Articles by Business Journal Senior Writer Tiffany Rider;
Photographs by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville
February 26, 2013 - During 2012, the Long Beach Business Journal profiled dozens of local women business owners across industry sectors, asking each of them to share their top challenge in moving their business forward. These women either own their business outright or are co-owners with a business partner or spouse.
This year, the Business Journal continues its quarterly spotlight on women entrepreneurs who are located in Long Beach or Signal Hill – now adding women who are partners in professional offices or who produce a product distributed to retailers in the city and elsewhere. We’ve also included home-based business operations.
- Lena Perelman - Beachwood BBQ and Brewery
- Janet Dockstader - Brandmeyer, Gilligan & Dockstader, LLP
- Elizabeth Williams - Cali Bike Tours
- Maralyn DiPiazza - DiPiazza’s
- Dyana Dulin - Dynamic Glass
- Alyson Emery - Emery & Emery DDS
- Melissa Glatman - Family Floors Long Beach
- Sophia Sandoval - 4th Street Vine
- Candy Robinson - Long Beach Flying Club
- Hilda Sanchez - MinuteMan Press Long Beach
- Sasha Witte - Sasha Witte Design
- Lorena Ruiz-Huerta - Stephanie’s Linens
- Melody Brandon - Sweet and Saucy Shop
- Dr. Julie Voltin - Uptown Animal Hospital
- Debbie Brooks - West Coast VW Repair
210 E. 3rd St., Unit A, Long Beach
Lena Perelman knew that, at some point, she would work for herself and seek a business partner who would balance out her management skills.
Perelman was working as a gerontologist when she met her future business partner – and husband – Gabriel Gordon, a chef by training. Together they dreamed of opening their own restaurant. Perelman said the two have a perfect balance between his creativity and her business development and management skills. When they stumbled upon 131½ Main St. in Seal Beach, Perelman and Gordon “went with a gut feeling” and decided to open Beachwood BBQ in December 2006.
Beachwood BBQ offers traditional American barbecue, slow cooked and dry rubbed, to be paired with from-scratch fixings. Meats on the menu range from ribs to pulled pork and brisket. The restaurant also offers microbrews from 22 rotating taps.
“I’m lucky that I found a solid partner to go into business with,” Perelman said. “I wanted to have a business, but not on my own. The two of us balance each other out.” Perelman’s role with the business is running what she calls “the front of the house,” meaning all customer service, employee training and media relations.
With nearly five years of experience running their restaurant, Perelman and Gordon began looking for a second location. They considered different cities but ultimately selected The Promenade in Downtown Long Beach. “People who live in Long Beach really like Long Beach and support the businesses within their community,” Perelman said. “We liked the idea of being part of that community. That was really our motivation; engendering a feeling of community with the restaurant and its customers. The Promenade gave us a sense of what we wanted to develop.”
In July 2011, Perelman and Gordon opened Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, following the restaurant element from Seal Beach and adding a brewery to create their own beer. The location has already received positive reviews online, garnering the “Best Brew Pub in SoCal” award for 2013 from the online site RateBeer.
However, Perelman said the most challenging thing for her right now is finding the right avenues for publicity in the local media market. “A while ago, local papers and print media were pretty abundant,”
Perelman said. “You could still advertise in local papers and magazines and drive business. With the increase in blogs and social media, I find that I have to work harder and get a lot more creative to make sure people know we’re here.”
One World Trade Center, Suite 2150, Long Beach
Brandmeyer, Gilligan & Dockstader partner Janet Dockstader, a family law practitioner in Downtown Long Beach, admits that although she chose to study law she never had the desire to be an attorney.
“I worked for a law firm in college for a time and didn’t think it was a fit for me,” Dockstader said. She earned her undergraduate degree in political science from UC Santa Barbara in 1995. “I knew having a law degree would give me an edge,” she said. She took a year off after college to work at different types of firms to get some direction.
It wasn’t until Dockstader enrolled in the law degree program at Loyola Marymount that she got a job at a bankruptcy firm, then a summer internship at a creative arts agency. She ultimately decided to pursue civil litigation. Dockstader said she began to take stock of her attributes while in college, and also found love. She married in 1999, graduated in 2000, passed the bar exam in 2001 and got a job working part-time in Irvine for Gruenbeck & Vogeler.
