Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Custom Fitness

Custom Fitness is a functional fitness facility and physical therapy clinic. Some of the services they offer are cross-fit kids’ classes, cross-fit classes, teen strengthening and conditioning classes, as well as personal training, yoga and mobility. 

"When we decided to open Custom Fitness, we really had no idea what we were doing. None of us had ever done anything like this before and were basically leaping head first into something completely unknown and we happened upon Denise Mendiola at the SBDC. She really guided us along the way, helped us develop our business plan, and develop financial models that we could present to the bank. She basically gave us the rundown of what to do. All we knew was that we wanted to open a business and we needed money to do it and a place to open it and we had a dream and a goal and we just needed help nurturing that.” – Samantha King Sablan 

“If I had any advice for someone trying to start their business, I’d definitely tell them to not give up. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of sweat and tears, but in the end it will be worth it if it’s something you truly believe in.” – Samantha King Sablan 

Custom Fitness is located in Anigua and open on M-F from 5:30am - 7:30pm; Saturday from 6:00am - 12:00pm; and closed on Sundays. For more information on their services, visit http://customfitnessguam.com/ or call 989-0436.

An Interview with Jessica Stout of Bonita Trading Co.

Jessica Stout is a wife, mother of three, and business owner of Bonita Trading Co. along with Joe Leon Guerrero & Margaret Leon Guerrero. This locally owned and family run business offers hair and baby accessories and kid-friendly apparel designs under their brands: Bonita Baby, Kidd Pacific, and The Original Guam Polo Collection are inspired by their children, culture, and love for Guam. Jessica discussed her business venture journey through the challenges and triumphs and also talked about what lies in store for Bonita Trading Co. 

Please tell us about yourself and your family.  I’m a Wife (to Michael) and Mommy to 3 wonderful children:  Celia, Michael and Olivia. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? My business was inspired by two things:  A passionate hobby and the desire to pass on our culture to my children.  I realized that the selection of unique and locally inspired children’s gear was very minimal and found my niche in designing and creating, alongside my brother Joe, some kid-friendly designs that were Guam themed.
     What experience do you have in this type of business?  I have an MBA and a background in sales and finance. While becoming a business owner seemed like a natural progression, I really didn’t have any experience in the retail or craft business.  I learned a lot from other business owners and artists.  I also read through business articles and trade blogs online.

    How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you?  The Small Business Development Center really helped me to identify my business objectives,   develop realistic steps to reaching my goals, and formulate a solid direction to take my business.  Even though I already have my business plan in full motion – it’s comforting to know that if I have any other questions or concerns, the team at SBDC is always there to help me. 
     What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business?  We self -funded our business from the start so our inventory was fairly small and selective to only the items we really wanted to bring to market.  However, last year, we were fortunate enough to receive a grant which helped us launch our newest clothing line – the Guam Polo Collection.

What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process?  I believe in any business, funding is always a big challenge.  We just started small and continued to reinvest in our business.  We took baby steps to get to a comfortable point.  Self-doubt was something I also had to get over.  There were times I wondered if my business was going anywhere, but when I have customers send me photos of their babies and children in their Guam bibs or Guam Seal headbands or Hafa Adai tee shirts – that’s when I know the challenges have been worth it.
What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process?  I have two memorable triumphs:  Starting a collective boutique with talented female artists from around the island was just amazing.  You can’t help but to draw inspiration from like-minded women who just want to help lift you up.  I have so much gratitude for the experience. Also, being the recipient of the Guam Unique Merchandise and Art Grant was truly memorable.  Having some of Guam’s most successful business men and women believe in you and your products is so encouraging.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?  For Bonita Baby and Kid Pacific, in the short-term, we are launching our very own storefront in just a few weeks.  It is truly an exciting time for us. In addition, we have a lot of new ideas and designs that we will release throughout the year. Longer term, we just want to continue on with our mission of cultivating and preserving our beautiful Chamorro culture through our kid-friendly products.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time? Starting a business is frightening and amazing all at the same time-- but you won’t ever regret believing in yourself and putting your ideas out there.  All it takes is a vision, determination, and that very first step.  I believe Guam is ripe for new businesses.
For more information on Bonita Baby and Kid Pacific items, visit www.bonitaguam.com. You can find their products at the Guam Art Boutique and GUMA Store in Chamorro Village, Neni & Me in Sagua Managu in Tamuning, and Two Lover’s Point Gift Shop. Be on the lookout in March 2017 as they open their storefront in Hagatna directly besidre Buzzcuts & Ponytails.

