Interviewed by: Orrin Pharmin
SBDC Director/Business Advisor
Please tell us about yourself and your family. I arrived on Saipan in 2002 to teach math at the Northern Mariana College (NMC). I left NMC in 2009 and taught math at Marianas High School for two years. I also taught computer course and math at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi in 2011-2012. I then returned to Saipan in 2012. My wife's name is Susan, who works for IT&E as a purchaser and we have two children: James (11) and Sarah (9).
Why did you decide to start your own business? While in Abu Dhabi, I attended the very first annual “Comic-Con.” Although there is a high demand for comic book merchandise as well as a high level of brand and character recognition, I discovered that there were no comic book merchandise stores in the entire country of the United Arab Emirates. The one condition for starting a store there is that I would need to already have a business elsewhere, so I decided to start one on Saipan since there were no other full comic merchandise stores on the island.
How did the Small Business Development Center and other resources help you? They got me started in the right direction by helping me with the logistics of starting a business on the island.
What was the start-up process like? How did you fund your business? I funded the business completely through personal savings I did not take out a loan or need to borrow money. The start-up process took more than a year. It's a lot of work and planning plus finding a suitable location. This all took a bit of time.
What were some of the biggest challenges/experienced you experienced in the start-up process? There were plenty of challenges, including finding a reasonably proper location, setting up how to make and receive orders, finding out what was in demand and what was not, establishing a clientele.
What is your most memorable triumph in your start-up process? Just opening the doors for the first day of business knowing the store was absolutely ready to begin business.
What are your short-term and long-term plans for your business? Short term: Moving to a better location (which has been accomplished). Long term: Opening a store in the U.A.E.
What advice would you give to others who want to start a business at this time? With the price of oil dropping as much as it has in the past year or so, plus the noticeable increase in construction on-island, it might be a good time to consider starting a business.
For more information on starting a new business or expanding your existing business, contact the CNMI SBDC at 670-664-3018.