Then, in July 2003, a family friend named Art Close passed away. He operated a law practice – primarily criminal defense – and had 70 active cases. Dockstader helped Close’s brother transition the practice by meeting with each of the clients to offer them referrals. So many clients wanted to work with Dockstader that he encouraged her to take them on. So she did, and hit the ground running.
“Before I knew it I had a promising career,” Dockstader said. “I quickly learned that I loved being in court.” Criminal defense clients would provide family law case referrals, which soon made up the majority of her caseload.
“I really got to know quite well the judicial offices on the bench and the other practicing attorneys in the area,” Dockstader said. “Some of them would refer me cases because I had that criminal defense background.” That’s how her name got to Brian Brandmeyer, a family law attorney in Long Beach. The two merged their practices August 1, 2008, and three years later they merged with local attorney John Gilligan.
The biggest challenge for family law attorneys right now, Dockstader said, is trying to navigate the court system. Budget cuts are impacting the speed at which the courts can hear cases, so attorneys are educating their clients on alternative paths toward resolution, she said.
5318 E. 2nd St. #585 (Mailing Address), Long Beach
Elizabeth Williams loved bike riding as a youth, but didn’t get back on a bicycle until almost six years ago. When she fell in love with bike riding all over again, her cycling passion and drive to own her own business combined to make Cali Bike Tours.
Williams grew up in Compton, moving to North Long Beach when she was in 5th grade. Since then, Long Beach has been her home. Williams realized she wanted to be a business owner in college, studying business administration at California State University, Long Beach. “Exactly what I wanted to do then was the big question, but I knew I wanted to work for myself and create jobs for others,” she said. “My father was an entrepreneur, so it was in my blood.”
After a few starts in other business ventures, Williams set her focus on Cali Bike Tours. “When I realized how much time I was spending riding my bike and talking about bikes, I decided I should do something more with my passion,” she said. “After coming up with various ideas, I decided to start Cali Bike Tours, the city’s first guided bike touring company.”
Williams said developing her business plan was difficult – she was commuting to a full-time, high-stress job and training for her first six-day bike tour while trying to have a social life – so she hired a professional to help with the process. “My business plan is a living tool that is still evolving as I find my stride in this bike world. It was very exciting to see my dream of creating Cali Bike Tours materialized,” she said. Cali Bike Tours opened for business in October 2010.
Cali Bike Tours is aligned with the City of Long Beach’s plans for more bicycle infrastructure and its goal of becoming the most bicycle friendly city in America. Tours run two to two-and-a-half hours on weekends (weekdays by appointment) and are described as “scenic, active, eco-friendly, educational and an exciting adventure.”
The guided excursions connect the tourist with the local sites, offering an experience of the waterfront, downtown activity and the buzz of the city from two wheels – all at a slower, more casual and healthier pace.
“Long Beach has positioned itself to really make an impact in biking and bike tourism,” she said. Williams’ future plans include working with interns to increase marketing efforts for new customers and connect with new funding sources for new programs.
5205 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach
In Maralyn DiPiazza’s eyes, Long Beach is a city with few music venues for its many local musicians and bands. “Music is not going to go away,” she said. “We want to give people a good experience.”
The original DiPiazza’s was open from 1952-1981. The owner’s son, Mark DiPiazza, and his wife, Maralyn, met working at a restaurant together and soon decided to get into the family business – a restaurant where people could eat, drink and rock.
“We originally thought a breakfast place would work,” Maralyn DiPiazza said, noting Mark made excellent breakfast dishes. “But we realized we’re just not morning people.” She a baker and Mark a chef, the duo pooled their money and in 1984 opened their first DiPiazza’s on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Termino Avenue, while working second jobs “to make life work” and meet Maralyn’s goal of owning a home by the time she turned 30. In 1994 the couple decided to open a second DiPiazza’s at 4137 E. Anaheim St., which Maralyn operated until they decided they missed working together under one roof and closed the Ocean Boulevard location.
Soon after they were offered the chance to move the restaurant into Java Lanes bowling alley at 3800 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, which housed an underutilized music venue. The DiPiazza’s lunged at the opportunity and moved the Anaheim Street location to Java Lanes in 1995. “We brought in live entertainment,” Maralyn said.
They were able to host rock and punk bands of the 1990s, from The Offspring to Weezer. “We gave the kids another place to go. It was awesome.” While operating their business at Java Lanes, the owners of Captain’s Quarters at 5205 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. asked the DiPiazza’s for help booking bands. When the bowling alley owners sold the building in 2003, necessitating a move, Maralyn and her husband decided to buy Captain’s Quarters and convert it into what is today’s DiPiazza’s.
