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I Made it in San Diego
48 minutes | Apr 17, 2018
The Making of a Local Music Legend
If you listen to local music, then you’ve heard of Tim Mays. Mays is the cofounder and co-owner of San Diego’s mythic music venue The Casbah. On this episode of "I Made it in San Diego," Voice of San Diego's podcast about local businesses and the people behind them, hear how Mays went from a kid handing out concert fliers to an indie music legend. Mays started booking and producing shows in San Diego in the early 1980s as a way to make sure his favorite bands came through town. By the mid '80s, Mays and some of his friends also wanted to open a bar more geared toward his generation – with their music in the jukebox. Mays' side gig promoting shows and the bar he helped open, The Pink Panther, both found quick success. He quit his day jobs and became a serial entrepreneur with a knack for opening businesses that grew to be local icons. "I never said, 'I don't want to work for the man,' I just was lucky enough to not have to after a certain point." After the birth of The Casbah, Mays continued to open new bars, restaurants and businesses in San Diego – Starlite restaurant, Vinyl Junkies record store and Krakatoa coffee shop among them. He's created opportunities for dozens of local bands and artists, helped turn neighborhoods into thriving communities and still finds time to think about what business he might open next. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
38 minutes | Mar 16, 2018
When Running a Hotel Isn't Enough
Entertainment and hospitality is one of the top 10 industries in San Diego. Because hotels play such a big role in our region, their owners have some political power. In a new episode of I Made It in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to hotelier Elvin Lai about how running a hotel has led to his involvement in several business ventures, city politics and the community. After his father’s death, Lai was unexpectedly handed his family’s hotel when he was just 21. During the first few months of running Ocean Park Inn, a 72-room boutique hotel in Pacific Beach, he slept under his desk while he learned the ropes. He turned out to be an astute businessman. But running a hotel was never enough for Lai. He’s become a serial entrepreneur and an active community member. Currently, he’s a member of a few hotel trade associations, he’s on the San Diego Convention Center board, and he helps run a program addressing homelessness in Pacific Beach. “If the community is not succeeding and thriving, then there’s no business to be had,” Lai said. “You have a responsibility to the community that you’re doing business in.” See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
25 minutes | Mar 8, 2018
How Redhorse Became One of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Country
Last year, $9.4 billion flowed to defense contractors in San Diego. At the helm of one of those local private firms getting some of those military dollars is David Inmon, the CEO of Redhorse Corporation. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, Inmon talks to Scott Lewis about how he built a fast-growing business that provides program management and technology services to the military and other clients. Almost exactly 10 years ago, Inmon and his business partner opened Redhorse Corporation. They had no capital besides a $50,000 loan from the small business administration. Inmon is from Oklahoma, a descendent of Choctaw Indians – a minority status that helped him get his foot in the door on government contracts. Redhorse grew quickly. By 2016, the business had revenue of $57 million and was among the 1000 fastest growing companies in the country, as ranked by Inc. 5000. In the world of government contracting, small businesses get a big boost. Redhorse is not longer a small business, so Inmon says that shift has been a challenge. "We made it, but now we've got to sustain it," he said. "We're no longer a small business and that changes the calculus quite a bit, particularly in the federal market space." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
61 minutes | Feb 16, 2018
Creating a Future Through Music
For music engineer Justin Watson, music has always been a part of him. Growing up in Detroit was tough. He lived near the stretch of highway known as the 8 Mile Road, in a neighborhood where everyone and everything was about work. Watson, who goes by Jay Wat, had to grow up fast. Music kept his family tight. Wat's parents would put on basement parties that got the whole neighborhood dancing to Roy Ayers and Sly and the Family Stone. In the sixth grade, Wat's mom bought him his first boombox, and he'd play his cassette tapes on repeat. In high school, Wat got a hip-hop education in Detroit’s "school of hard knocks," where DJs spun records, b-boys breakdanced to the beat, and emcees battled with freestyle rhymes. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, Wat talks about how he turned his love of music into a career. “It just became a point to where I wanted to really do this full on,” Wat said. “I didn't make a conscious decision yet that I wanted to be a producer, a music producer. But I just felt like I wanted to be involved in music some way. Somehow, destiny guided me.” Today, Wat is busy with more than 100 clients at his La Mesa studio, Jay Wat Production Studio. A lot of the artists he works with are young and come from inner-city communities like southeastern San Diego. Many of them mirror his own experience growing up in Detroit: Getting in trouble with friends, struggling in the classroom, and feeding a voracious appetite for music. Wat views music as a way to offer the guidance and mentorship that was often missing during his childhood. “I feel like I am a part of these kids lives,” he said. “And I just want to see them do so much better and succeed.” See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
