Food Businesses In the News

PTA clients and students with food (and drink) businesses have been in the press over the past month and we want to share their good news…

Gail Lillian’s popular food truck business Liba Falafel expanded to a brick and mortar location in Oakland this year. The San Francisco Chronicle recently featured a great review of the business.

food businesses

Renaissance graduate and teacher Heidi Gibson’s and Nate Pollack’s business The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen has reached a milestone — 1 million grilled cheese sandwiches sold in just a little over four years of business. And they are in the process of expanding again!

food businesses

Rachel Saunders, owner of Blue Chair Fruit Company has a new book coming out this month — Blue Chair Cooks with Jam and Marmalade!  It’s all about how to incorporate fruit preserves into your cooking.

food businesses

And Renaissance graduate, Tim Lee will be opening Liquid Gold on Hyde Street in San Francisco, the city’s newest bottle shop and tap room. The grand opening was Saturday!

food businesses


Please join PTA in showing your support for local small businesses and these hard-working, passionate entrepreneurs!

Good news for local small businesses

PTA clients and students have been in the press this month and we want to share their good news…

local small businesses

Judi Henderson-Townsend of Mannequin Madness

Judi Henderson-Townsend of Mannequin Madness was recently profiled in the New York Times about her goal to hit a million dollars in revenue.

local small businesses

Oxgut Hose Co. O-Type Chair

local small businesses

Oxgut Hose Co. Walsh Wood Carrier

LauraLe Wunsch of Oxgut Hose Co. was featured in San Francisco Magazine about her line of products made from recycled fire hoses.

local small businesses

Steve Fox of Urban Putt

Inside Scoop SF profiled Steve Fox of Urban Putt, the Mission District’s forthcoming indoor miniature golf course, restaurant and bar.

local small businesses

Kelsie Kerr

Inside Scoop SF also recently profiled local chef Kelsie Kerr, co-author of The Art of Simple Food and owner of Standard Fare, which will be opening in West Berkeley next month.

local small businesses

Wendy Lieu

And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Wendy Lieu and her sister Susan are opening Socola Chocolatier’s first retail store on Folsom Street in San Francisco in early February.

Please join PTA in showing your support for local small businesses and these hard-working, passionate entrepreneurs!

Remembering a great friend and mentor

As we celebrate another year around the sun, I have been reflecting on what matters to me most and, in particular, the important relationships and mentors in my life. I have been thinking a lot about my late friend and PTA associate, CeCe Phillips.


CeCe Phillips

CeCe and I were born the same year, just a few weeks apart. Our closeness in age felt like a special bond. I often joked with her about how she was older than me. She would always reply, “ Now Paul, you don’t want to go there!”

I thought I was her best friend…at least that is how she made me feel. She was so supportive and always made it clear that she truly cared about me. We talked on the phone, exchanged e-mails, saw each other at business meetings, met for lunch or coffee, and often co-taught classes together. Many years later, when she was too sick to travel because of cancer, I would visit her. At the celebration of her life after she passed, it was clear that she had been a best friend to so many. She loved all of us and had a gift for treating everyone in her life as someone special.

CeCe was a great listener, a quality so important in a friend and mentor. She was curious about me, my family, and my small business. Every time we were together she asked good questions and gave me the space to answer. When giving advice, she was careful to say just enough and not more.


Paul and CeCe back in the day

CeCe was also quick to share with me how I was a support to her. I remember giving her advice once about what she could say in a speech to a small business group. Though she didn’t end up using any of my exact suggestions, she told me afterwards, “What you shared with me was in there. Your ideas helped me think through what I wanted to say. Without talking to you first, I might not have ever gotten there on my own.”

In the last weeks of her life, I called her every couple of days and we would talk while I did errands and she sat in her chemotherapy treatment. We chatted about family, business colleagues, and what we wanted to do next. (We were always planning our next big idea or business venture together.) We laughed together and shared stories. She continued to mentor and inspire me with her passion for life, even as life was ebbing from her.

Of the many lessons I learned from this remarkable woman, three stand out:

  • Listen closely and watch carefully when someone is talking to you.
  • Do whatever you can to empower and provide support to all the people around you.
  • If there is a choice between playing and working, always choose play.

It is hard to label many things in life as “perfect” but this may have been the perfect friendship. Thank you CeCe for being a wonderful friend, mentor and teacher.  You continue to inspire!

Farewell to the Guru of Guerilla Marketing

guerilla marketing

Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of “guerrilla marketing,” passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 80. I didn’t know him personally but his 1983 book Guerrilla Marketing—geared to small business owners and entrepreneurs—was inspirational to me.