To find out how the Guam SBDC can assist you start or expand your business, visit www.pacificsbdc.com or call their main office at 671-735-2590.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Managing Personal Credit for Business Related Financing

By: Jane Ray
Business Advisor

Sometimes having a great business idea isn’t enough to bring your dream into reality.  There are factors such as the 5 Cs of Credit that will affect your business’s ability to get the financing that it needs.  One of those Cs is credit score.  Credit score is an important factor that can have a significant impact on your quest to financing.  Your credit score reflects how you have handled your personal credit in the past and predicts the likelihood of how you will handle it in the future.  That three digit number can reflect your character as a business owner and also demonstrate how you have handled your own personal finances.  The way you manage your personal finances can demonstrate how you are going to handle your business finances in most cases.  Therefore it is imperative that you, as a business owner, should know your personal credit score and credit history before reaching out to lenders.

How do I check my credit score?
Generally, you can retrieve your personal credit report from one of the three credit bureaus; TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.  As a consumer, you are allowed to obtain a free copy of your credit report through all three of the credit bureaus every year.  The credit reports will allow you to check your personal information; name, social security number, and address.  You should also check your account history, account information, late payments, collections, and tax liens.  It is recommended to check for any unexpected errors or surprises.  This will allow you to correct any errors and address any issues such as collections prior to applying to a financial institution.     

Since financial institutions are not required to report your activities to all three credit bureaus, some information can appear in one bureau but not the other.  It is best to check with all three credit bureau reports to ensure accurate information is reflected on each of those reports.  Some financial institutions only obtain a single credit report from the credit bureau with which they work directly when reviewing loan applications.  It is crucial to check credit reports from all three credit bureaus.   

Personal credit scores range from 300 to 850.  Credit scores vary between credit bureaus; each bureau has its own scoring models.  Generally, credit score is computed based on the following components:  payment history (35%); capacity (30%); length of credit history (10%); types of credit used (15%); and new credit (10%).  Paying bills on time is one of the most critical parts of maintaining a good credit score while avoiding excessive use of lines of credit and credit cards is another way to not adversely impacting your credit.  Any usage over 35% of the credit limit can considered excessive; therefore keeping track of what you spend on credit card is good financial practice.     

How to dispute when there is an issue?
If you identify errors or issues on your credit report, you can dispute the information with the credit bureau the information is coming from.  You can either dispute the information online, by telephone, or by mail.  It is helpful to have a copy of the credit report with the incorrect information when disputing; each report has a specific number identifying when it was generated.  This credit report number can assist the credit bureau in finding the incorrect information faster.  You should also provide any supporting documentation if you have any.  It is not recommended to send the original document however a copy of the document will be adequate.  Expect a 30 to 45 day timeframe for processing as the credit bureau will contact the source to verify, correct, and update the databases.  If you are experiencing identity theft or other credit issues, you can request for Security Freeze or Fraud alert on your credit report to prevent any unauthorized access.  Before selecting either of those options it is important to understand that Security Freeze and Fraud Alert will prevent creditors from accessing your credit reports unless you have provided the authorization.  Sometime it can also delay loan application process if you have forgotten that you placed one of those options onto your credit report.         

How long does negative information remain on my credit report?
Types of Information
Accounts paid as agreed
10 years from the date of last activity
Accounts not paid as agreed
7 years from the date the account first became past due
Late or missed payments
7 years
Collection accounts
7 years
Judgements (paid or not)
7 years
Paid Tax Liens / Unpaid Tax Liens
7 years / Indefinitely
Bankruptcy  - Chapter 7 / 11 / 13 non-discharged or dismissed
10 years from date filed
Bankruptcy – Chapter 13 (Discharged)
7 years from the date filed
Credit Inquiries
2 years
Source:  Moogalian, Diane (2010, May 10). FAQ: How Long Does Information Stay on My Credit Report? Retrieved from October 17, 2016, from http://blog.equifax.com/credit/faq-how-long-does-information-stay-on-my-credit-report/

Where can I find information about credit?
Have realistic expectations and be aware that paying past due payments or addressing delinquent collections will not immediately improve your credit score.  It takes time to improve your credit after financial difficulties or hardship.  There are many online resources that can help you if you are in need of financial education.  Each credit bureau has an educational center that discusses credit related topics.  Other web sites, such as Credit Karma and Nerd Wallet, have features on comparison shopping on different credit products and credit report monitoring services that are available to you.  If your financial issues come from poor financial habits, seeking professional help from a financial counselor or financial professional might help you address the root of the issue. 

