An innovative, bright mind with a knack for business and a “you never know unless you ask” mantra, Justin Nanfelt constructed his career with a few flecks of paint and a bold, go-getter attitude. Metaphorically speaking, one might say those “flecks” include being named to Forbes 30 Under 30, as well as parallel accolades from a leading entertainment marketing firm in Los Angeles where Justin serves as Director of Marketing. Amidst the corporate grind, Justin still managed to lay the groundwork for two successful side hustles.
While traveling extensively to advise mission-driven businesses and organizations, Becky Asselin and Avery Osborn witnessed, time after time, the power of business to help address weighty social & environmental problems. Soon after, the two women headed to Austin, Texas for the summer to test a business idea: social enterprise consulting.
There was a time a single computer used to occupy an entire room, a time soon after that where the uneven, piercing tones of dial-up were an optimistic tune; and now we’re inventing new languages and teaching machines how to learn. It goes without saying that the demand for skilled programmers is higher than ever. Fortunately, there is one company making programming education more accessible for everyone.
“No matter the level of sophistication, all technology advancements break down into three business advantages: doing something faster, cheaper or more accurately. However, the improvement cannot be just a mere 10%. As an example, it needs to be twice as fast, 40% more accurate and at 50% of the cost. Any new technology falling into two or three of these advantages is likely to be a potential investment.” Those are wise words from Tech Coast Angels (TCA) Chairman Emeritus, Richard Sudek. With a lifelong entrepreneurial drive and a track record of successful exits, an aspiring entrepreneur would do well to heed his advice.
After quadrupling his San Diego dental practice in 8 years, Bill Kimball became the go-to guy for dental business advice. While friends, colleagues and old classmates knew the medical ins and outs of dentistry, no one taught dentists how to be business savvy. But Bill had a knack for it.
Mike Tognotti’s decision to start his own company proved to be the best choice for not only his career, but for many others’ as well. Raindance Partners is a national recruitment company that is a genuine reflection of both Mike’s personal expertise and his desire to help others reach their own career goals.
Tognotti is a former Vice President Sales of a biotech company based in Seattle and prior to that, he worked for Illumina, one of the largest DNA sequencing companies in the world. But in 2008, he saw a unique opportunity in which he could combine his industry knowledge with that of his technical scientific background and decided start Raindance Partners.
At the time, Mike and his wife had three kids in diapers, and while it was risky to make such a bold move in that economic climate, he says he had the full support of his wife, and that together they believed in his vision. Thankfully, he did well in his first year and was able to grow his team, proving that he had a solid model and that the need for his service was substantial.
The focus of Raindance Partners, as Mike explains, is nationwide executive placement. They work for companies that are looking for qualified individuals for specific positions, often in the technology and biotechnology industries. Mike says he thinks of the bulk of the work they do as conducting “career consultations” with people. With corporate headquarters in Santa Barbara and offices in the Bay Area, they plan to expand to Asia and Europe in 2017-18.
Coming from an academic background in molecular and cell biology, he gravitated toward biotech and research early on, but eventually evolved his career into selling and marketing biotech products. He realized that he really loved finding rare and exceptional talent for companies that result in gainful, long-term fits. Mike says that helping people is a great passion of his, and nothing gives him more gratification than making these connections for both the employee and employer.
The desire to be of service extends to his team as well. Mike explains that Raindance Partners is built upon three core values that drive decisions and create the company culture: family, health, and helping others. “Almost all of our employees are family people with kids. They have technical degrees and backgrounds, but many have stopped to have a family. They still want to contribute, so they work on their own time from wherever they are.” Mike says he is committed to his team being able to live their lives and take care of their families first, while still making a good living.
“he Talks abouT The west Coast as being one of The hoT spoTs for innovation. sanTa barbara in parTicular, is a hub for experienced execuTives and highly educaTed people”
Repurposing the scientific method
Today, Mike explains that he utilizes his background in science in his recruiting business. Because many of the positions he recruits for are technical, he uses a scientific approach to finding the right people and vetting them appropriately. The formula he’s developed for matching people to companies is repeatable and is in fact based on the scientific method’s approach to finding solutions. The team builds relational mapping between candidates and the positions that employers are looking for. Mike explains, “It’s not about the transaction – it’s really about the equilibrium, the fit on both sides. We are thorough and specific, and we have good intentions throughout the entire process.”
Mike sees the California coast as “one big Silicon Valley” in regard to the talent pool from which he draws on his clients’ behalf. Over the years, they’ve built their own proprietary database that they combine with other resources, such as LinkedIn. He talks about the West Coast as being one of the hot spots for innovation. Santa Barbara in particular, is a hub for experienced executives and highly educated people. All this makes Santa Barbara a great central location for Raindance Partners.
Lighting up Social Impact
Mike Tognotti has larger visions for his company, and he’s particularly excited about getting to the point where the company can grow its philanthropic capacity to make an impact in the larger community.
One example already underway involves a collaboration with Impact Hub member, Megan Birney, the president of local nonprofit Unite to Light, which makes small solar-powered portable lights and phone chargers intended for developing nations and those in need. While feeding the homeless with his church, Mike learned that many homeless women feel insecure when they’re unable to charge their cell phones, or don’t have access to light at night. So Mike and Megan decided to figure out how to distribute Unite To Light’s solar powered phone charging devices to homeless women in Santa Barbara. They are currently in the planning phases and want to expand this effort in 2017.
For More Information Visit :raindancepartners.com
In 1989, Steven Shulem started Strictly Vacations, a boutique travel agency that specializes in exotic locations and specialty cruises. Steven’s clients come to him when they want to take unique, extraordinary vacations that require inside knowledge and artful logistical coordination. Steven and his team work with locations all over the world, providing customized, high-touch experiences to their clientele.
