All good things must come to an end — and every ending is also a beginning.
This is the last column that my husband, Neil, and I will write together. Starting next Monday, the column will be Neil’s sole responsibility as I start a new chapter in my life — running for San Diego City Council District 1.
As many of you know, I have worn many hats as an entrepreneur, but first and foremost I define myself and think of myself as a San Diegan. And as I look back at my life, I believe that a large part of my professional successes have been due to being in a community that welcomes newcomers if they have energy, passion, dedication and are willing to work hard.
Neil and I wrote our first column in August 2011, and over the last four years, I’ve been inspired by the many amazing entrepreneurs and business owners whom I’m interviewed.
Here are some highlights that I would like to share.
• One of our first columns featured the Ansir Innovation Center, an incubator started in Kearny Mesa by entrepreneur Ping Wang. Ansir has grown and thrived, and now Wang is also working on establishing a robotics accelerator with Qualcomm.
• Sandra Pike, founder of Village Mill Bakery in Carmel Valley, inspired me with her story of hard work and persistence. In the first few years, she worked seven days a week and hasn’t taken a full week of vacation in 20 years. Importantly, she listened to her customer and changed her product line accordingly. She found happiness with her husband, Parker, whom she married in 1998 and who has become an active part of the business.
• Immigrants are an important part of San Diego’s success. Simon Wong, who came to the U.S. from Hong Kong at the age of 17, started Simon Wong Engineering (sold to Kleinfelder). His story exemplified how to grow your business organically without outside capital and knowing when to sell.
• Nancy Warwick, fourth-generation family member owner of Warwick’s Book Store in La Jolla, has triumphed in the face of the big chain stores, in the face of Amazon, and in the face of e-books. I loved talking with her about how she has reinvented the store to also focus on gifts and author events.
• Sometimes a hobby can turn into a business, and taking baby business steps can be the best way to go. That was true for Chuck and Elke Patton, owners of Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, who started roasting in a small commercial kitchen and now have two retail locations and a wholesale business.
• Biotech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Larry Bock is one of my all-time favorite people, and he is the founder of both the USA Science & Engineering Festival that is held in Washington, D.C., and the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering. He started these festivals because he wants kids to celebrate scientists the same way they do pop stars.
• Owning a business with your spouse can be both challenging and rewarding (Neil and I know this well!), and I appreciated the candor of Miramar Sign Works owners Paul Jester and his wife, Karen Sypolt, in sharing the story of how they have built their business through the ups and downs of both the economy and daily life.
• One of our favorite rules is No. 218: Relentless pursuit and grand passion will take you further than good grades, and Marko Pavlinovic, owner of Mangia Mangia Mobile, which operates a food truck, follows this rule persistently. An immigrant from Italy, he often works six days a week, 14 hours a day doing what he loves.
• For a certain breed of entrepreneur, the next big thing is not always about money. It is about applying their skills to find sustainable and innovative ways to make the world a better place. That’s why Teresa L. Smith started Eat Better Today, a mobile food-catering truck catering to the homeless and able to accept Cal-Fresh benefits.
• Stu Clott, owner of Anywhere Bicycle Repair, is the classic entrepreneur. He figured out how to meet a need, solve the problem and to do one thing really well. Most importantly, he had domain expertise because he had worked in the business for several years. We love the “little guy” who finds a place to stand, carves out his turf, defends it and ultimately builds a business.
It has been a gift to meet and greet the entrepreneurs in our community. Thank you all for sharing your stories, your challenges and your passions for what you do. You are what make our region great.
From now on, Neil will continue writing this weekly column, while I prepare for the next challenge. You can contact him at [email protected] with your comments, feedback and suggestions. He looks forward to hearing from you.