Tuesday, July 10, 2018

My Capitures Photography

By: Nicole Babauta
CNMI SBDC DIrector/Business Advisor

My name is Myla Capilitan. My parents first arrived in Saipan in the early '90s as missionaries and my sister and I got here in '96. Since then, Saipan has been my home. Today, I share my life with Matthew Deets and son, Javon Gersonde.

 I wanted to do something that I was excited about and found fulfilling. I was always envious of people who had careers and were passionate about their job. I had to stop and think to myself, "What is something that I could do and be passionate about at the same time?" The love for photography kicked in when I got my first Samsung smartphone. From then, I was amused at how such a small device can take such detailed photos that look better than how you normally see it with a naked eye. I then started to learn about photography equipment and technology. I wasn't sure if I could be good at it but I always had an appreciation for good photos. As it turns out, I am in love with the art of photography, getting to know each client and being able to capture their story through photography.
My first experience with photography occurred when I worked for the Seventh-Day Adventist School. I was asked to take photos for the school yearbook and school events. This peaked my interest in photography and I dove in with my very little experience, but I was committed to learning everything since day one. I am currently attending the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP) while working on my certification as a Professional Photographer of America. My mentors include Adam Waltner and George Delgado, who are both high profile photographers in the mainland.

I first learned about the CNMI SDC when Nicole conducted a "How to Start a Business" training for the Marianas Young Professionals (MYPros). Not long after, I met with her for a one-on-one counseling session. The CNMI SBDC continues to provide information necessary to help me expand my business. After having dreams about working on a big photography project, I knew that I had to start my business. While working for SDA school, I knew that the school photography business needed improvement and better services so I figured I should start my business from there. I started using funds from a loan I received through Bank of Guam.

When I decided to get into this industry, I knew I had to be well educated about copyright and photography. My biggest challenge now and maybe for as long as I'm in the industry is trying to protect my work, especially in this generation where digital copies are easily downloaded and shared.
The most memorable triumph in the startup process is being awarded First Place in the Photography Category for the Bridge Capital's 8th Annual Art Competition at this year's Flame Tree Art Festival.

My short-term goal is to keep the business running at a profitable level. My long-term goal includes having a fully functioning studio and covering all sorts of photography from events to passport photos. I'd also like to expand my services to our sister islands, Tinian, Rota, and Guam.

Firstly, network, network, and network. Reach out to people you already know and ask them if they could help you out in whatever profession you choose to pursue. Use your contacts. Secondly, and probably the hardest, be really organized. This is one of the best things you could do for yourself. Lastly, set goals. Once you set your goals you'll be able to prioritize and tackle them. Be prepared for anything and don't forget to set time for yourself to decompress from the daily challenges of being a business owner.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Get Fit with 23Fitness Personal Training

By: Jane Ray
Certified Business Advisor/Training Program Coordinator

The term "exercise" has scared off many people. This particular word does not get used too frequently outside of doctor visits, looking at the scales aiming the wrong direction, or showing up on the famous fortune being told within the fortune cookie that you just opened. In all honesty, it is not on the favorite list of words to be used for most people and definitely not on mine. That fear of exercise has remained part of our lives unless we are committed to addressing it or when the doctor gives an ultimatum.

23Fitness is a private training studio that helps individuals who wish to face their ultimate dear of exercise and want privacy at the same time. 23Fitness Guam opened its door in December 2017 and is centrally located in the village of Tamuning. After years of experience as a personal trainer in local gyms and obtaining a good understanding of his clients' needs, Mychal Borja decided to open his own gym and take his idea to the next level.

23Fitness provides personalized and individually tailored approaches to individuals that have a firm commitment to bettering and improving their health not just physically
but also mentally. He emphasizes providing an environment where his clients feel 100% comfortable and the accountability they need. The privacy the clients' desire has made many choose his private training studio over the crowded gyms.