“We have an extension on a lease, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be here for a while,” Maralyn said of the current location. Her biggest challenge moving the business forward is self-confidence. “Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy,” she said. Maralyn is also the chef at the restaurant, which “takes a lot of physical toll.” She has applied for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program through Long Beach City College in hopes of gaining knowledge and more confidence as a business owner.
Local artisan Dyana Dulin creates unique glass jewelry and décor by hand – a trade fueled by her passion for art, color and fashion.
Dulin holds associate degrees in fashion merchandising and interior design. After college, she moved to Catalina Island for a full-time job. She lived there for a decade, leaving in 2000 to relocate to Signal Hill. While on vacation in 2005, Dulin fell in love with her first piece of art glass.
“I was fascinated with it,” she said. When she returned home, Dulin began researching glass making and enrolled in classes to learn more about the production process. “I went into it with everything I had,” she said. “Within three months of buying that piece of glass, I had a studio in my backyard.”
Dulin produces specialty cut and custom jewelry, art pieces, boxes, vases, platters, bowls and more. “There’s everything from sheet glass to a powdered sugar form of glass,” she said. “I mix and match for colors and effect.” Dulin practices pulling glass into liquid form, a process called vitreography, to produce a design. The design then goes into the kiln in her studio and is fired for 12 hours or more, depending on the size of the piece. Each piece can be fired one to four times, with the kiln burning at upward of 1,400 degrees.
In between firings is what Dulin calls “cold working.” That is, she takes the piece and places it on a lap wheel where she uses saws, grinders and other tools to create shapes and clean up edges. Replacing the piece into the kiln for final firings creates a polished effect, she said.
Dulin sold her first pieces in 2006, but her big break came when connections she had made at the Catalina Museum asked to sell her work. Today there are five stores on Catalina Island that carry her pieces in addition to the Catalina Museum, along with the Hilton Waikoloa on Hawaii. Dulin also participates in the Catalina Festival of the Arts each year, she said.
Dulin takes pride in her work and said the hardest part about being in the business of producing these unique pieces is competing with mass production and lower quality products. “You can buy things that look nice but aren’t quality,” Dulin said. “I don’t lower my standards to sell things. My work is done the right way. It may hurt me in the long run, but when people come to me they know they are getting a quality product.”
3840 Woodruff Ave., Suite 208, Long Beach
Alyson Emery knew from an early age that she wanted to go into dentistry. At age seven, Emery said she remembers telling her older brother’s future wife that she wanted to be a dentist. In her teenage years, Emery observed dental office demographics – male dentists and female dental hygienists – and resolved to be a dental hygienist. But after reading a Los Angeles Times article in the 1970s on the growing number of women going into dentistry, Emery returned to her original plan.
She elected to study psychobiology (the relationship between the brain and the mind) at UCLA for her undergraduate degree. Upon graduation in 1982, Emery opted to attend the University of the Pacific (UOP) School of Dentistry in San Francisco because the program began in July and operated for three straight years versus the traditional four-year curriculum. “I think continuous learning is good practice,” Emery said.
She met Doug Emery in their first year of college. They were married after that first year and both graduated from UOP as doctors of dental surgery in 1985. “He was from Montana but had an uncle in Long Beach,” Emery said. “So we moved to Long Beach and bought our first practice” the same year they graduated; it was located at the corner of Redondo Avenue and Anaheim Street.
While dental school educates students on how to be good dentists, Emery said she didn’t receive much business training. “When we came to Long Beach, we were really good at joining every organization we could to find people to help us,” she said. “We had to work hard to learn how to run a business.”
In 1992, the couple decided to move the business to its current location. While the two are happy being business partners, they decided to separate in 1995. “Within our business, Doug and I work equal hours and see an equal number of patients,” Emery said. “I run the staff meetings and pay the bills, he does the payroll. We both do different community outreach. We both do a lot of volunteer work in the community.”
The business has been successful in getting new patients through word-of-mouth referrals, but Emery said it is challenging reaching younger people who get their referrals through the Internet. “We are working on our social media and how we are presented online,” Emery said. “We are working hard to get our practice moving forward in the social media arena. Once we get a patient in the door, they’re happy here.”