46 minutes | Feb 8, 2018
A Place Maker Builds a Business
Ilisa Goldman thinks it should be easy for a group of neighbors to spruce up a vacant, city-owned lot with seating, shade, art and other simple amenities. Instead, they often end up having to claw through a series of bureaucratic barriers and many simply give up, or avoid the ordeal entirely. Goldman is the landscape architect and planner behind Rooted in Place, a firm she started to help clients – mostly nonprofits and community groups – create public spaces and outdoor learning environments for kids. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to Goldman about the community gardens, outdoor classrooms and other projects she's designed, and her ongoing struggle to make it easier for people to improve their neighborhoods. Jargon like "tactical urbanism" and "placemaking" have gained popularity in recent years. Both concepts refer to the kind of work Goldman does – quicker, easier, more affordable urban projects, often in historically underserved communities. Goldman said the placemaking movement is gaining popularity, in part, because once one community builds a successful project, other people take note and feel empowered to do it, too. "I think that communities were sort of tired of waiting," she said. "They were waiting for improvements to happen in their community and trying to go through City Council and trying to go through governance and realizing it was really hard." Goldman has successfully completed several placemaking projects across the county, both with her firm, and during her stint with the city of San Diego’s short-lived Civic Innovation Lab, a pet project of then-mayor Bob Filner who envisioned it as an incubator to help the city do quicker, more affordable, neighborhood-driven projects. "I saw firsthand what the real issues were inside the city, and outside of the city with community organizations," she said. "What were the biggest challenges, why was it hard to do these placemaking projects. I had really come to understand that our development services [department] was geared toward developers who had money, not toward communities that wanted to make their own change." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
39 minutes | Jan 17, 2018
Moving Doesn't Have to Be Terrible
Moving sucks. Mike Glanz went all in on that basic premise and ended up running an online moving business in Oceanside that now pulls in about $8 million in annual gross revenue. A decade ago, most people were either renting their own trucks or hiring full-service companies and paying them thousands of dollars to do everything. Glanz and his roommate Pete Johnson started seeing the rapid emergence of a new type of move. More and more folks were renting their own moving trucks and then finding movers to hire by going online to sites like Craigslist, or swinging by Home Depot to pick up day laborers. Glanz and Johnson called it the "hybrid move," and they decided to build HireAHelper.com, a website that would make it easier. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to Glanz about how and why he's helping to disrupt the multibillion-dollar moving industry. By simply entering a date and zip code, folks can easily compare prices of local movers. With just a few clicks, the movers are hired and the deal, which typically ends up costing under $300, includes insurance, meaning anything that breaks in the process will be replaced. When the website launched in June 2007, it grew steadily. By 2008, Glanz and Johnson were feeling confident they could turn HireAHelper into a very successful business. But then the mega-business U-Haul stepped in and served them with a lawsuit. U-Haul said they were infringing on the term "moving help," a term the company has trademarked. The lawsuit nearly shut the business down. "[U-Haul] didn't give us an option to go away or to close up shop or to just quit," Glanz said. "They seemed like they were out for blood." Instead, HireAHelper doubled down and worked to grow the business enough to pay off the legal fees and make a profit. The lawsuit was eventually settled, and the website has gone on to become a solid business that helped facilitate over 65,000 moves across the country last year. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
14 minutes | Jan 10, 2018
A Grueling Game of Farmers Market Musical Chairs