Mychal is a certified personal trainer and sports conditioning specialist with the American Council on Exercise. Beside his certification, he has been extensively involved in sports on both the Guam junior and men's national basketball teams. When it comes to fitness, he understands the dynamics of training and the hard work it takes for top performance.

Mychal credited Guam SBDC Business ADvisors for guiding him in starting up his business and providing him with the foundational tools that he needed to get started. Advisors were able to answer questions that he had and advised him to consider critical factors pertaining to the startup of the business. The startup process was exciting and, once he was able to find the right location, he opened its doors within five months. He funded his business startup through personal savings.

The biggest challenge in startup process for him was preparing and building out the location and eventually equipping it with the needed equipment while continuing to train his clients and maintain a healthy training schedule at the same time. When not training clients, he was actually working at the studio which required him to work late nights and early mornings. In addition to hard work, strong discipline and determination, and an amazing moral support system from his wife, two daughters, and family, helped him overcome this challenge.

The most memorable triumph of the startup process is seeing the studio for the first time in its fully operational stage. It was rewarding when he received positive feedback from his clients about the space and the privacy it provides. The immediate goal for the studio is to perfect his processes and maintain the highest quality of his training for his clients.

His entrepreneurial advice for others who are interested in opening their own business is to be ready to dedicate time and effort and also believe in what you do. Not being afraid to ask questions and for help will help you succeed in the long run. In the meantime, if you are one of those individuals who want tottake some time for yourself, contact Mychal for an individualized and personalized consultation appointment at 23Fitness Guam. You might just fall in love with your better and healthier self!.

Let's Ride Guam, LLC.: Take a Tour of Adventure

By: Jane Ray
Certified Business Advisor/ Training Program CoordinatorGuam SBDC
A strong family support was the driving force for Joey Crisostomo Jr. and Justin Cruz, owners of Let's Ride Guam, LLC. to start their own business in 2017. They wanted to set a good example for others and always wanted to work for themselves, and most importantly, enjoy what they do. These are the reasons they wanted to start a business for off-roading. Some activities that Joey and Justin enjoyed most of the time away from work are mixed martial arts and off-roading in their buggies. Those activities fulfilled their love of thrill and adventure.

Joey and Justine worked for Cars Plus for years where they gained most of their businesses experience. Learning a great deal from the business and gaining extensive experience working with family and others, this is where their idea to start Let's Ride Guam was born! Let's Ride Guam aims to provide a once in a lifetime experience exploring the beautiful nature of Guam's unseen terrain that makes our island unique to local customers and customers from all over the world. They firmly believe that our island deserves to be appreciated and there is no better way to do that than to embark on an adventure in the beautiful village of Santa Rita.

With the close guidance from Guam SBDC business advisors, they were assisted in every step of the way from the business planning, to the loan approval and closing process, obtaining licenses, marketing strategies, creating the website, to launching the business. They were able to receive funding from Bank of Guam.

A few challenges were faced by Joey and Justin during the startup process. One of the biggest challenges was building the website with an off-island company which made it difficult to communicate due to the time difference and understanding their expectations. The product was eventually finished; however, it did not meet their expectations. Luckily, Justin's wife, Gabby, took the lead and built their own website from scratch through WIX.

The most memorable accomplishment for Joey and Justin was the signing of the Hafa Adai Pledge. Both Joey and Justin are Chamorro and committing to preserve and represent their language, culture, and traditions. They firmly believe that taking the pledge is important to them and their business. The values behind the pledge are easily integrated with the mission of Let's Ride Guam and a great start to their business.

Looking further into the future, they would like to be the most popular adventure tour on Guam. They are looking to give back to the island community through working with the University of Guam, Sea Grant, and the Center for Island Sustainability in promoting responsible off-roading. Joey and Justin hope to offer visitors an unforgettable experience while ensuring the sustainability of our island while educating the participants about the importance of building a strong ecotourism industry for the future of our island. Their entrepreneurial advice for others who wish to open their own business is to always do what is right and never give up.