If you are currently in business, or are planning to go into business, you will require funds to start or to expand your business.  Do not circumvent or work around adverse credit issues or you may miss a once in a life time opportunity.  It is better to address it now rather than wait until later when you are in urgent need of financing. Once you miss the opportunity, you won’t know when the next one will arise.  Being financially responsible with your personal credit will prepare you to achieve your financial dreams by being your own boss.       

Jane Ray, MS CCFCU received her Bachelor in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and Economic from the University of Guam. She then received her Master in Accounting and Financial Management from the University of Maryland University College.  Ray has over ten years in commercial lending experience and previously awarded the Small Business Banker of the Year award by the Small Business Administration.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fizz and Co. Opens in Agana Shopping Center

An Interview with LeAnn Crisostomo, Co-Owner

Please tell us about yourself and your family
Grew up in Ipan Talofofo, Married to Robbi Crisostomo, 5 daughters, 4 grandsons and 1 granddaughter & this is our first business venture as a family.  

Why did you decide to start your own business? 
Fulfillment! Freedom! Legacy! I wish I started sooner.  I finally faced my fears and made up my mind to push forward no matter what.

What experience do you have in this type of business? 
Aside from being a waitress at 17 and almost 3 years with the first location in Hagatna (across Bank of Guam), I did not have much experience in this industry.

How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you? 
SBDC gave me the list of requirements to start a business. Having SBDC was comforting, because they provided guidance every step of the way.  What also helped us through was networking with other entrepreneurs and sharing experiences and support.  It’s amazing!

What were some of the factors in deciding to open a second location and how did you decide with Agana Shopping Center? 
With the success of the current location we wanted to expand our menu and a good friend recommended the Agana Shopping Center. 

What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced in opening a second location? 
We upgraded by purchasing a hood which allows us to offer more options to add to our menu.   Learning the in-depth requirements and systems was a challenge with those improvements in our new location.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business? 
Short term is to develop an efficient system to streamline our internal operations so we can always provide quality customer service and care while our long term is to open a third location.

Please list some of your products/services and popular items. Burgers, fries, Hotdogs, Panini, shakes, floats & handcrafted sodas.

What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time? 
If your heart is taking you in that direction, get over the fear and do it!  Don’t be afraid. Lots of amazing support out there. Surround yourself with positive people. 

"Don't fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things.  The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, would have and should have" 

Business Name: Fizz&Co
Owner(s): LeAnn&Robbi Crisostomo
Type of Business: Restaurant
Location: Rt 4 Hagatna & Agana Shopping Center
Hours of Operation: 11-3 at the Rt4 location & 10-8pm at the Agana Shopping Center
Contact information: 477-3499 Rt4, 922-3499 ASC
Instagram and Facebook: fizzsodashop

Friday, December 16, 2016

Miliani’s Expands Product Offerings

By: Ltelatk Fritz
Director/Business Advisor
(Palau SBDC)

Vameline Singeo and her mom, Laverne Merep, came up with an idea to upgrade the fashion options in Palau. In August of 2013, Miliani’s was opened on main street Koror to provide name brand apparel and accessories focused primarily for women.  For the past three years, Miliani’s has been doing really well with clothing and accessories retail, especially on special seasons and occasions.

In 2015, the mother & daughter entrepreneurs realized an emerging niche created by the boom in Palau’s tourism industry. The lodging and accommodations grew exponentially with the influx of tourists visiting Palau.  They wanted to introduce a new line of products to its portfolio—hotel amenities.  For this new business venture, Miliani’s turned to Palau SBDC to help with its expansion in projecting revenue streams for their new product line and its refinancing loan package.

Over a period of six months, Palau SBDC worked with Ms. Merep providing financial training in building Miliani’s historical financial statements for its current line of products, as well as projections for its new line of hotel amenities.  QuickBooks was used in the financial training for the client and used in reproducing the historical financial statements, because the client had used QuickBooks during their start-up year.

Miliani’s was able to get the loan from National Development Bank of Palau to expand its product mix to include hotel amenities, with the assistance provided by Palau SBDC.  The products are now available for purchase at Miliani’s retail shop located along Koror’s main road in Idid hamlet.  Tourists and locals can purchase the products in-store or make arrangements for delivery of bulk purchases.  Miliani’s are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm.