5865 E. Spring St., Long Beach
Melissa Glatman worked in the restaurant business for 19 years before starting a family – and a family business.
Glatman, a North Dakota native, moved to California in 2001. She lived in Huntington Beach for six years before moving to Seal Beach, where she and her family currently reside. In the nearly two decades she spent working in restaurants, Glatman held various positions, from server to a general manager. When she decided to join her husband in flooring – a family business for three generations – Glatman said, “The transition had a learning curve.”
Family Floors opened on June 1, 2012, inside the dome structure on the northwest corner of Los Coyotes Diagonal and Spring Street. The store is a certified dealer of Home & Garden Television (HGTV) Home products, a certification for which Glatman had to apply and pay a fee. Being an HGTV dealer connects the shop with vendors used on the network’s television shows, which is a big plus for the shop. “Opening was a whirlwind,” Glatman recalled. “We had [numerous] flooring companies coming in and installing displays for a week before we opened.
The flooring company offers carpeting, hardwood, tile, stone, laminate, vinyl and cork options. Family Floors also sells radiant heating, an under-floor system that keeps floors warm through the cold months. To tie a room together, Glatman said the business also does window treatments and interior design consultation. “We have three decorators working on call,” she said. The company slogan is, “Your floor is our baby.”
Glatman does everything except installation; that means keeping tabs on the 23 contracted crews running daily, working with clients in the showroom, overseeing customer service and managing the five employees in the store. This being her first business, Glatman joined the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “They helped us out,” she said. “We had a ribbon cutting with the councilman in our district. We even had the East Spring Street Business Association and the east division police officer come out.”
Family Floors is a family business in every sense of the word. She often brings her daughter Katelyn to work and has a play area inside the showroom for clients’ children. Beyond creating a work-life balance, Glatman said her personal challenge in the flooring industry is that it is male-dominated.
“When we went to our foreign convention, maybe three percent of attendees were women,” Glatman said. “I am in a unique position to show that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, so long as you can get the job done.”
2142 E. 4th St., Long Beach
A love for wine and experience working in the restaurant industry led Sophia Sandoval to pursue owning and operating a wine bar.
Sandoval was born and raised in Los Angeles. Working in restaurants through her 20s, Sandoval was exposed to a variety of wines. She grew to love wine and has enjoyed winery tours in Sonoma, Napa, Santa Barbara, Paso Robles and Temecula – California’s major wine destinations.
Her extensive wine tasting experience over the years helped her develop a refined palate, causing Sandoval to conclude that an “expensive sommelier background” wasn’t necessary. She observed the over saturation of wine bars while living in Pasadena, so Sandoval began to look elsewhere – specifically Echo Park. When she began dating Jim Ritson, he convinced her to open a bar in Long Beach to be closer to him. She followed his advice and opened 4th Street Vine in 2008.
At first, Sandoval owned and operated the bar while Ritson worked for AT&T. But when Sandoval became pregnant, she moved to Long Beach and “things just organically became ours.” Ritson stopped working for AT&T to help with the wine bar. He added craft beers to the menu and brought in musicians to perform acoustic sets in the evenings. “The music has added a lot to the business,” Sandoval said. “Two Saturdays per month we pull a permit with the city to host amplified [music].”
Today, 4th Street Vine is a boutique wine and beer bar that serves small production wines from all over the world and five taps with hand selected craft brews. Wine is available by the glass, by the bottle and for retail. The bar employs two bartenders to support Sandoval and Ritson, who often work the bar. The couple also are involved in maintaining their second location at the new Long Beach Airport concourse.
While Sandoval has a few years of experience owning a business under her belt, creating a work-life balance remains a challenge. “I was pregnant when the bar opened and [my son] was born four months later,” she said. “Trying to grow the business and think ahead is sometimes difficult. My focus is often my son. Thankfully I have Jim to balance that part. Being a female business owner and a mom and being a partner, running a household, is a challenge. But we have a really great life here in Long Beach. We are lucky to have been received so well by the community.”
2631 E. Spring St., Long Beach
Candice “Candy” Robinson said she remembers listening to her grandfather talk about his career as an airline pilot, hanging on his words while dreaming of becoming a pilot.
“I never thought it would apply to me,” Robinson said, explaining that from a young age she thought being a pilot was a man’s career. It wasn’t until she attended Arizona State University that she learned otherwise. “I met some airport folks there involved with the U.S. Commemorative Air Force,” she said. They told Robinson to pursue her dream and encouraged her to become a flight instructor.
