some of our questions about product releases and pricing strategies. Most companies and advisors available are more into the tech start up then a product startup, so finding good advise is hard. 

That being said, I believe we still would have approached 3CORE in the same way. We knew what we needed to get us started and we got it. 

For more information about Upper Park Designs, please visit their website or find them on facebook!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Local Chico: Grana

              Working in the restaurant industry from an early age for his Grandparent’s restaurant, and then helping the new owners acclimate once it was sold was a great starting point that helped Jeff be the restaurant owner that he is today. From that restaurant he moved on to other food service jobs that he held throughout college. Upon relocating to Chico, Jeff had the opportunity to building many restaurants in the Chico area and learned all of the ‘behind the scenes’ tricks for a restaurant – kitchen infrastructure, best placement for kitchen equipment, how to build his own ceiling lights out of table lamps, etc.

            The concept of opening a restaurant like Grana in Chico had been on Jeff’s mind for many years, and when North Rim Adventure Sports opened a space on the corner of East 2nd and Wall Street he decided to take the opportunity because of the great location.

            Jeff’s favorite thing about Chico is that the town has a smaller community with larger city traits. He is a big believer in what Chico stands for with its diversity and love of music and art, and wanted his restaurant to complement what Chico has to offer.  To Jeff, entrepreneurship means “what you feel your community can sustain and what you can give back.” It is this thinking, and Chico’s community support for programs like the farmer’s market and keeping things local, that made it an easy choice for him to follow the same thinking with his restaurant.

            Even with many challenges with some of the local farmers not being able to sell their produce to him for wholesale prices, he has been able to work with some who now are able to give him what he needs at the price that is still affordable. It is his aspiration to be able to educate his customers and the community about buying local and organic, and that being sustainable doesn’t have to be so expensive. “Food can be incredibly simple and delicious with the right ingredients.” Grana also gives back to the community by getting involved and giving away gift certificates.

            Some big challenges that Jeff encountered with opening Grana was the building and permit processes, and simply getting things done at the City level. “Chico could be a lot more friendly to the entrepreneurs that make this city thrive.” He referenced to the infrastructure work in Sacramento Mid-town and how that area built up really quickly because entrepreneurs knew that they were being supported by the city to go there, and now it is incredibly successful and strong.

            Jeff powers on with the drive to be a little better every day, just as he wants his food and wine to be that little bit better each day. Right now he is spending a lot of his time working on the business rather than in the business where he’d like to be, but is working on keeping personal staff morale high while he’s not so involved with them.  

For more information on Grana, please visit their website or find them on facebook!