For more information on how the Palau SBDC can assist you, call 680-587-6004 or visit www.pacificsbdc.com

Friday, December 9, 2016

Discover Guam through Local Ambassadors

By: Jane Ray
Business Advisor

Martha Hara was born in National City, California and had lived abroad-wherever her father was stationed-throughout her childhood. She moved to Guam, her father’s birthplace, in 2007 to start a new journey. Through those travels and experiences with different cultures and communities, it gave her a more profound appreciation for what she is doing today.   

Hara has been the Managing Director for LIMA Corporation dba Discover Guam since October 2009. In her tenure, she managed the airport and tour operations, managed contracts for various clients, and oversaw the general management of operations. Hara has over 35 years of business operations and project management experience, over 15 years in sales, advertising, marketing, media and public relations, and eight years in the Tourism and Hospitality industry. So when the founder decided to sell the company, it only made sense to Hara to purchase the business but she just did not know how. She has always worked hard for other people, but this was her first opportunity to own a business and grow with it. 

Hara had several business associates that she approached regarding investment, but each asked if she had a business plan and financial projections. As she had never been in this position before, Hara sought assistance from the Guam Small Business Development Center (Guam SBDC). Hara met with business advisor, Jane Ray, who guided Hara with preparing the business plan and financials required to submit for an SBA commercial loan. Her biggest challenge was that she did not own any assets or have a strong credit background since her move back to Guam. Since she could not qualify for an SBA loan, Hara had to go through applying for commercial loan with a business partner who could offer his assets as collateral. 

Hara looks forward to expanding Discover Guam’s tour markets in the short term. As for Hara’s long term goal for Discover Guam, she plans to involve her children in the business so they can continue to represent Discover Guam with the Hafa Adai spirit. Hara stated, “Being Guamanian, Japanese ethnicity I enjoy the environment of both Chamorro and Japanese cultures here on Guam. As a certified tour guide, I take pride in sharing our island’s history, culture, and beauty with our visitors.” 

Discover Guam is 27 years old, debt free, and has earned an award winning reputation in the tourism industry. They offer an Airport Ambassador Program and are available for private and custom tours. For more information, visit www.discoverguamtours.com or contact their office at 671-649-TOUR (8687). 

To inquire on the SBDC services, contact their main office at 671-735-2590 or visit www.pacificsbdc.com.   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kottura Innovations: Pushing Creativity to New Heights

An Interview with Owners Angel and Ken Paulino

Please tell us about yourself and your family.

Ken and I were born and raised on Guam. Ken was an Army brat so he left the island at a young age. Straight out of high school as an Academy of Our Lady of Guam graduate, I went to college in New York city at Pace University then later transferred to Cal State University Monterey Bay, to study communications and pre-law. Shortly after I met Ken in college, we got married and in 2010 we returned home to raise our three sons Noah, Kyle and our newest member to the family, our son Inapu.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

At first, we just wanted to create our own stories as a spin-off of CHamoru legends to be able to expand the storytelling experience with our kids. Our boys have such big imaginations, and seeing the way they interact with games, pop-up books, and traditional books was what inspired us to meld our skills together. By using the traditional and creative mechanics of storytelling combined with tech tools, gamification, and multimedia elements, we’re able to create a holistic experience. We wanted to create something for everyone to enjoy based on different types of learning styles. Some of us are visual learners, auditory learners, hands-on, and imaginative thinkers. Kottura was created as a means for us to push the boundaries of creativity to use the technology available to us in practical ways to help us enhance our imaginative experiences. 

From casual mobile games, to augmented reality, and interactive e-books, we want people to be able to access these tools instantly and anywhere in the world. We saw this as an opportunity to connect with families and give them the option to be able to take a little piece of home with them to share wherever they go. One of our main goals is to also eventually get these materials into our schools to offer teachers additional options to keep students engaged.

What experience do you have in this type of business?

My background is in creative storytelling, story/character development, graphic design, creative strategy and marketing. Ken’s background is in programming, mobile/web development, motion graphics, 3D modeling, digital strategy and theater. So it’s a natural fit for the two of us to come together to develop a product that compliments both of our strengths. In college, Ken and I worked in the media team for the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security Program where we developed multi-media learning modules for instructors to use for students studying abroad. My background in communications afforded me to take many creative storytelling classes and we both had our own radio shows for the OtterBay radio.

In 2014, we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for the development of “Outsmarting Manet: How the Maidens Saved Guam.” This was a test for us to bring our idea to the community to gather feedback and was the determining factor if our model could be sustainable. We’ve experienced some bumps along the way finding suppliers and printers, but with the help and support of our family, friends, mentors, and those we’ve met along the way, we’re slowly getting the hang of things.

