By Raiza Giorgi
Being an entrepreneur is scary, and difficult. It’s a lot like going through parenthood.
But like parenting, it’s also rewarding.
That’s how I felt last month when The Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation honored the Santa Ynez Valley Star as this year’s top emerging business.
I was lucky to be chosen. I think that I and all other entrepreneurs do the hard, scary work because we have an idea that just can’t be contained. We also have families to support, and we want to make the world a better place. A little cheesy, but true.
In fact, the reason I created the Santa Ynez Valley Star was that I had become a parent and wanted to do something to help support my family while keeping the flexibility to be as involved as possible in my children’s lives.
I’ve had so many jobs I don’t think I can count them all. I’ve pretty much worked everywhere in the Santa Ynez Valley, starting as a grocery bagger at El Rancho Market, fitting people at Solvang Shoe Store, waitressing at many restaurants and serving coffee at the Roasted Bean. I’ve sold tickets at Parks Plaza Theatre and been a tour guide on the Solvang Trolley.
I have said many times that I got into journalism because of my beloved dog Taxi, a yellow Labrador my family loved and cherished. When she died in my late teens I wanted to memorialize her in a story. I got it published in a local paper and thus decided that I was destined to be a journalist.
I loved being a journalist, but I also realized that I loved promoting businesses. For a while I worked doing social media for the Buellton Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau but I didn’t want to stop there.
I got a lot of criticism and dire warnings about wanting to start a newspaper. Everything seems digital today, and the talk of newspapers dying was everywhere.
The Santa Ynez Valley is a different place, though. We have such a love for our community, and the news and stories I wanted to tell couldn’t be found on national news services. I wanted to publish stories that mattered to locals, about locals who were making a difference and building community.
I wanted to publish something that was above the “Fake News” arguments and divisive politics, that didn’t push a political agenda and wasn’t a soapbox for an ideology. I wanted to highlight kids raising money for cancer patients, organizations helping seniors, firefighters getting kitties out of trees, and businesses cutting ribbons. I wanted to blend old-school journalism with a social media and online presence to highlight stories as well as advertisers’ products and events.
To help me put it together I called my mentors, former colleagues who were now freelancing, and friends I trusted. I had a vision in my head that I couldn’t wait to get onto paper.
I called in a lot of favors, and those first dozen advertisers I can’t thank enough for believing in me and supporting the Star. Without them we wouldn’t be here in our third year of publication.
I don’t do this alone, either. My Star team is the best, and I am so lucky to work with them. I never say they work for me; they work with me. They believe in the Star just as much as I do, and that’s quite a lot.
We do this to earn a living, to send our kids to dance class and sports practices, and to pay for summer vacations. We do this because the stories need to be told.
It makes me so happy when people say “I love reading the Star,” or “Thank you for telling our story. We got a lot of people at our event.”
Every day is different. I meet new people, I see old friends, I go to events and take photos of people enjoying and supporting our programs and organizations. I love attending parades and festivals and other valley functions.
I still stop and give tourists directions to the museums, hand out newspapers, field phone calls, whatever it takes. I love it. Every single second of it.
I encourage anyone with an idea to pursue it. As my father says, the only failure is not trying at all.
I hope the Star is around for a long time, and I promise that I will give it my all. I’m grateful to the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation for recognizing all the amazing women and students in our area who are doing great things.
Until next time, thank you for reading the Star.