Brian Beevers is the man behind the farmers markets in Clairemont, Serra Mesa and at Horton Plaza. He's also got a farmers market-inspired shop called Simply Local in North Park that sells goods made by San Diegans. Becoming one of the region's biggest purveyors of local products, though, wasn't easy. The success of a farmers market relies heavily on finding — and keeping — the right locations. That means Beevers' businesses over the years have often fallen victim to the whims of landowners. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, Lisa Halverstadt talks to Beevers about his ongoing struggle to open farmers markets and sustain the interest. “I've always known that I am at the mercy of the land owners, and it's something that you just have to kind of live with every day, that you just don't know for sure when somebody just might pull the plug on you," Beevers said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
40 minutes | Dec 13, 2017
Chasing the Lucha Libre Dream
When Josue "Josh" Anival Salcido entered his first professional wrestling ring in 2009, it was as a last-minute fill-in for a few performers who didn't show up. His twin brother Jaime Salcido was by his side, and they tag-teamed in a Lucha Libre match. They had been training for that moment for more than two years, and even though they thought they weren't quite ready, the fans disagreed. Their careers as Lucha Libre performers, Josh as Krazy Klown and Jaime as Rasta Lion, lurched forward. Sometimes the two wrestled on the same team, other times as rivals. On a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, I talk to Josh about wrestling in Lucha Libre matches across Southern California and Mexico, his recent retirement and his new venture as a promoter for a Lucha Libre business that puts on matches in the South Bay. Lucha Libre is more of an art form than a sport. It’s dripping with long-held traditions. Josh fell in love with those traditions – the colorful masks, the slick and high-flying maneuvers and especially the intense matches where wrestlers would wager their masks or even their own hair (losers have to submit to a haircut right there in the middle of the ring, and winners take the hair as a prize). Josh remembers seeing a Lucha Libre match for the first time as his dad watched it on their home TV in San Ysidro. He knew immediately that's what he wanted to do with his life, he said. "I just got mesmerized and fell in love with Lucha Libre," he said. "It's like poetry in motion ... everything flows and everything looks good and everything is like, wow." But it wasn't until he tried to overdose on cocaine and alcohol that he realized he had to finally go after it. Josh retired in October after a particularly bloody match. He said he makes more money now as a promoter than he did inside the ring, but that money was never his motivation. "I did it for the love and passion of the sport," he said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
42 minutes | Dec 6, 2017
How a Kids Theater Program Grew Up
Back in the late 1970s, musical theater was growing rapidly from coast to coast. Semi-professional actors looking for a chance to perform on stage had several opportunities. But kids? Not so much. On a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, Paul Russell talks about how he filled that niche and built a kids' theater side job into what he said is now the largest youth theater program in the nation. In 1979, Russell got a job teaching drama at Christian High School in East County. The high school shows he produced were so popular in the community that the vice principal persuaded him to start Christian Community Theater. Christian Community Theater brought together dozens of churches and, for the company's first-ever production, kids and adults starred in "The Sound of Music" at an amphitheater on top of Mt. Helix. The show was not great, but the community loved it – especially the parents of the kids who performed. The parents wanted more, and they asked Russell to put together a theater program for children – something after school that would teach kids how to act. So in 1981 in his garage in El Cajon, Russell and his wife Sheryl officially started Christian Youth Theater. By the end of their first year, enrollment doubled. In their first decade, they grew from one location in El Cajon to eight locations all over San Diego County. Early on, though, the nonprofit grew too much, too fast. More than once, the debt piled up so high, the company came close to shutting down. But Russell said big donors would step up to help, or they'd find other ways to keep things going. "I am not a great businessman, but I always surrounded myself with a board that was way smarter than me," he said. "I didn't want 'yes' people. I wanted people to help solve my weaknesses. And so business people would come along and say, well, look at your profit centers. Expand on those and cut those programs that aren't able to support themselves." In 1995, Christian Youth Theater opened a location in Chicago, and from that point on it expanded to other cities. Russell’s passion for teaching kids the arts has never waned. “I believe in it so much because I really do believe we're changing kids' lives and developing character one stage at a time," he said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
42 minutes | Nov 15, 2017
An Architect's Big Break, and the Struggle to Live Up to it