Levinson was quite a character. Often dressed in camouflage, he was passionate about his approach to marketing and loved to engage with people through his articles, books, talks and training programs.

Instead of a big marketing budget, Levinson proposed that small business owners could use low-cost and unconventional means to create buzz and promote their products and a services. The essence of guerrilla marketing, according to Levinson, was “achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.”

“Guerrilla marketing” is now part of the popular lexicon and many of his techniques have become the way to market a business, both small and large alike.

I’ve shared many of his marketing tips with students over the years. Key guerilla marketing principles include:

  • Concentrate on how many new relationships are made each month, instead of new customers
  • Aim for more referrals and more (and larger) transactions with existing customers
  • Forget about the competition and concentrate on cooperating with other businesses
  • Use current technology as a tool to build your business
  • Aim messages at individuals or small groups (the smaller the better)
  • Focus on gaining consent to send more information rather than trying to make a sale
  • Measure your business by profits not sales

In an interview from 2011, Levinson said that guerilla marketing is the opposite of what people think it is. “It’s not shocking or ambushing and it does not result in instant anything… it’s oriented to the client. And it does not work instantly because guerrilla marketers realize, ‘I’ve got to build up a sense of confidence, and I can’t do that immediately.’”

Levinson believed that a solid plan, committing to that plan, and patience are key to effective and successful marketing campaigns. “The graveyards of marketing are littered with terrific campaigns that were abandoned too soon. People think ‘This should work in a hurry,’ but marketing doesn’t. And if you think it does, you’re going to be in for a life of grief, frustration and Tums because it doesn’t work instantly; it does, however, work eventually if you commit to it.”

According to Levinson, patience is especially important when using social media as a marketing tool. People “get a Facebook account and become active on Twitter. They think that social media will work for them. It doesn’t work in a hurry. But it’s so uncomplicated if you go about it in the right way, which is not expensive. The key element is patience, because the best-crafted marketing doesn’t work instantly.”

What marketing approach has been most successful with your business?

Here is a video of Jay from a few years back answering the question, “What is Guerrilla Marketing?”

Wisdom from Melissa Joy Manning

Melissa Joy Manning

Design Sponge recently posted a great profile of jewelry designer Melissa Joy Manning, a graduate or Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s business planning class. She talks about why she started her own business and she shares some of her lessons learned in running a sustainable artisan jewelry enterprise.

Melissa says that it was with my help that she learned about the importance of setting well-defined goals:

“I was lucky enough to have an amazing teacher, Paul Terry, at the Renaissance Center in San Francisco, who taught me the importance of vision. He taught me to envision my success and what it would encompass. I used these goals as benchmarks when building my brand. Every time I reached one, I would sit down and create another. As the ‘visions’ kept coming true, they emboldened me to think bigger and more creatively each time.” (Thanks Melissa!)

Here is some of Melissa’s great advice for others considering a small business of their own:

Make sure it’s what you want to do. If you really love doing something consider how it will change when it becomes a business. I meet a lot of people who loved a hobby but when they had to economize it on a daily basis, found that they lost all joy in it.

Know that your life will change: your friendships, relationships, how you view the world…everything. When you take charge of your life by forging your own path, a lot of lessons will come forward that you didn’t consider. In some ways, it’s like a veil lifts in how you see the world. Remaining true to yourself and your passion will carry you through any unexpected reaction or loss that success may bring to you.

Always, always, always listen to your heart. If you are true to yourself you will always succeed.

You can read Melissa’s full profile here.

Sharing Small Business Wisdom

As part of the lead-up to the eighth annual San Francisco Small Business Week (May 13-18, 2013), I was interviewed for the San Francisco Small Business Week blog.

The week is designed to offer a series of educational and networking events to educate, connect and celebrate the small business community in San Francisco. This year’s festivities will include a conference with 50 free workshops and seminars for small business owners (I’ll be speaking about business planning), a gala called Flavors of San Francisco, and an awards ceremony hosted by the Small Business Commission, the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors to recognize exceptional small businesses from each district and city-wide.

Here’s my interview with Small Business Week…


Small businesses in San Francisco have a wealth of opportunities to access wisdom and technical assistance from a variety of small business experts who provide one-on-one counseling, technical assistance, and instruction through neighborhood and community-based nonprofit agencies. The San Francisco Small Business Week Committee is pleased to share wisdom from these experts who help the small businesses that shape our communities to succeed.

Today we hear from Paul Terry, business planning coordinator at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, who believes that one of the keys to success is making a life-long commitment to education.

