I grew up in the sunlight of the hawaiian sun part time being a full dork in school and part time playing tennis.
The thing I loved the most though was creating things especially with my hands. I spent my summers watching craft shows and in the Barnes and Nobles craft book area trying to use the materials I had on hand – tennis ball cans, styrofoam, old fabric to create my own crafts.
But most of all in my heart I wanted to create my own business.
I remember at the end of the movie, Romy and Michele’s High school reunion they opened their own clothing store. That night I laid in bed excited just imagining a fashion store I would open one day.
To create a business of my own, that’s all I wanted from elementary school. To open my own business, have the opportunity to change the world and well make a ton of money!
The problem was most of my immediate family weren’t business owners so I didn’t know how to get there.
High School Necklace Stand
In high school I tried to make and sell necklaces with plastic beads I got at Wal-Mart. It turned out to be very time consuming and my price point was $3-5 so I convinced my friends to do a sleep over making necklaces.
The next challenge was finding a place to sell it. My high school did large craft shows, so I found the head guy for it and begged that he give me some spot for free. He agreed.
Then my parents were kind enough to buy a gazebo tent to be my craft booth. My packing was cooragated cardbard as the holder and tracing paper as the envelope. Then I printed on the tracing paper (precut) to say “Love Potion”, the name of my line.
I was rocking and rolling.
I had a product and a place to sell it with traffic!
The day came and I setup the stand. A few hours into the morning I finally sold my first necklace! People walked by, and then kept walking. I discounted the necklaces…yet no takers. My doubles partner helped me man the booth but unfortunately we didn’t sell anything. I did the booth about 2 more times and stopped. Same result.
The main thing I took from that is that I have to match the product to the demographics at the fair. Although I wasn’t into floral quilted dish towels, that was what the customers wanted there and what sold.
The Entrepreneurship Club
College was another phase of pursuing my creative and entrepreneurial passions. I was thinking about majoring in art in my first 2 years of college, which was really effective in scaring my asian parents.
When my parents told me at dinner that after some thought they are supportive of my art major because there were jobs I could get in art, I responded that actually I just decided to switch to business. Sorry mom and dad.
After that I started the entrepreneurship club, and then started a college discount card business with the members.
One Broke Chick
After graduation, I figured the best way to make it happen was move to a city that I had only been to once in 2nd grade and with no friends and very little money. I blame Sex and the City for me ending up in New York City.
I arrived in New York City and used craigslist to connect with every opportunity, person and even thing (I bought stuff cheap on there).
This made the job hunting very difficult for me to stand out with just a bachelors degree from the University of Hawaii. And this also made dating…full of surprises…and usually not great ones.
Finding My Way in New York City
After one year as a inventory manager, telemarketer and then a sales rep, I found myself teaching tennis at Sutton East Tennis Club on the upper east side of Manhattan. In my spare time I taught privates and started to put together a plan to create a tennis school of my own in Manhattan. After one season at Sutton East Tennis Club teaching tennis to the kids of the upper east side, I began to started my first business, BumbleBee Tennis.
Running BumbleBee Tennis
Those times were brutal but also exciting! Finding instructors, getting equipment around the city, and responding to calls at the same time was really hard.
I had a skype number and if the phone rang I would race to answer it. I remember once I forgot what the time it was, and the lady was surprised I answered. You are guys are there at 11:30 at night?
Running the business was made more complicated because I lived a solid 1 hour and 30 minutes from the city via a 15 min walk to a 30 minute bus to a 40 minute train ride. Not fun during the snowy months.
I remember running (literally a quick jog) to the bus and getting a call. I couldn’t let one lead be lost so I answered it. Since I also couldn’t be late for my lesson I also carried on running. The man asked, are you teaching tennis now?
Transitioning to a New Chapter
It was a profitable but complicated and 24/7 business that I needed to transition out of. So I handed it over to my ex boyfriend who had helped me run it for a few years and started to look for my next project.
A few years passed as I soul searched, did a lot of bookeeping catch up, and searched for my next project. I also tried to launch a youtube video series.
Life felt lonely.
What was my purpose? How would I find my big opportunity to make a big impact?
I remember feeling so low that all i wanted to do was lie on the actual living room floor. One day as I lied there I managed to make one phone call. The person on the other line said…in an extremely chirpy voice, Hi I’m Eric with Tmobile how can I help you today?
Hi I mumbled, I need to downgrade my internet plan.
“Oh I can most certainly help you with that” Eric said. He was so pleasant.
I was touched. Someone wanted to talk to me. I wanted to tell Eric the Tmobile representative that he made my day.
Yeah those were also tough times.
I turned to techniques like talking to myself and singing disney songs outloud to keep me sane. (Stay highly recommended even in non-despair states)
The point is I was so lonely. The life of a startup artist is isolating. And that isolation can ware you down faster than when your cash runs out.
I couldn’t handle it anymore so I decided I needed a project I could jump into where the the focus wasn’t, proving a model or traction, it was on improving a proven business.
Pursuing my passion for Fitness
I started to become intrigued with a gym concept that offered fitness and life coaching type of workshops. Working out was my rock daily to keep me out of major depression.
I found my opportunity in a gym that was closing down in Brooklyn. I started a new lease and kept a lot of the clients and instructors that wanted to stay on.
This was another roller coaster that I’ll detail in a series of podcasts.
What I took from my first 5 years turning around Alana was my love for systems and a hard knocks education on how to implement them so they worked in real life.
Oh…And Real Estate
In addition along with building Alana Life & Fitness I figured real estate was a good place to invest my money. I bought a few properties and even rehabbed 2 of them.
Then got into airbnb. I loved decorating the space! I would take a midnight bus into Pittsburgh, where the properties were, and then start working the minute I came in to set up the space. Then I would work for 3-4 days straight and take a midnight bus back to NYC.
That’s a great business but it will take 4-5 times the amount of time and you expect. What I realized is that the house was rentable, but airbnb guests expect almost hotel like experiences, so just buying a bed and sheets is not enough.
But with the right components and prep it can be completely worth it vs. renting! I look forward to talking about airbnb and other real estate ventures with you.
I’ve been fortunate to allow myself to have tried everything and had numerous successful businesses along the way.
It’s now time for me to also tap into my greatest interest, sharing information and connecting and helping others with a show.