Upon graduation, mathematics bachelor’s degree in hand, Robinson moved back to the Golden State and got a full-time job in 1978. She was working as an engineer for McDonnell Douglas while living in Seal Beach. Realizing quickly that the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. workweek wasn’t for her, Robinson began taking flying lessons on her off hours in 1979.
Robinson worked for Douglas for a little over a year before she was offered a job with Flours, an Alaskan pipeline company, to program for architecture and design. She saved while working and bought Long Beach Flying Club in 1980. Robinson earned her license to teach flight in 1982.
The business needed financial support initially, so for the first four years Robinson worked full time during the day and did administrative work at the flying club in the evenings. When it broke even in 1984, she left her job and went full-force into her business as a flight instructor. When her location was to be torn down for Boeing C-17 production, Robinson said she moved to the south end of the Long Beach Airport near where Gulfstream operates today. In 1999, Long Beach Flying Club signed a 40-year lease for its current location on the south side of the airport.
Though Robinson doesn’t have time to teach today – “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” she said – she keeps her license current. She employs three maintenance workers, three office administrators and works with independent contractor flight instructors. The biggest business challenge Long Beach Flying Club faces today is government regulation.
“When TSA or Homeland Security wants to know something, they want to know it now,” Robinson said. “The more paperwork we can generate the better job security we have. After 32 years, I have this, ‘They’re not going to get me’ attitude. I’m doing everything I can to keep my business, and so far so good.”
137 W. 5th St., Long Beach
In her career, Hilda Sanchez paid her dues in Corporate America working in technology for a number of Fortune 1,000 companies. In what she calls “retirement,” Sanchez remains a woman in business as the owner of MinuteMan Press in Downtown Long Beach.
Sanchez earned an associates degree in business data processing from Compton College and started working her way up the corporate ladder. “I had the technology know-how but worked my way up to a VP position, making business decisions,” Sanchez said.
In the late 1990s, the company Sanchez had been working with endured a corporate takeover that resulted in moving all business decisions to the East Coast. “I’m a California person and didn’t want to leave,” she said. Sanchez thought that was the perfect time for her and her husband to pursue early retirement – something the two had discussed in the past – in the form of consulting.
When Sanchez realized that pursuit was more her husband’s dream than hers, she decided to explore her options running her own business. While looking for an opportunity to work in a business-to-business environment, Sanchez discovered the international franchise MinuteMan Press.
“I certainly didn’t have print in mind,” she said. “I realized I liked their corporate culture and that’s when I jumped in.” MinuteMan Press, based in New York, offers a complete range of printed products, from stationery to postcards, raffle tickets to business cards, calendars to brochures. Services include binding, copying, design, stamping, embossing, folding, lamination and more.
Sanchez opened her shop in June 2002. She assists local small and medium sized businesses in the area with their printed marketing material needs. “This continues to allow me to work with other businesses on business goals,” she said. “I liked that the focus was with other businesses because I knew I could draw on [my experience] working with other business people. Plus, the franchise is very supportive in providing all of the training I needed and a network of other franchise owners.”
Because running a business pulls her “in a million directions,” Sanchez said her challenge is maintaining focus. “The world changes daily and our industry is changing by the minute,” she said of print media production. “We have to adapt to the changes around us. But I can’t lose the focus on our goals, and that is the biggest challenge.” Sanchez recently graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Long Beach City College, which she said helped get her focus “back on track.”
3237 E. Broadway, Long Beach
Sasha Witte had an affinity for design since childhood. She was the kid who, instead of playing with dolls, spent her time decorating the interiors of dollhouses. Today Witte continues to design interiors through her business, Sasha Witte Design.
To pursue her true passion, Witte enrolled in a four-year, UCLA extended education program for interior design. When she earned her certificate in interior design in 1998, Witte went right to work. She began designing with a hospitality firm in Beverly Hills, but after two years the long work hours for little pay and long commute took a toll. When she received a job offer to do product design with a carpet textile company, Witte jumped at the chance for a change of pace.
“While the first job was extremely challenging, the other left me feeling restless,” Witte said. While still in product design, Witte bought a home in Bluff Park in 2001. She would host parties for friends old and new, and some of them would ask her to decorate their homes. “I would do one person’s home and then they would recommend me to a couple of their friends,” Witte said. Before long, Witte realized she had a client base large enough to run her own design business.
