CSU Summer Arts at CSUMB

Meet the entrepreneurs

Dana Lookadoo
Telecommunications, Multimedia & Applied Computing ’99

Dana Lookadoo runs Yo! Yo! SEO, a consulting agency that helps businesses optimize their online marketing strategies— in short, they help businesses be found in Google and social media. A re-entry student, Dana had 17 years corporate experi- ence before coming to CSUMB to finish her bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications, Multimedia & Applied Computing.

Connect with Dana on Twitter at @lookadoo or visit her website, yoyoseo.com.

Jose D. Miguel
Business Administration ’04

Jose Miguel’s family has been in the res- taurant business since 1997. The first person in his family to graduate from college, Jose took over the business and launched a new restaurant concept, American Burger, in 2009.

You can visit Jose in person at American Burger’s location on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey. Be sure to leave a review on Yelp, like them on Facebook or connect online at americanburgermonterey.com.

Greg Hamer
Telecommunications, Multimedia & Applied Computing ’02

Greg and his business partner, Carson Franklin, were working for a Silicon Valley-based IT consulting company that served the Monterey Bay area. “We felt that they were out of touch with the specific needs of companies in Monterey County and beyond,” he said. So in 2007 they founded CCIS to provide IT services to Tri-County businesses. Five years later, their business is still growing.

Learn more about the services Greg and Carson provide at ccinfosys.com.

Juan Pablo Perez
Earth Systems Science & Policy ’09

Since 2006, Juan Perez has operated J&P Organics, a company that grows organic vegetables and fruits, and packs and delivers boxes of fresh produce to people’s homes in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Monterey counties.

Like J&P Organics on Facebook or visit jporganics.com.

Robert Machoian
Teledramatic Arts & Technology ’07

Robert and his collaborator, Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, started their film company, 433 Pictures, in 2010 as a way to share their work in narrative, documentary and experimental film. In addition to the two short films that have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, they created the web series American Nobodies.

See Rod and Robert’s work at 433pictures.com.

Rob DiCiuccio & Evan Rusackas
Telecommunications, Multimedia & Applied Computing ’01
Ryan Wilcoxson
Teledramatic Arts & Technology ’01

This trio of CSUMB graduates teamed up to form Definition LLC in 2004. They realized they could help one another and take on larger projects if they joined forces. Recently, Definition designed and devel- oped a powerful new beer review app called Beer Citizen.

Check out Definition LLC at definitionstudio.com and Beer Citizen at beercitizen.com.

Alumni entrepreneurs share their experience

What are the challenges of running your own business?

Jose: Is there a short list? For a small business I think not. Every day is a challenge; (the restaurant industry) is one of the toughest as a sole proprietor. Margins are low, demand is volatile – restaurants are the first to suffer when the economy dips. Work days are long and forget vacations. If you want to see your business thrive, it is vital that you give 200 percent.

Ryan: Initially, learning to properly evaluate and bid on projects, so as to not shoot ourselves in the foot. You learn a new lesson with each project, and learn not to repeat mistakes.
Also, wearing the many “hats” required to run a business. We take on all the roles required, which include not only managing and build- ing the projects, but also acting as bookkeeper, lawyer, accountant, marketing and sales reps, IT/systems admins, and so much more.

Robert: The challenges are financing. With the downturn in the economy, many investors are looking for more safe-bet films, films with named actors attached, and that’s great. But the result has been that it’s harder to build a career when you need a named actor at- tached to your project to get it made. It requires that you may decide on someone known rather than someone right for the part.

How did your education prepare you?

Jose: After my graduation, I proposed to my family that I had gained the tools to build this new concept and that I was now quali- fied to be the primary decision maker. CSUMB prepared me with
an understanding of how to implement our vision and use busi- ness strategies to build our brand and position ourselves in a tough market.

J.P.: I had the opportunity to come to college and study environ- mental science. I became interested in organic farming after learning and seeing the negative effects of pesticides on the environment and our bodies. Since my family has a background in farming it just seemed like the right path to take.
CSUMB was the key element to our decision to grow organic. Earth Systems Science & Policy lead us to a more sustainable and earth friendly way of growing produce. It gave me the knowledge to make decisions while considering how all parties may be affected.

Dana: When I went back to school, my goal was to acquire skills that built upon my strengths – people, writing and technology. I’m now working in Internet marketing that requires content writing with a focus on people and a need for backend technology and code. I also do a lot of training in my work. Having the opportunity to teach web design after I graduated and many of the skills learned studying instructional technology were invaluable.

What’s the best part of the job?

J.P.: Everything! I like the farming aspect, I like packing with my brother and listening to music, driving my van while eating a basket full of organic strawberries, delivering to people’s houses (even if I have to run away from dogs)... Everyday is different.

Dana: The people. I get to work with a wide range of people and learn a lot about diverse industries. I get a chance to work my strengths and outsource my weaknesses. I’m able to work from home and collaborate with those who work with me remotely. I travel to meet with clients and to attend and speak at industry conferences. I’m networked with a number of incredibly smart people who chal- lenge me regularly, and I’m constantly learning.

Greg: I can’t sit still. I hate sitting at a desk. This job allows me to be at a different locale every few hours. I see the coast in the morn- ing and the strawberry fields in the afternoon. It’s pretty cool.

What advice do you have for others who might be thinking about starting a business?

Greg: Find a niche that you can sell. And just do it. Do it now. Don’t wait until you are financially secure or have a perfect busi- ness plan. Because you know what? That time will never come. You will blink, and in a flash you will have a house, wife and child. Then what are you going to do? Start a business that “might” fail and lose your livelihood? No, of course not. Start it now while you are young and don’t mind crashing couches, eating ramen, and have no real responsibilities.

Robert: I think when you start a business, you have to know it’s something you will love to do, rather the thinking about the im- mediate financial gain. We are three years into this business and still building. But I look towards the future of what we will be able to do – I think you need that, because it does take years to build a strong, sustainable business.

Ryan: Choose partners that you trust like family. Get a good and thorough accountant. Have predetermined definitions of success and failure. Have an exit plan. Be prepared to work long hours, as running a business involves a lot of time spent on tasks aside from the work itself. And stretch a lot... we’re not built to spend 12 hours a day in a chair.

– Liz MacDonald

Read the extended interviews

Dana Lookadoo

Jose Miguel

Greg Hamer

Juan Pablo Perez

Robert Machoian

Ryan Wilcoxson