Owning a business is a lot like being a parent; There are sleepless nights at almost every stage of the process. Sure, there are plenty of books and lots of people will give you advice, but really, you have to learn as you go, and learn fast. Then there is this notion that there is a part of you, in the world that has a life and a personality of its own. You work hard to instill your values, to provide the resources and to pay enough attention to be sure your baby is healthy and hopefully someday can manage on its own.
There is also a lot of joy. Just like being a parent, one of the important and powerful aspects of being a business owner is the community and the support in those who share your experience. We asked some the many amazing business owner / parents in Downtown Santa Cruz about raising kids, running a business, and being a part of the Downtown Santa Cruz community
How are your children involved in your business?
Zach Davis, Snap Taco’s/Penny Ice Creamery: My kids are super food critics. They watch Chopped, Top Chef and all the other cooking shows so they know all the lingo. They’re very adventurous in their eating and are always quick with the feedback. If they like something I know it will be a hit.
Cara Pearson, Pacific Cookie Company: My daughters, Lily (12) and Mila (9), love being involved in the business. Their favorite part lately is baking new test recipes at home.
Casey Coonerty Protti, Bookshop Santa Cruz : My kids love to work at the store and beg me to work the registers as much as possible. They also help with our events and at this point, they love giving book recommendations in the kids section. They also are my biggest supporters which helps me with everything I do.
Valerie Moselle, Luma Yoga: My kids help out by assisting in Childcare. My oldest is homeschooled, and she spends a lot of time hanging out in our lounge doing (or not doing) her homework. Which means she is very much present with our clients and the general rhythm of the business.
Linnaea Holgers James, Artisans & Agency: I took my daughter Eloise to work with me till she was 11 months old. She played in a basket behind the counter, naped in the office and ate lunch in her store high chair. My son Olaf only made it 8 months, second kid! They feel like the employees are their friends and the store is a second home. And the customers always say, I remember when they were in your tummy.
What do you think they like most about your business?
Zach: I asked my six year old and the first thing he said was “the employees are really nice”. I feel like that’s a pretty solid win.
Cara: Eating cookies and telling their friends that they own the Pacific Cookie Company.
Casey: Luckily my kids love to read so they like being surrounded by books when their mom needs to work. We get copies in advance of the publication date so they love getting access to books before everyone else. They also love meeting their favorite authors who come for our author visits.
Valerie: They seem proud.
Linnaea: Away from the store we often travel to trade shows which they think of as “adventures.” They enjoy visiting other stores in other towns and spotting products or artists we have in our own. They love being part of events, like handing out candy to trick or treaters or setting up the train and holiday decorations.
How do you feel being a parent informs the way you do business?
Zach: Being a parent helps in understanding perspective. Things that seems minor to me can be a big deal to my kids, and things that seem major they often don’t notice. Parenting helps me to see things from different angles, notice details and practice empathy.
Cara: When I was pregnant with my first daughter I was very conscious of my health and what I ate. During that time the research about trans-fatty acids in hydrogenated oils and their negative health benefits came to light. We used them in some cookie flavors and it dawned on me that I wouldn’t feed that cookie to my baby girl. It was at that time that we re-formulated all of our recipes to remove the trans-fats. Being a parent regularly informs my business decisions. It changes everything.
Casey: First, being a parent makes me a great multi-tasker so I think it helps when you have many different agendas on your plate and you have to deal with all of them. I also think it makes me a better boss – hopefully I am more in tune with what my employees with kids need in order to allow them to find the right balance between work and home. Finally, being a parent has allowed the store to focus more on our kids programming which has hopefully created a more engaged generation of readers. That is something I am very proud of.
Valerie: Running a business is about establishing systems and working towards consistency, and then rolling with the variables. Family life is much the same way! I think I’m more organized about my business than I am in my family. (They don’t appreciate that!)
Linnaea: I definitely look around the store to “kid proof” if only from my own kids! But we want to be a place for all generations and lots of our customers have grown up with us! Having merchandise and an environment that is comfortable for all. We just painted a rainbow wall out our back door thinking of families and the fun pictures they can take out there and everyone time we see that happening it’s happy moment!