At first, Witte created an office and resource library in one of the rooms in her home. Three years later, Witte decided it was difficult living and working in the same space so she rented a small property on 2nd Street in 2003. Business was doing well enough that she brought on a couple of people to work with her.
Witte soon fostered the desire to open a small retail space to sell home furniture, lighting and accessories. She discovered a cottage on Broadway in May 2007 and signed a lease within a week. Witte moved her design business into the cottage, using the front half of the space for retail, and has been there ever since.
One of Witte’s business challenges, in addition to maintaining a work-life balance, is getting her business recognized in the community. “One of the ways I’m looking to do that is working with the On Broadway Association to help the area be seen more as a great shopping destination with salons and restaurants,” Witte said. “I think the more we are able to pull people into the area, that will be an asset to the businesses.”
1416 E. Burnett St., Suite D, Signal Hill
A woman of ambition, business owner Lorena Ruiz-Huerta draws inspiration from the satisfaction of hard work paying off.
Ruiz-Huerta, who grew up in Long Beach, started her professional journey working as a part-time server for catered events. The first, she recalled, was aboard the Queen Mary in 1994. “I thought it was interesting,” she said, recalling her observation of the event elements from the service to design and décor. The event inspired her to get a full-time job with the Long Beach Airport Marriott Hotel, she said.
“I decided I liked to learn different ways of working in hospitality,” Ruiz-Huerta said, so she took on a part-time position with the Long Beach Renaissance Hotel and another on-call job with the Westin Long Beach. “I was working three jobs, sleeping four or five hours only,” she said. “I had a goal.”
That goal, Ruiz-Huerta said, was to design events. “I used to work for an event company and found out it was very hard to make an event look nice without spending a lot of money,” she said. “I thought we should have something in the area to help people working with a budget and make their weddings and events beautiful.”
She worked and saved to invest in her own business, a goal she achieved in 2003 with Stephanie’s Linens – named for her daughter. “When I was ready to go, I talked to my general managers,” Ruiz-Huerta said. “I still have excellent relationships with the general managers at these properties. They said they would support me 100 percent.”
That promise has been kept. Hotels from Long Beach to Manhattan Beach create event packages that include rentals through her business – from plate chargers to Chivari chairs. “I am their exclusive linen and décor provider,” she said. The hotels send event planners and hosts to Ruiz-Huerta’s showroom in Signal Hill to select colors and designs. Ruiz-Huerta maintains 1,000 square feet of warehouse space for linens and another 1,500 square feet for furniture.
What’s Ruiz-Huerta’s biggest business challenge? “I think I just don’t have one,” she said. “I’m from a family of 11 and all of us are business owners. I have examples from older brothers and sisters. It’s been a key to my success. I am always happy to start a new day and excited to provide the best service every time we do an event.”
6400 Stearns St., Long Beach
When couples get married, they tend to receive gifts for the home – everything from bedding to bath towels, dishware and cutlery. The gifts Melody Brandon and her husband received for their wedding – specifically cooking and baking items – started Brandon down a path that would eventually lead her to running her own business.
Inspired by her new collection of kitchen products, Brandon enrolled in cooking classes. She noticed an advertisement for the pastry school at Le Courdon Bleu in Pasadena and decided almost immediately to transition her career path. “I jumped into pastry school 100 percent,” Brandon said.
While in school, Brandon started a small baking business out of her home. She graduated pastry school in 2006 and began working at a bakery in the Costa Mesa area. After just seven months, Brandon decided she wanted to work on her own. Tutoring school children on the side, Brandon worked out of her house and rented a kitchen for her bakery, Sweet and Saucy Shop.
“The name for the business came from brainstorming with friends,” Brandon said. “I wanted it short and I wanted the word ‘sweet’ in it. We thought Sweet and Saucy Shop described the business well since it gave reference to the sweet desserts and all the fun dessert sauces too, like salted caramel and chocolate ganache.”
Business took off, and by July 2009 Brandon – with the support of her family – was able to open up a storefront at 6400 Stearns St. After two and a half years running her Long Beach location, Brandon realized she needed to expand. Sweet and Saucy Shop opened its second location in the Crystal Cove shopping center in Newport Beach in early spring 2012.