If you wish to experience Guam in a way that you never had before and visit Mother Nature at its best, consider taking a ride with Let's Ride Guam!

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Food Truck: A Chef’s Hustle

Interviewed by: Denise Mendiola
Senior Business Advisor/Bank of Guam Women in Business Program Coordinator
(Guam SBDC)

Joseph Atalig, owner of The Food Truck, knew that in one form or another, food would be his livelihood. Since his childhood and growing up in Guam, food was always the central focus in the Atalig home. It was the binding force in his family of eight.  Atalig always remembered his dad being the cook; from simple breakfasts before school, to barbecues for dinner and to merely experimenting with a new dish he had seen or tasted elsewhere. Atalig took that passion and creativity with him to culinary school in the U.S. mainland where he honed his skills and flourished in the West Coast. The entrepreneurial spirit was well rooted in his family which eventually sprouted ideas for Atalig to start his business one day. Atalig shared his story with us on how The Food Truck came to fruition. 

Why did you decide to start your own business?
The main reason, I believe, that I've always gravitated not just toward food, but entrepreneurship, is because of my parents and two uncles. My mom mostly worked on commission at her job at Motorola, selling corporate accounts to selling life insurance at Prudential Financial. When I was in middle school I saw her monthly paychecks vary from $800 to $15,000. I was a nosy kid! My dad would work on peoples' cars in our garage almost every day after work to make extra income. Because of the hard work and entrepreneurship of both my parents, they were able to put six children through catholic school. The game changer which made the most impact on me, however, was when my parents and two uncles decided to try their luck at running the Liberation Carnival bingo in Saipan beginning in the early 90s. The family would fly over to Saipan each summer just to run the bingo. The best part of this was us kids could work, receiving cash wages and tips every night! For myself, I most enjoyed doing the accounting, from being the cashier to counting the money and making the deposits the next day. This is also when I learned never to make a deposit over $10,000 at one time. More importantly, though, this is when I knew I would someday run my own business.

What experience do you have in this type of business?
Today, I own a food truck called "The Food Truck".  This all began when I moved back home in December of 2015, after living in the states since after high school. But while away, I had been involved in the restaurant industry for over twelve years and direct sales and marketing for over six years. I am a graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle's Culinary Arts program. I have worked alongside some of the best chefs on the West Coast, and fortunate to have a good friend as a celebrity chef. I've done everything within the restaurant industry from a dishwasher, server, sous chef and manager for casual to high-end restaurants.

I contribute my "hustling attitude" to my experience to my experience running direct seller and marketing officer in Las Vegas and Denver. Starting with myself, I've learned to recruit, train, teach and manage teams to sell business to business. This business taught me that everything is a numbers game, with 90% attitude and 10% ability. One main lesson I have taken away from my experiences is to continue to strive each day to duplicate myself and give others the same opportunity that was given to me.

When I decided to get back into the workforce after I returned home, I tried to get a part time job serving tables just to get back out there, but to my surprise, because of my experience, restaurants only wanted me for management positions. I couldn't accept a management position, however, because that would have prolonged my goal of being my own boss; that entrepreneurial spirit within me. So, with the assistance of my uncle, we began participating in island festivals, selling banh mi spiral doggs and banh mi burgers. But festivals were only on weekends and once a month, so to help subsidize my income, I got myself a business license, allowing me to "food broker" wherein I approach different restaurants and try to advise them on ways they could boost up their lunch sales. I then took my B2B experience and started selling lunch plates once a week.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you?
With my hunger to make money and make a name for myself, but not having any capital of my own to be able to do what I had envisioned, I approached the SBDC to see how they could help me get on my feet and running. They were of tremendous help in pointing me in the right direction, from financial institutions that granted loans with little collateral to offering free classes to assist entrepreneurs who wanted to get a business started.