Jennifer Luce has made a name as an architect who takes an artful approach to designing buildings. Her firm, Luce et Studio, designed the Nissan offices in La Jolla, Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy and dozens of other award-winning projects in San Diego and beyond. On a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, Luce talks about how she got an unexpected break early in her career, and how she has worked to keep the momentum going ever since, with varying degrees of success. At her first job out of architecture school, Luce was tasked with designing prisons. She needed a creative outlet, so she entered a prestigious international design competition. More than 500 firms across the world applied, including people three times her age, with decades more experience. She wasn’t even a licensed architect yet. But the jury saw something special about her design, and selected it as the winner, effectively putting Luce in charge of a multimillion-dollar project, the Center for Innovative Technology in Virginia. "Winning a competition early in life is a really pivotal thing to happen to you because you're jolted forward even if you might not quite be prepared for it," she said. The experience gave Luce the confidence she needed to strike out on her own. She always knew she wanted to be her own boss, but she had to rebuild her firm three times before it finally took hold. Finally, though, her firm is landing the kind of clients she's always wanted. It's behind the redesign of the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park and is designing buildings for other arts and cultural organizations. "Through that perseverance, the work that you're meant to have comes to you," Luce said. "And we are at a moment where we're just doing exactly what we want to be doing." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
48 minutes | Nov 8, 2017
'The Cockroaches of the Internet' on Their Online Empire
Back in 2001, the internet was a weird and wonderful place. It was devoid of the much of the online entertainment and noise of today. It was a place where a couple of Santee kids could do silly but entertaining things like bring the video game Tetris to life by running around San Diego dressed as a Tetris block – that people noticed and enjoyed. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, VOSD contributor Dallas McLaughlin talks to Rocco Botte, Derrick Acosta and Shawn Chatfield about how they turned their funny internet videos into Mega64, a successful online business with thousands of fans worldwide. Botte, Acosta and Chatfield never set out to build a business. As theater geeks who grew up in Santee, they started out making free videos for fun. But the right people saw the videos at the right time, and set the trio on an unexpected trajectory that has lasted for more than 15 years. With over 400,000 YouTube subscribers, over 100 million views and over 70,000 subscribers to the Mega64 podcast, the three continue to ride the wave of internet success. "We're even called the cockroaches of the internet," Chatfield said. "Because we're never like the biggest thing, but we're always around and not really going away, and you can't kill us. We can survive anything." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
26 minutes | Nov 1, 2017
After Battling for Her Life, She Built a Successful Battling Business
Diana Ocampo is a fighter. In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the stories behind the region’s businesses and the people who made them what they are, Scott Lewis talks to Ocampo about the battles she's faced and the businesses she's built, then lost, then built again. When mixed-martial arts first started getting big, matches were illegal in California. Still, Ocampo saw an opportunity, and launched MMA matches at a venue in Tijuana. Her events quickly took off, and she outgrew the space just in time for California to lift the ban on the sport in 2006. The matches she organized at places like the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park and casinos across the San Diego region attracted thousands of fans. She was one of the only female MMA promoters in the nation, and her business became a big financial success. But then she got cancer — and lost everything. "Going from having been very comfortable to nothing was very shocking," she told Lewis. What she didn't lose was her resourcefulness and resolve. She found someone who believed in her entrepreneurial ability, and got an investment that helped her open Total Combat Paintball. Without knowing anything about the game, she quickly built that business into a success, too. "I'm like OK, let me figure this out," she said. "And I did." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
44 minutes | Oct 11, 2017
The Battle Behind a Family's Secret Sauce