Sweet and Saucy Shop bakes wedding cakes, mini dessert bars, cupcakes, macaroons, cake lollipops and other dessert items, specializing in mini desserts. The shop carries several dessert flavors each day, including the popular Candy Bar cupcake and Red Velvet cake lollipop.
As a business owner, Brandon said it has been challenging to go from a small operation to having 20 employees and continuing to expand. Brandon recently purchased the building at 3722 Atlantic Ave. in Bixby Knolls for a third Sweet and Saucy Shop location. The space is being designed with seating for guests to enjoy coffee and desserts and offers a refrigerated display case. The connected back building is to be used for cupcake decorating classes, Brandon said.
3350 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach
Julie Voltin is one of those lucky people who knew from a young age what she wanted to do in life and is living her dream.
“For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a veterinarian,” Voltin said. “I always had pets growing up. I have a natural affinity toward animals.” At age 16, Voltin’s first job was working at a veterinary hospital near her home in South Orange County. “I never looked back,” she said. “There was never any option for me to do anything else.”
Voltin studied biology at University of California, Santa Barbara and earned her undergraduate degree in June 1994. It took four years after graduating to get into a veterinary school, she said, due to the high number of applicants at the 27 veterinary schools in the nation at that time. She was finally accepted to a U.S school based on St. Kitts in the Caribbean – Ross University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
Being accepted to Ross University “afforded me the opportunity to get an excellent education and pursue my career,” Voltin said. The last year of schooling is focused on clinical practice, which sent Voltin back to the U.S. to study in Knoxville, Tennessee. She earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree in June 2002.
Voltin traveled and lived in other parts of the U.S. before returning to California in December 2006. It was her now-husband Clervio who encouraged her to run her own practice. “I was pretty comfortable being an associate,” she said. “I went out of my comfort zone.” The opportunity to purchase Uptown Animal Hospital fell into her lap in June 2010 as the previous owner was planning to retire. “I met him and we went over everything,” Voltin said. “Six months later I was the new owner.”
Uptown Animal Hospital is a full-service veterinary hospital employing two veterinary associates and a service staff of 10. The hospital offers everything from general exams, wellness and checkups to addressing active illness. In addition to other hospital services – laboratory, radiology and surgery – Uptown also offers pet daycare and grooming.
Aside from creating a work-life balance, her biggest business challenge is the economy. “Pet care isn’t always made a priority when people are having financial difficulties,” Voltin said. “It needs to be. If they are going to be part of the family, preventative medicine is important to head off major medical disasters that can come up.”
2709 E. 4th St., Long Beach
“I can’t say it’s been a bed of roses being a woman in auto repair,” Debbie Brooks, owner of West Coast VW Repair, told the Business Journal.
While Brooks said it wasn’t easy being a woman mechanic when she entered the field, she takes on challenges as they come with a positive attitude. “I just say go out and do it,” she said. “I tend to fly by the seat of my pants.”
Originally from Lynwood, Brooks grew up visiting her grandmother in Long Beach. She moved to the International City when she graduated high school in 1976, living in Long Beach for a short while before heading off to college at California State University, Chico, to study nutrition.
After her first year, Brooks made her way back to Lynwood to get a job and make money to go back to college. Brooks drove a 1965 Volkswagen Bug, and a fellow Bug owner suggested she work at a local shop called Bugs and Trikes as a parts driver.
“I liked it,” Brooks said. “I was young and strong and didn’t know what I wanted to be.” Watching others working in the shop, Brooks became eager to take on more than parts deliveries. Before long, Brooks was the shop’s tow truck driver and didn’t return to college.
Never idle, Brooks soon learned the trade of an auto mechanic. Bugs and Trikes ownership eventually changed hands, leading to an opportunity for Brooks to take over the business. She sold everything she had, got a loan from a friend and renamed the business West Coast VW.
After commuting each day to her shop in Lynwood throughout the 1980s, Brooks decided she wanted to have a small neighborhood shop near her home in Long Beach. She soon saw a sign for rent at a shop on 4th Street in Long Beach and was able to get a lease on the space.
Brooks operated both shops until she decided to close the Lynwood location in 1987. “I realized I wanted to be more available to my customers,” she said. “I was like a dealership, but I wanted to be a neighborhood repair shop. I wanted to make sure people were happy since mechanics have bad raps.”
Brooks has three employees and continuously educates herself on the latest mechanical technologies used to repair Volkswagens. “You have to push your brain every day to learn something new,” she said.