Another very helpful program was the Bank of Guam's Small Business Forum which I attended late last year, and this is when my food truck dreams started to come into play. There was a panel of small business owners who were making their mark on island. In business, I found surrounding myself with successful people in their field has probably taught me the most.

What advice would you give to others who want to start their own business?
For anyone who is looking to get involved in the food industry, my advice is to be unique; find something that no one else is doing, or if there is already a concept, take that idea a notch or two up. Always remember, just like anything in life, business is a never ending learning experience, and when you fail (because you will at first), get back up! I've closed down four businesses yet I was always still thinking of my next new venture.

For more information on how the Guam SBDC can assist you, visit www.pacificsbdc.com

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Modern Bump: The Boutique for Moms-to-Be

By: Jane Ray
Business Advisor
(Guam SBDC)

Good news to all hip mothers and newborns on Guam!  A new store solely dedicated to all of your needs has just arrived on the market.  It is not a big secret that many moms on Guam have resorted to the Internet to look for the latest and greatest supplies for themselves and their young ones.  Unfortunately, sometimes we just do not have the patience to wait for it to arrive in snail mail.  Now, there is a new store on Guam that is dedicating their efforts in satisfying the trending needs of mothers and babies.      

The Modern Bump opened their doors in November 2016 with the idea to provide local expecting and nursing moms with options to have comfortable, modern, and stylish  maternity wear.  The focus of the store is to bring in modern wear for all stages of pregnancy in addition to baby clothing and accessories for baby related products.  Ednalyna Martin, owner of The Modern Bump, a dedicated mom and teacher, understood and experienced the difficulty of finding a limited selection when she was going through her pregnancies. 

Ednalyna is a school teacher at heart and part of a family of five with two adorable, outgoing girls and a beautiful angel baby boy.  She saw the need of providing modern style maternity wear to moms everywhere.  Inspired by her two daughters and students, she decided to pursue her own dream of business ownership.  At the beginning of her business, she was fearful of venturing into business and hesitant to apply for a commercial loan to help with her business needs.  She felt pressure and first had to use her family’s savings to fund the startup.  She started her business at a booth at the Agana Shopping Center’s Market Place.       

She was referred to seek the assistance from the Guam Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and further plan her business.  In addition, she was looking for assistance and guidance to manage and run a business.  An SBDC Business Advisor was able to guide and provide her with a clear path.  She felt more confident in the business plan that she had developed and is now more informed when evaluating her daily business decisions.  She does not only base her decisions on her knowledge but also incorporates and listens to inputs from her greatest business partners: her customers.

She feels that the biggest challenge in the startup process was taking the first leaps of faith and deciding to become a business owner.  After encouraging her students to believe in themselves and follow their dreams, she decided that she needed to do the same.  She believes that working hard and not giving up are the keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur.  Another factor that has helped her during the startup process is having supportive friends and family that helped her during the first few months of opening the first store and the grand opening of the second location.  Because of the enormous support that she received, she was able to turn her dream into reality which entailed moving from the Market Place upstairs to the 1st floor of the Agana Shopping Center on July 1st this year. 

Modern Bump offers a variety of pre- and postnatal maternity wear that are modern in style.  Additionally, it carries baby apparels, including locally made brand names, accessories, strollers, and earth-friendly cloth diapers.  You can visit them on the 1st floor of Agana Shopping Center, located not too far from Tony Roma’s or you check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/themodernbump/ to see the latest products and promotions.    