I had no choice but to try Bitchin' Sauce. It was years ago, and Ryan Smith was at the farmer's market in Hillcrest. He was so enthusiastic and wildly upbeat about his "bitchin' dips, so I stopped to give them a try. Yum. The sauces – which are sort of like hummus but made with ground-up almonds instead of garbanzo beans – are good. They're also vegan and fit other restrictive diets. And Smith had a whole charming farmers market schtick that sucked people in. It didn't take long for Bitchin' Sauce to take off – both because of the flavor and Smith's knack for pitching the product. After making the rounds at local farmers markets, Smith and his sister Starr Edwards enlisted their family for help and started getting stores across the state to sell the product. Bitchin' Sauce, based in Carlsbad, grew to about $2 million in annual revenue by 2015, Smith said. That's when the trouble hit. A small disagreement among the family morphed into an all-out legal battle that left Edwards with total control of the business. The rest of the family was left scrambling, wondering what to do next. "Imagine going from a six-figure salary to nothing," Smith said. "Moving out of your house with your wife and baby, moving in with your brother and going, what are we going to do?" In this week's episode of "I Made it in San Diego," VOSD's podcast about local businesses and the people behind them, I talked to Smith about how he picked himself back up and helped build a successful family business once again. Edwards is now CEO of Bitchin' Foods. She declined to speak with me. Rather than wage an all-out battle for the business, Smith and the rest of the family let it go. A few months after the grueling split, they started building a new business called Good Lovin’ Foods, the cornerstone of which is a trio of healthy vegan sauces the family claims are better than the last. Smith said the family is now making more than they were when they left Bitchin' Sauce behind. But the new business' growth hasn't come without challenges. "It definitely was not easy," Smith said. "And it hasn't been without battles – like everything going wrong. ... It has been a battle, but we're growing." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
33 minutes | Oct 4, 2017
The Man Who Helped Sell San Diego on Fish Tacos
It's hard to imagine, I know, but there was a time when San Diego wasn't so sure about fish tacos. When Ralph Rubio opened the inaugural Rubio's on Mission Bay Drive in Pacific Beach, people still expected a taco to have a crunchy shell and contain some sort of beef. It took some time before Rubio's original fish taco, with its soft, yellow corn tortillas and beer-battered fish, caught on. "There was a lot of resistance. I was surprised when people would say, "What? Fish in a tortilla? What are you thinking?'" Rubio told me on the latest episode of "I Made it in San Diego," VOSD's podcast about the people behind the region's businesses. "That thought never occurred to me. And so I was I was ignorant of that, or that possibility. I didn't realize what a marketing challenge I was in for." We all know how things turned out, though. San Diego ultimately embraced fish tacos so hard that they're now the thing people seek out when they visit the city. In fact, Rubio's initial challenge of marketing the fish taco eventually morphed into the opposite problem: The company grew so much, so quickly, that it created a whole new set of problems. And even though the fish taco is now a San Diego icon, Rubio said he's also had to pull items off the menu on occasion when they proved unsuccessful, including a calamari burrito and a cheeseburger taco. The company has pivoted to recent years to focus on fresh seafood and healthier fare. "People were looking for delicious grilled seafood options and it's hard to get delicious grilled seafood in a fast-casual setting anywhere in the United States. That was our market opportunity. And so that's what we went after," Rubio said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
46 minutes | Sep 27, 2017
The Theater Company That Went From a Chicken Coop to Center Stage in Carlsbad
New Village Arts started as an idea Kristianne Kurner had for a theater company back in the late 1990s. At the time, Kurner was a member of the first graduating class of The Actor’s Studio in New York – an intense program led by James Lipton. When Kurner graduated, she left New York for Los Angeles and started a family. But the theater scene in L.A. wasn’t doing so well at that time, so Kurner instead decided to make New Village Arts a reality. In the latest episode of “I Made it in San Diego,” VOSD’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, I talk to Kurner about how, with just a couple thousand dollars, she moved her family to Carlsbad and started a scrappy little theater company that eventually grew into one of the region's most respected (Disclosure: I've done some acting for New Village Arts). The company's first production was inside an old chicken coop. "It only had 25 seats, so we sold out every show," she said. "It was really a great way to start because it got us a lot of attention." With more fans than it could pack into a chicken coop, New Village Arts had to upgrade. Kurner struck up a friendship with Judi Sheppard Missett, the founder of Jazzercise, who offered the group a space to rehearse, hold classes and produce shows in the back of the Jazzercise warehouse. The shows filled up, classes kept getting added, and New Village Arts quickly outgrew that space, too. It finally found a new home in the heart of what would become the thriving area known as Carlsbad Village. The company's shows attracted new people to the neighborhood and played a role in its transformation. "What we always believed was that if we did really good, quality work then the people would help to support it,” Kurner said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
45 minutes | Sep 6, 2017
'The Soap of a Generation' Started With a Soapbox