How do you think your children have benefited from you having a downtown business?
Zach: By having a business downtown my kids end up there more often than they would otherwise. This means more trips to the library, more art a Petroglyph, more browsing at Bookshop Santa Cruz and more play at Laurel Park among other things. Generally I think they benefit from all the variety that Downtown offers.
Cara: We spend a lot of time Downtown which is what I did when I was a little girl while my parents were working. Downtown is a community where everyone knows who you are and they feel safe. The diversity of people and shops lends itself to a rich upbringing.
Casey: Downtown Santa Cruz is second home to my kids. They know that each store has a family behind it so it feels like a real community to them. Even on our days off, we find ourselves spending all of our time in Downtown SC.
Valerie: My kids feel at home and comfortable downtown. They understand community, and have a sense of ‘place’. It has been a great experience for my oldest to grow into a more free-range kid downtown. She felt comfortable because she could use our businesses as bases
Linnaea: They have that “who are the people in your neighborhood” experience. They are part of the downtown community. From taking art classes at Kaiwa, to picking out new books at Bookshop, getting ice cream at one of the many awesome places downtown, they are always seeing people they know!
What is one of your favorite things to do with your children Downtown?
Zach: If I offer them ice cream at the Penny they will usually go Downtown with me. But if I tell them they can get a book at Bookshop they will be dragging me out of the door 100% of the time.
Cara: Our favorite thing to do Downtown is to shop and stop to watch the buskers acts.
Casey: We love going to movies and feel lucky to have several options in downtown. We do a regular rotation through our favorite sweet shops – Penny Ice Creamery, Marinis, Buttercup, Mission Hill Ice Creamery and Pacific Cookie Company. Most of our favorite restaurants are downtown where we know the staff well and they know our eating quirks (I think we might be at Zoccoli’s almost every other day). Finally, we always find ourselves back in Bookshop looking at books (it’s an addiction!).
Valerie: Wander around when it’s feeling lively. Shop, eat out, see friends…what everybody likes to do down here!
Linnaea: In the summer we love to come down and have lunch and have ice cream or a cupcake from Buttercup and ride the trolley down to the Sanctuary center. In the winter, a new book from bookshop and hot chocolate at Chocolate is always popular.
Do you think your Kid(s) want to do what you do when they grow up? If so, or if not, how do you feel about that.
Zach: Some days they do, and some days they want to be astronauts or race horse jockeys or such things. If they wanted to join me in the business that would be great, but I’d also be happy if they were eating Snap tacos in space.
Cara: My daughter Mila wants to be a professional soccer player and a baker. The other day told me that she was sorry she didn’t want to work at the Cookie Company. She wants to start her own bakery and would I be upset if it competed with mine? I want her to be her own person and follow her passions even if they do not involve cookies.
Casey: I’ve told them often that it is completely up to them if they are interested in running the store down the line. If they aren’t, no problem. They just need to find something they are passionate about and makes them happy. If they want to take over the store, I would be happy with that but only once they’ve gone out in the world and tried a number of other things. However, they do have one requirement. When they were with me at Bookshop’s 50th anniversary party, I told them their only requirement is to wheel me up in a wheelchair to celebrate our 100th anniversary.
Valerie: I think they would both say “No Way!”. But I think seeing my husband and I as business owners, whether we are doing what they would want to do, empowers them. Being entrepreneurial isn’t something they would hesitate to do if they felt inspired to.
Linnaea: My daughter seems to have her eye on business, not necessarily my business. Currently she wants to be an interior designer or a chef! I think she’ll have some idea how run whatever business she gets into from watching what we do!
Valerie: When you have a business downtown you come to know so many other business owners, people who work downtown, and people who live downtown in addition to your own clients or customers. A couple of years ago my oldest daughter made up the term: ‘mommingling’. The girls get irritated when we’re trying to go somewhere and I stop to talk to someone I know. “Mom! Stop Mommingling!”