Take a minute on the Strictly Vacations website and you’ll find an advanced search page with highly customizable filters. Through the site, customers can select specifics such as destination, mode of travel, price point, and level of luxury in which they desire to travel. Steven and his team are confident in their ability to arrange any dream vacation or adventure that their clients can imagine.
There’s a growing demand, sTeven explains, for advenTurous Trips and vacaTions ThaT add a social good componenTTo The iTinerary. more and more, people of all ages wanTTo make Their Travels more meaningful in This way.
A co-working success story
Strictly Vacations has been in Santa Barbara since its inception in the 1980’s, but has recently made a new home at Impact Hub. One of the reasons the team of four made the move from a large, plush office a few blocks away is because, thanks to technological advances, they simply don’t need the kind of space that they used to.
“I can run my company from anywhere now,” Steven explains. “I don’t need a big, luxurious office anymore because no one needs to come to my office; everything is done over the phone and via email.” Indeed, gone are the days of massive filing cabinets and paper trails; now Steven’s team uses voice-over IP phones, which need only an internet connection and allow them to communicate as if they were in the same office sharing the same telephone lines. “My phone bill went from $700 per month to $100,” he says. Between the phone bills, utilities, and rent, the company saves money by being at Impact Hub, and his team has the freedom to work from anywhere, which they do. Indeed, the world has gotten smaller and bigger at the same time.
Steven explains that the Impact Hub space was on his radar for awhile, and once he came for a tour he was bowled over. Later, when he found out that one of his long-standing clients, Paul Orfalea, was involved, he says that he gained even more confidence in the co-working vision.
To the future and beyond
Steven says he’s looking forward to getting more involved with the Impact Hub community, and that he has plans for special travel promotions and offerings for its members through his agency. The agency specializes in cruises, which they say can often be a cost-effective and worry-free way to travel. “Cruising has become so much more popular these days, even with the younger people.”
While the bigger, more ornate trips are what Strictly Vacations has been doing really well for decades, their offerings will soon be expanding. Looking into the future, Strictly Vacations is interested in promoting trips for young people that are adventurous and affordable. Many are even centered on service. There’s a growing demand, Steven explains, for adventurous trips and vacations that add a social good component to the itinerary. More and more, people of all ages want to make their travels more meaningful in this way. Strictly Vacations is doing this by partnering with a company called G Adventures that reaches this demographic very effectively. By the same token, Steven is a very active contributor to the Dream Foundation in Santa Barbara.
Further, Steven says he wants to be a resource for Impact Hub members who have travel-related questions big and small. “I want it to be an open door; people can come in and ask us anything about travel.”
While there’s a lot of information for travel enthusiasts on the web these days, Steven explains that there’s still a lot to be said for utilizing services that can dial you in, find you the inside deals, and organize logistics in a way that most people would likely want to leave to an expert. And there’s no question that Steven is precisely one of those experts.
For More Information Visit: strictlyvacations.com
Jillian and Mark Cardona have many ideas, numerous talents, and as a result, multiple businesses.
The couple met in college at UCSB and later moved to the Los Angeles area where Mark attended law school. Upon graduation, Mark opened Cardona Law, which he and his wife Jillian have been running for the past three years. They recently returned to Santa Barbara and Jillian has since completed her law degree at Santa Barbara College of Law. Up until this point, Jillian has managed everything outward-facing in the business, while Mark carries out the legal services they offer.
“mark Talks abouT his enTrance inTo The impacThub communiTy as being caTalyzed by The menToring sessions wiTh paul orfalea, founder of kinko’s and one of impacThub’s mosT visible menTors.”
Now, in addition to Cardona Law, this super couple has launched a second business, Clean Habit, an all-natural skin care line. Jillian explains that the new brand is based on the simple premise that beauty is both an internal and external quality. She’s passionate about offering people the option of using natural products in their skin care regimen, crafted with ingredients of the highest possible quality. In line with her holistic approach to wellness and skin care, she also offers customers access to meditations and mindfulness practices on the Clean Habit website (cleanhabit.co).
Jillian was inspired to create her own skincare line because of a personal quest to learn about and make natural skin care products that she could be confident used the purest ingredients available. In the same vein, Jillian also became increasingly interested in ways to remove harmful chemicals from her life and wants to help educated others about the alternatives available. “The way I think about it is this: I’m really particular and careful about the food I put in my body, so why wouldn’t I be particular about what I put on my skin?” After all, the skin is the largest organ in in the human body!
Currently the Clean Habit line includes a cleanser, a toner, two clay masks, a sugar scrub, hair oil, and beard oil and can be purchased online at cleanhabit.co. The company is also working to develop a skincare/wellness subscription box that will feature other product lines in addition to theirs, all of which will be made by local Santa Barbara businesses.
The Cardonas at the Impact Hub
Both Mark and Jillian say they were drawn to Impact Hub because of their interest in the convergence of social and environmental impact businesses within the larger entrepreneurial community here in Santa Barbara. They say they’ve been happy to find that Impact Hub attracts this demographic. As early adopters of the space, they were excited about what a new coworking environment with a mission could mean for locals. They say that once they saw the space in its final stage of development, they bought a larger membership package right away.
Mark talks about his entrance into the Impact Hub community as being catalyzed by the mentoring sessions with Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s and one of Impact Hub’s most visible mentors. During these sessions, the group meets at the Hub, and each member has a chance to talk about his or her business and get constructive critique and advice from Mr. Orfalea. As Mark put it, “I think he just loves mentoring. The way he can break down how to make things happen in your business is incredible.”
The Cardonas have also enjoyed the events and especially the networking opportunities at Impact Hub. Having already collaborated with seven different businesses at Impact Hub, it’s safe to say that the Cardonas exemplify the true spirit of coworking.