There aren't any slick commercials or campaigns advertising Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. And yet, you've probably heard of the product. The soap is different – some might say a little weird. The most memorable feature isn't the soap itself; it's the labels, which are packed with over 3,000 words about “God’s Spaceship Earth,” Mohammed, Jesus, the Marxist welfare state, arctic timberwolves and more. The quasi-religious rants on the labels were written by the company's founder, Emanuel "Emil" Bronner, an eccentric man who started by selling his liquid peppermint soap to people who would first listen to his soapbox lectures about uniting humanity. When he realized that more people were showing up to buy the soap than listen to what he had to say, he started printing the main tenets of his philosophy right on the labels. In our latest episode of “I Made it in San Diego,” VOSD’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, Emil's grandson David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner's, talks about how the family's company has grown from a quirky sideshow soap with a cult following to a multimillion-dollar brand that folks can find at places like Target. David Bronner said the first big boom happened in the '60s, when the rising hippie counterculture embraced the soap, both for its messages of love and unity and for its sustainable, organic ingredients. "My granddad's message just caught fire and became the soap of a generation," he said. Tax problems caused some setbacks – Emil saw Dr. Bronner's as a religious, tax-exempt organization, the IRS did not – but the company, which has its factory in Vista, has continued to grow at a rapid pace. David Bronner attributes the success to putting the company's progressive ethos and messages it champions at the forefront. Issues like fair trade, progressive employment practices and legal marijuana have become central to the business, garnering the company a lot of press. "It's kind of the way my grandpa did it," David Bronner said. "We fight hard for the causes we believe in. And you know we're kind of like cause marketing 101, but way beyond it. People respect that we're not just doing it for the marketing bang, we're actually in our fights to win them." David Bronner, for instance, once locked himself in cage filled with hemp plants in front of the White House in an effort to make the case for the legalization of hemp harvesting in the United States. Hemp is an ingredient in the soap. David Bronner was hesitant about joining the family business, but the activism that's become a big part of his job has made running the company about a lot more than just soap. "It turns out you can write soap into all kinds of interesting, fun, adventurous things," David Bronner said. "And so I'm never bored." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
48 minutes | Aug 30, 2017
The Fitness Franchise That Started it All
I take three separate fitness classes a week to supplement my running workouts, including one at Barry's Bootcamp in Hillcrest, a franchise with locations across the country. San Diego has lots of similar options for the fitness-inclined: CorePower Yoga, OrangeTheory Fitness, CrossFit. One fitness franchise helped pave the way for all of them, and it started with one woman teaching classes out of rec centers in Oceanside. Judi Sheppard Missett, who is still Jazzercise's CEO and continues to teach classes, didn't set out to build a fitness empire. When she moved to Oceanside after college, she was trying to make it as a theater actress and singer, and just wanted to teach classes — a modified jazz dance workout she invented — on the side. "But as luck would have it, or karma, or whatever — the universe had something else in store for me," Sheppard Missett tells me in our latest episode of "I Made it in San Diego," VOSD's podcast about the region’s businesses -and the people who made them what they are. At one point, Sheppard Missett was teaching so many classes, she developed nodules on her vocal cords, and lost her voice. That seeming setback ended up being a game-changer for Jazzercise: Sheppard Missett decided to enlist other instructors whom she could teach her routines to, and they ended up fanning out around the county, expanding the reach of the classes. When instructors moved away, they brought the classes with them, which opened the door to franchising the business. After that boom, though, came challenges, including a lawsuit over how instructors were required to look, and eventually, stigma about Jazzercise as being old-fashioned. "Sometimes when you're a pioneer, you develop a little stigma because people say to themselves, 'Gosh they were a big hit. We remember when back in the '80s, and they still around, what's going on?' And of course we we are still around," Sheppard Missett said. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
33 minutes | Aug 23, 2017
If the Shoe Fits, Build a Business Around it