In the past five years, Ken and I have spent countless hours taking online courses and tutorials, listening to podcasts, networking with experienced professionals, and really taking the time to educate ourselves and staying up to date with the latest tech tools and trends. We do a lot of research on new products and programs to help us generate ideas to improve our products and create an immersive user experience. The dynamic between the two of us is synergistic. When we’re on, we’re on. We take time to listen to each other, think things through, and prototype which allows us to build upon each other’s ideas. It is the secret sauce to many of our projects and how we’ve made it this far. I’d like to think we bring the best out of one another. So when people get one of us, they really get both of us.

What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business?

We’re still in start-up phase. We knew before launching our product line, we had to create at least 3-4 projects worth of content to continue to release products in a timely manner. Our goal is to build a brand that is fun and engaging. To keep up with demand and constantly stay fresh in our customers minds, we need to be prepared to release products consistently. Right now we’ve reached a point where we have an ideal amount of content in our pipeline to be able to push new products. By giving ourselves a head start with content, we have some flexibility to create new products and it enables us to continue to work on new projects under no pressure.

Ken and I have funded the business through a variety of ways: self-funding, crowdfunding, project grants, and reinvestment of the revenue from the services side of the business into our products. We received grant funding from CAHA for the development of one of our projects, “Hayi Mas Metgot: The Tale of Malaguana & Gadao” which debuted during FestPac. Just recently we received a grant from the GUMA program which now provides the company with much needed inventory, equipment and software, and copyright/trademark registration work.

Through the help of Denise Mendiola from the SBDC, we were able to identify our core areas for capital, growth and expansion. Rather than try to fund the business in its entirety, Denise helped us to develop a phased-approach to build up the company as we go. Denise provided sound advice for us as a business mentor and friend, keeping us focused on making the business sustainable and maintaining a healthy balance of business and family life. Denise is a great mentor for us and she continues to nurture us in so many ways whether through new business development opportunities, and community partnerships. She keeps us on our toes and we appreciate her commitment to seeing us through success.

In this industry, people want to buy products that are well developed from a trusted source. Ken and I are working closely with community partners like the University of Guam to create innovative programs for the community so everyone can be able to get some hands on training with game development, game design and story development. The tech industry continues to move its way toward mobile with high-emphasis on user experience.

     What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process?

The technology we use in our model was before it’s time here on Guam. Augmented reality has been around for years.  Before it became a trend, big companies like Pepsi had used it in some of their marketing campaigns. It was quite an uphill battle for us explaining the technology and how it worked without having something similar to compare it to. Now, almost 3 years later from when we first introduced it, Pokemon Go! comes along and now everyone understands it’s application and how it works. Sometimes it takes a large company to make something hip/popular for other people to understand it. We had to get really creative with how we explained how the products worked. Once viewers got the idea when they tried it out for themselves, they were amazed.
Also, some people could not see the integration of technology into the product at first. Some thought we would have high pricing strategies because of the technology we fused into the products. As part of our strategy to keep our costs at a manageable level, we do all of the creative services from app design to development, to motion graphics and animation, in-house.

What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process?

This continues to change for us as we grow and get momentum for the company. Today, our biggest triumph is getting fully funded with the GUMA grant. We worked very hard to be able to make all the classes, not miss any deadlines, all the while being pregnant in my third trimester and making every soccer game for our boys. Ken can tell you that even an hour before delivery of our son, I was hacking away making sure our business plan was sound, our numbers were on point, and that our model was something that people could easily understand and envision. Within two weeks of giving birth, we were back in GUMA class again, newborn in tow and all.

What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business?

For the short-term, we are currently working with GUMA to get our products in at the Guam Museum gift shop. If everything works out, we also want to be able to have an interactive exhibit for kids in the Guam Museum. As we continue to build and create more content, we are also looking to build out our creative team and open our own retail location hopefully in the next 3-4 years. This place will be a great destination hub for families to be able to try out our products, experience interactive story hour with their kids, and see firsthand the creative process that goes into these cool projects.

What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time?

Building a company does not happen overnight. It’s not a roll of chance or luck that yields great success. It’s a matter of making time to put in the work. Thankfully, here at home we have access to amazing resources such as business training, grant opportunities, and access to a powerful network of intelligent and experienced experts who are always willing to lend an ear. This is why there’s no other place we’d rather be to start a business. Our community brings a unique level of care, support, camaraderie, and the willingness to provide any help to all local businesses.