SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE

Goodyear’s Innovation Hub helps small business owners succeed

Free programs, services open to all county residents

Posted 1/6/21

Entrepreneurs like Cafe Emporos: Hand Drip Coffee owner Ruben Trujillo and Military Spouse Nutritionist owner KaTrina Samuels-Garrison are an independent lot, but that doesn’t mean they want to navigate the complicated world of 21st century business alone.

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SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE

Goodyear’s Innovation Hub helps small business owners succeed

Free programs, services open to all county residents

Ruben Trujillo works to fill the 1,200 orders Cafe Emporos: Hand Drip Coffee received after his TikTok video on coffeegrams went viral in November.
Ruben Trujillo works to fill the 1,200 orders Cafe Emporos: Hand Drip Coffee received after his TikTok video on coffeegrams went viral in November.
[Courtesy Ruben Trujillo]
Posted

Entrepreneurs like Cafe Emporos: Hand Drip Coffee owner Ruben Trujillo and Military Spouse Nutritionist owner KaTrina Samuels-Garrison are an independent lot, but that doesn’t mean they want to navigate the complicated world of 21st century business alone.

Thanks to Goodyear’s Innovation Hub, a partnership between the city, Maricopa County Library District and Arizona State University, they don’t have to; the hub provides business owners and those thinking about starting their own businesses with programs and resources designed to help them succeed.

The best part? It doesn’t cost participants a penny.

“Entrepreneurs do such a great job,” said Innovation Hub Manager Darah Mann, who usually mentors participants, connects them with fellow business owners and experts in their respective industries, and facilitates training and networking opportunities from her office in the Goodyear Branch Library, 14455 Van Buren St., Suite C101.

READ: Goodyear named 2020 ‘Best City for Business’

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1,000-square-foot Innovation Hub space, which also houses a Greater Phoenix SCORE office for mentoring, is not open to the public right now, but help via developgoodyearaz.com/resources/innovationhub is just a click or an email away until the space reopens.

Innovation Hub programs include:

ASU Small Business Startup School, a 12-hour series of facilitated workshops that assist entrepreneurs in learning what they need to develop a successful venture. According to Ms. Mann, 31 participants have launched their own businesses during or after attending startup school.

The next school will run 9 a.m. to noon every other Saturday beginning Feb. 6. It will be conducted via Zoom and will cover customer discovery, lean startup, minimum viable product, product/market fit, business structure (business formation options, where to find business license and permitting information by industry), key partners and resources, pricing, marketing and sales.

To register, visit the hub page and click on the green ASU Startup School tab.

Business Builders, a monthly meeting where participants can connect, share ideas and hear from guest speakers on different aspects of owning a small business. Meetings will run from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. via Zoom until further notice. Registration is required by clicking the green Business Builders tab on the hub page.

One-on-one mentoring with Ms. Mann or a SCORE representative. Mentoring hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are virtual due to the pandemic and may be scheduled by emailing Ms. Mann at darah.mann@goodyearaz.gov.

Participants also have access to the library’s database and workforce development resources, and city resources and business assistance. When the hub space reopens, they will have access to meeting room space and free Wi-Fi.

Because of its partnership with the Maricopa County, Goodyear Innovation Hub programs are open to all county residents. Ms. Mann said 67% of participants live in Goodyear, 24% in the West Valley, 6% in Phoenix and Tempe, and 4% in the Northwest Valley (Peoria, Sun City, Surprise, Waddell and Youngtown).

Java dreams

Mr. Trujillo, an Arizona native who fell in love with the Korean method of brewing coffee while working as a teacher in South Korea, was determined to open his own business when he returned to Goodyear in 2015, but he wasn’t sure where to start.

“I didn’t know anything about business. I had no capital. I didn’t know anybody,” he said.

That changed when Ms. Mann saw a spotlight on Mr. Trujillo and invited him to the Innovation Hub. He’s been a participant since, attending Business Builders and mentoring sessions, and connecting with other small business owners around the Valley.

Mr. Trujillo also took Ms. Mann’s advice to pitch ideas to ASU’s J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute Venture Devils program, winning two competitions and a total of $5,000 to invest in Cafe Emporos.

“She gave me the application and it was up to me to pursue it,” Mr. Trujillo said. “I probably never would have checked it out on my own.”

Innovation Hub programs have given him the confidence to move forward, and the skills to adapt his business, Mr. Trujillo said.

He initially wanted to open a coffee shop, but ended up running an eCommerce business, and selling cups and lids on the side.

During the roller coaster year that was 2020, mail-order sales waned, so he partnered with Purple Elephant Cakes in Litchfield Park, serving coffee in the store at 13331 W. Indian School Road #202 for several months before going back out on his own again after a TikTok video he made about coffeegrams in November went viral and orders went through the roof.

“I had 20 followers when I posted the video Nov. 6. Now I have 13,800,” Mr. Trujillo said via telephone Jan. 4. Overnight, he had 300 orders for Christmas coffeegrams — $8 greeting cards that feature two hand-drip coffee satchels, and an image and message uploaded by the customer on Mr. Trujillo’s website, cafeemporos.com.

When he reposted the video a week later, it generated 25,000 likes overnight and the number ballooned to 125,000 by the end of the day, and the orders kept coming. He added tea and hot chocolate for those who aren’t coffee-drinkers.

In all, Mr. Trujillo filled more than 1,200 orders through the end of December. He’s now taking orders for Valentine’s Day, and looking toward Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, in addition to developing wedding favors after receiving requests from customers.

In addition to coffeegrams, visitors to the site can shop for larger gift packs, whole bean and hand-drip coffees, cold brew, hand-drip filters they can fill with their own coffee, and gift cards.

“You have to adapt,” Mr. Trujillo said the changes and challenges he’s faced. “If five years ago someone would have said ‘you’ll be doing coffee greeting cards,’ I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Military Spouse Weightloss

Ms. Samuels-Garrison, a dietitian with AM Nutrition Services, reached out to Ms. Mann in 2019 and joined the Innovation Hub after seeing an advertisement about the program.

The daughter of a soldier who lives in Goodyear with her husband, a retired serviced member, Ms. Samuels-Garrison had been thinking about starting her own business, but like Mr. Trujillo, she wasn’t sure what to do.

Since joining the Innovation Hub, she has attended startup school, Business Builders and mentoring sessions.

She launched Military Spouse Weightloss in mid-2020. Building clientele during the pandemic has been challenging, so Ms. Samuels-Garrison continues working full-time while promoting her business via informational posts on social media and conducting virtual sessions with those she connects with on Instagram.

Participating in Innovation Hub programs helped her think differently about business and gave her the confidence to pursue her dreams, Ms. Samuels-Garrison said.

“It’s very different from the normal way of thinking,” she said. “It made me realize this is something I can actually do. Entrepreneurship is having a job that I love. When I my posts on Instagram, I don’t feel like I’m working.”

While it may take her some time to build a large enough client base to go out on her own full-time to coach people on eating healthy, losing weight and avoiding diet-industry scams, Ms. Samuels-Garrison will not be deterred.

That’s music to Ms. Mann’s ears.

“We’re here to help,” she said. “Their success is our success.”

Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at kosullivan@newszap.com or 760-963-1697.

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