What role do you play in supporting San Francisco’s small businesses?

I’ve supported small businesses for more than 25 years as an independent business consultant and owner of Paul Terry & Associates with skills that I developed from launching my own food, distribution and training businesses in San Francisco. I am also the business planning coordinator and primary instructor at the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. I was one of the initial developers of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s entrepreneurship program, business incubator, and business support program.

The role I play in supporting small businesses involves teaching, empowering, and encouraging entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. The training and consulting helps people build their confidence and access the resources they need to be successful in business.

As a small business consultant in private practice, I work with 25-30 businesses each year to facilitate growth and transition, to build effective partnerships, and to implement strategic planning solutions. Over the years, I’ve taught 7,500 entrepreneurs, and I’ve supported over 600 small businesses.

In your years of working with entrepreneurs, what has emerged as the greatest challenge to a small businesses success?

One of the biggest challenges relates to maintaining balance. New business owners need to recognize that their entrepreneurial skills – their ability to get the business up and running – need to be in line with the complexity of the business model. They need to hone their skills, tap into their confidence and develop the scale of business that makes sense for who they are at a particular time. New skills are then required on an ongoing basis as the business grows in size and complexity.

Another challenge facing new businesses involves joint ventures and business partnerships. If the business partners fail to clearly define the relationship at the early stages, problems quickly emerge and often create disruptive conditions as the business grows.

A third challenge for a new business occurs when the entrepreneur attempts to transition from a full-time job — working for someone else — to working in a business that is not immediately profitable. People need to be realistic about the appropriate amount of capital they need launch and grow to profitability.

The common thread – and the reason people come to me – is that they are stuck. They need a better framework for making educated decisions and they need access to the appropriate mentors, advisors and associates for advice and direction.

In your experience, what is the biggest key to long-term success for a small business?

Businesses that have been around for a long time survive and thrive because they provide very good services to established clientele with fair terms and conditions. Long-term success also requires being nimble enough to adapt to new markets, emerging trends, and new technologies.

There are macro and micro competitive forces that can undo a successful business. It is key to make a life-long commitment to education, strategic thinking, and new skills development.

What are some of the most important ways in which small businesses shape communities in San Francisco?

Small businesses define the character of our neighborhoods in San Francisco. The appropriate mix of small businesses enriches and energizes a particular area, which attracts tourism and inspires residents to shop locally. Small businesses invest in their communities by hiring locally, engaging in local politics, donating to nonprofits, building parklets and other community spaces, and doing all the critical things that make our neighborhoods more enjoyable. Small businesses are the advocates of local development and define the flavor and culture of this city – with “pop-ups”, food trucks, trunk shows and an involvement in the local areas where they live, work and play.

Transitions: A Bridge to Change

The author of Transitions completed his own transition. Dr. William Bridges died on February 17th. He was a pioneer on the work of transitions and transformed the way people think about change. Through his business networks and books (Transitions and Managing Transitions), he had a huge impact on many people, including me. He gave us tools to help us understand and talk about change and he explored how people actually experience change and what they need to get through it.

In 1980 he published Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. In it he proposed that even though change is situational, transition is psychological and something that needs to be better understood, especially in our fast-paced world. He believed that people experience change in three stages: first as an ending, then as a period of confusion and distress, and finally as a new beginning. He observed that people often try to skip from the first stage to the last but he proposed we spend time in the middle step—or as he called it, “the neutral zone.”

In his obituary in The New York Times on Sunday, Jim Kouzes, the author of The Leadership Challenge, was quoted as saying that “Bill’s major contribution was to give us permission to talk about the pain and difficulty of change and acknowledge that it can be very confusing. Americans have shame around pain—success is somehow supposed to be easy. If you are struggling, it’s as if you’ve failed. Bill… said, yes, you can find real meaning in change but only if you are willing to experience the pain.”

Tom Yeomans, founder of The Concord Institute reflected that “Trust informed Bill’s process and trust is the core idea of self-reliance—trusting your instinct, what you know, your potential to be more truly yourself, trusting the process of change and moving with it.”

For me, Bill Bridges was a mentor. I met him twenty years ago at a networking group and we talked all the way down in the elevator. I told him about my work training new entrepreneurs and established business owners and how they struggle with scary transitions in start-up and expansions. He wanted to know more and after a few lunches together was very supportive of what I was trying to do to support small businesses. “This is very key work” he said, “so write a book on it.” I did not write a book but I am so grateful for his support and mentorship as I developed my early consulting practice. It is so often our business friends and mentors that help us through “the neutral zone” on the way to those new beginnings.