For more information on how the Guam SBDC can assist you, contact their main office at 671-735-2590 or visit www.pacificsbdc.com.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

An Interview with Nancy Barnhouse, Island CERTS Corporation President

Interviewed by: Denise Mendiola
Senior Business Advisor/Bank of Guam WIB Program Coordinator
(Guam SBDC)

Head shot photo of Nancy Barnhouse
Nancy Barnhouse, President
Island CERTS Corporation
David A. Barnhouse moved his family to Guam in 1987 to work for International Bridge Corporation and worked for that corporation for more than a decade. After many years in the construction industry, David believed that he had much to offer the industry and wanted to be his own boss, so he opened Island CERTS, a sole proprietorship, in 2000. Thirteen years later David and Nancy married and decided to incorporate. In October 2014, Island CERTS Corporation began. From two employees to 13, the company has grown substantially in three years. Their employees do heavy machinery inspections and repairs, safety training, all NDT weld inspections, DOT fuel tank inspections, and above-ground tank inspections. Island CERTS Corporation also has a general contractor’s license and focuses on jobs that require the use of one of their two cranes. They also rent their two cranes with operators as well as their telehandler and soon will offer NACE coating inspections. The SBDC caught up with Nancy to talk about her experience with the business expansion. 

What experience do you have in this type of business?
While expanding the company might have been natural for David, who had years of supervisory experience and a history in running his own business, I had been a journalist and a teacher and had no business experience whatsoever. Because of that fact, I sought out three things: Business courses, business seminars, and mentors. For example, taking three accounting courses taught me that we needed an experienced bookkeeper. The Guam Small Business Development Center (Guam SBDC) provided training, specifically a seminar on Profit Mastery taught me how to understand the “break even” point of our business. The Guam Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Guam PTAC) helped us become woman-owned, HUB certified. Along the way, I also learned that I had a knack for running our company with David. Expanding the business has been a natural consequence of having customers who have asked us to do more work for them. During the past few years, the economy had picked up on Guam and more of our customers have asked for more services, and in turn, we have hired more people to help our customers. In the middle of that rosy business trend, however, the H-2 worker crisis has stalled most businesses and the downturn has hit us and most of our customers hard. Without a skilled labor force, contracts cannot be fulfilled and those companies do not need our services. From expansion to keeping even has been stressful. Families on the payroll have car payments and rent payments and mortgages whether the economy is ticking or still.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you?
Whether the business is ticking or still, it is always necessary to strengthen the core foundation of any business, and the Guam SBDC has helped our company immensely. Since I began working with Denise Mendiola, I have felt that our business has had a gentle hand to guide our company. First, she helped me learn to do a professional business plan. From there, she helped us get bank financing to buy land and build a shop. During this downturn, she has helped us analyze the business and see what steps we need to take to sustain ourselves until the economy takes a brighter turn. Still, even in this downturn, we have sustained our expansion plans. This has been frightening and exciting, like flying through turbulence while sipping champagne inside the cabin. What has made this feel safe and sustainable, we have had people with a lot of business experience help us. Besides the Guam SBDC and the Guam PTAC, Jerry Paulino, a local realtor, has mentored me from start to finish, from understanding due diligence to warranty titles, from reminding me to be kind and calm to helping me see the joy in each step. Dave Burger, a local accountant, has helped me understand the financial steps the company has needed to take. Ho Eun of Coretech, has patiently guided us through the buying steps of owning our own property. Renee Wade and the Bank of Guam has helped us steer through the complicated loan process. Kim Anderson at Security Title has counseled us to understand the legal language that surrounds land quick claims and government agreements. If it was not for these more experienced business people, I believe that we would have crashed in the turbulence.

What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced throughout the process?
Photo of Nancy Barnhouse pulling a lever to lift a white truck for a vehicle maintenance checkThe biggest turbulence in this expansion has been my basic lack of knowledge. While my husband is an expert in construction and cranes, and I have a Master’s Degree in English Literature, these are not skills that teach a person how to expand a business, buy land or get financing. Because of these challenges, we needed help, and fortunately, Guam is a culture of kindness and generosity. Many people have opened doors for us, listened kindly to our questions, offered wise answers and guided us through every step.