Finding shoes that fit perfectly can be hard. After a particularly frustrating day of shoe shopping at a mall, Lucy Beard had a big aha moment while drinking her Starbucks latte. Beard happened to pick up an article about 3D printing technology and she thought, if these machines can create one-of-a-kind objects, couldn't they be used to make customized shoes? "I could have any kind of coffee I want from two little machines, and yet I couldn't get a pair of shoes that fit," she said. "And that was where that light bulb moment came off." Beard decided right then and there to get into the shoe business. In the latest episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast illuminating the stories behind the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs, I sat down with Beard to talk about Feetz, the company she launched last year that uses a smartphone app and a warehouse filled with 3D printers to create one-of-a-kind shoes for its customers. Beard knew nothing about 3D printers when she decided to build a business around them, but she found local resources like Fab Lab, a nonprofit that teaches people how to build things using new technology, and quickly got herself up to speed. Once she understood the technology, which essentially melts down strings of plastic and turns it into shoes or any other object you program it to, she taught herself the business side of things by signing up for programs and classes for entrepreneurs. Beard struggled early on to get funding. She said it's harder for women to get male investors to believe in them, but she eventually found her way. The company's gotten investment money from big-time players in the shoe industry and is garnering national attention for its sustainability efforts – the shoes are made with recycled and recyclable material, and 3D printing is a lot more environmentally friendly than traditional shoe manufacturing. And recently, the shoes, which Beard admits were a bit ugly in the early stages, started getting folks from the fashion industry's attention. Beard said she's still figuring out the next big innovation for Feetz. She's thinking about how to build a shoe-subscription service sort of like Netlfix. "That's the future where footwear's going to go," she said. "It's going to be very different than how we think about it today." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
49 minutes | Aug 2, 2017
A Big Bet on Solar That Paid Off
The first time Daniel Sullivan was introduced to solar, he was hooked. He said he knew right away that it would take off, even though it was an expensive and somewhat obscure technology at the time. He was an electrician, so he brought the business opportunity to his employer. "I went to my boss and I said, look, this is something that I think is going to be a big deal," Sullivan said. His boss shut him down. And that was just the first time someone told Sullivan that his big solar bet was a loser. In the latest episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast illuminating the stories behind the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs, Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt sits down with Sullivan to talk about how and why he went all in on solar despite the naysayers' warnings. Sullivan got a slow start, but his persistence eventually led to the creation of a solar company that now pulls in $50 million a year and operates in San Diego, Orange County and the Inland Empire. He says his main motivation to build the business was the California energy crisis, the oil and gas industry and his newborn son. "So it all came together for me that this is what I need to do," he said. "This is what makes sense and we can't continue to be beholden to an industry that wreaks havoc all over the world." Sullivan's road to success wasn't smooth. He explains how he went from sleeping in a garage and living paycheck-to-paycheck to running a multimillion-dollar business. "It was really a sink-or-swim situation," he said. "You know when you don't have a backstop, when you don't have a safety net, when you don't have a means to provide for yourself unless you succeed at every stop, you're very mindful of every decision you make. ... There's no room for error." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
51 minutes | Jul 26, 2017
Pioneering the New Frontier of Legal Pot
James Slatic is a marijuana business pioneer. One of his past business ventures set the standard for packaging medical marijuana. Another innovated vape cartridges and other products. The successful businesses he's built and his highly publicized ongoing legal battles with the district attorney’s office have made Slatic one of the most recognizable faces of the green rush that's sweeping the state as entrepreneurs jostle one another to find their place in the newly legal industry. But before all that, Slatic was a serial entrepreneur who made lots of money, and lost lots of money, time and again. In the latest episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast illuminating the stories behind the region’s businesses and entrepreneurs, Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis sits down with Slatic to talk about the ups and downs of building his many businesses. Slatic's helped build restaurant software, started an internet business that helped unsigned bands get record deals, ran an organic spice company and started a company that made and installed official signs for the California Lottery. He says he can't help but spot business opportunities and go after them with everything he's got. "In an entrepreneurial business we say, 'In niches there are riches,'" he tells Lewis. "The entrepreneurial bug doesn't really go away." See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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