What is your most memorable triumph?
While we have made mistakes like all entrepreneurs, our triumph has been to get financing for our land, new shop and office building and to buy a second crane. In addition, our triumph has been to continue to enjoy running our business together and to continue to see the joy in being business owners. With all kidding aside, the highest divorce rate among couples is when they go into business together. Fortunately for us, it has made our marriage stronger, and we have enjoyed each other’s individual talents. I tend to be the air-traffic controller and he tends to be the pilot of our plane. It works for us and hopefully it will continue to help our business thrive.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?
Our short-term plan to help our business thrive is to build our warehouse and move into our own office space we own. We want to train our people into management positions, so the company is less of a “key man” operation and more of a company that can run whether we are there or not. Eventually, like most business people, we want to sell our business at a profit and retire.

What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?
Looking back on the last four years, I would say that it has been a turbulent ride, but it has been rewarding and invigorating, and I would not trade this experience. If I were to tell anyone who wanted to start or expand his or her business, I would say to find good mentors and take advantage of the great resources available, including the SBDC and the Guam PTAC along with other business associations. Do not be afraid to ask for help and find mentors along the way. These people have insight, and they can help you with each step of the process.

For more information on the Guam SBDC Bank of Guam Women in Business Program, contact Denise Mendiola at denise@pacificsbdc.com. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hooker’s Fusion: A Taste of Japanese-Inspired Street Food

By: Jane Ray
Business Advisor
(Guam SBDC)

EJ and Nao Hooker are a couple with a diverse background and a strong passion and love of entertaining friends and family.  They decided to employ their passion for food and ventured into the opportunity of entrepreneurship.  EJ was a world traveler as part of his job as a Navy Enlisted Sailor and retired recently after 20 years of service.  He is a California native while Nao is originally from Tokyo, Japan.  She has extensive background experience as a Sous Chef from her time in Japan.  The couple’s passion can be seen and tasted through the food that they create and prepare together. 

As an experiment, Nao created her own Asian Yakisoba sauce.  Their business, Hooker’s Fusion, has several bestselling items; Takoyaki balls with squid and their specially prepared Hooker’s Takoyaki sauce.  The Takoyaki is made differently than anyone else’s on Guam.  They also have stir fried Yakisoba noodles and cabbage with your choice of beef, chicken, or shrimp. 

 EJ and Nao do not only focus on using the freshest ingredients available for their dishes. They also demonstrate their firm commitment towards each of their customers.  Hooker’s key philosophy is to serve high quality, delicious food with great reverence for Omotenashi, which simply means the Japanese way of treating a customer with welcoming spirit, warmth, understanding, and above all, respect.  This concept resonates from Ichigo-ichie which is the host’s belief that every encounter is single and unique.  Their strong focus on serving each of their customers with the most aspiring and special experience is another part of the ingredient of their business.        

After extensive testing of their special sauces and dishes, EJ and Nao conducted several surveys and decided that it was time to move to the next level.  They came to the Guam Small Business Development Center for guidance to make their dream into reality.  Guam SBDC assisted them in researching business numbers on the financial plan and revising content within the business plan.  They believe that Guam SBDC was a crucial part of helping them reach their goals and turn their dream into reality.  Starting a business is a complicated process and Guam SBDC was able to help with the ins and outs of starting their business. 

The most memorable triumph in the startup process was getting their business license.  They realized that, at that moment, there was no turning back after the initial milestone.  The short-term goal for their business is to have an ecofriendly food truck while maintaining quality and tasty food at affordable pricing throughout Guam.  EJ and Nao believe that the key questions they should constantly ask themselves are whether or not their food is inexpensive, healthy, convenient, and tasty for their customers.  Ultimately, the key goal is to satisfy the needs of the people on Guam.             
The one piece advice that EJ and Nao have for all new entrepreneurs who wish to explore the opportunity is to start and continue through the entire startup process as there will be detours in the road.  Do not get discouraged based on a bump on the road.  It is important to remember that the process is not a sprint but is a marathon.  A firm commitment to the business and your customers is the key ingredient to a successful business.    

For more information, you can contact EJ at 671-848-2543 or email ejhooker315@gmail.com.