Be Here Now

BE HERE NOW. The ultimate “mantra” voiced by Dr. Richard Alpert, known to many of us as Baba Ram Dass. Ram DassLast Friday night I saw “Acid Test: The Many Incarnations of Ram Dass” at The Marsh in Berkeley. It featured Warren David Keith as the performer and was written by Lynne Kaufman. This one-man play covered three significant events in the life of Ram Dass – meeting his guru Neem Karoli Baba in India, being present at his father’s passing, and dealing with a serious and debilitating illness in these last years of his life. The performance was fun, sad and deeply effective. Now, it may have been particularly enjoyable to me because I met both Ram Dass and his guru (referred to as “the blanket Baba”) in India in the 1970’s. At the time they were funny, powerful and quite present.

In his many books and lectures Ram Dass has gifted us with his message of mindfulness. For him, it is all about being and staying in the now. It is difficult to “be here now”, though. When you think about it, it’s already behind you. When you contemplate where you want to be or what you want to do, you are beyond the present moment.

I spoke briefly with Warren David Keith after the show. He told me about performing the play for Ram Dass at his retreat in Maui. He said Ram Dass was very frail but very present. How often does someone get a chance to see their life story acted out in front of them? If we were to see our own story played out before our eyes, could we “be here now”, too?

In our own businesses we try to stay present – in front of clients, ordering inventory, hiring staff, reviewing financials. Can we assess past performance and plan for the future while also being present and aware? It may be difficult but it might help us stay focused on what is most important and run our businesses with openness and mindfulness.

If you are interested in seeing the play, it’ll be at The Marsh in San Francisco on April 12th.

In Conversation with Al Gore

Well …he wasn’t talking only with me. Along with hundreds of people, I got the chance to hear Barbara Kingsolver speak with Al Gore at Herbst Theater in San Francisco on Tuesday night. Al GoreI really went to hear Barbara Kingsolver, as I had just finished reading her latest book, Flight Behavior. (As I listened to her speak the butterflies from her book kept fluttering through my mind.) Perhaps Al and Barbara had “butterflies” but I think not—they were both so poised, balanced and professional from the start of their exchanges.

Outside the theater there were protestors upset that Gore is not being “green enough” but we went on through to claim our seats. There were murals on the walls and perhaps butterflies in the air, as there was a buzz for sure. Al Gore was contemplating “The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change”.

They started poised and respectful of each other’s contributions to the topic and their work to date. Barbara’s questions were insightful and calm. Al Gore started quietly but in the end he nearly jumped from his seat as he wound up and delivered on the six drivers of global change.

From his perspective, those are:

  • the increasing economic globalization that has created Earth Inc.,
  • global communications that can reach billions of people at a time,
  • the shift of global economic and political power without perhaps the USA at the center,
  • a deeply flawed economic compass leading us to unsustainable use of all resources,
  • biotechnology, neuroscience and life science revolutions with power in only a few people’s hands, and
  • a radical disruption of ecosystems and human consumption that impact energy systems worldwide

What he shared was depressing and definitely overwhelming, and yet here was another inconvenient truth from Al Gore. The silver lining of his message was to take a small piece of an issue — community based or national — do something different and bring others with you. One small step by each one of us could be one giant step for all of us. He views it as “a contest between the Global Mind and Earth Inc.” How this battle plays out depends on us, and, particularly, on the revitalization of democratic institutions in the United States. Let’s discuss and act!

Outstanding Service

Last week I received the Outstanding Service Award from Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center.  This award was presented by CEO Sharon Miller to recognize over twenty years of work with Renaissance as an independent business consultant in developing classes and incubator programs and as the primary business planning instructor and coordinator.


receiving the Renaissance Outstanding Service Award

It was such an honor to receive this award in front of colleagues, students, friends and family during Renaissance’s gala event, “Small Business, Big Impact: Celebrating 28 Years of Small Business Success” on October 2nd at the Bently Reserve in San Francisco.

It was quite surprising to realize that I have taught over 5,000 business planning students and supported over 100 incubator tenants at Renaissance. The secret is that I’m constantly inspired working with new and emerging business owners. I love the experience of helping students to explore options, get organized, develop practical business skills and take the steps necessary to make their small businesses work. I am inspired each day by the diversity of people who want to start their own businesses, the variety of business ideas, students’ focus and passion, as well as their willingness to put in the time and make the commitment to be successful.

While the award was so appreciated, the people who truly deserve the accolades are the Renaissance graduates — the new entrepreneurs who are doing research, creating prototypes, testing concepts, launching on a trial basis, and then jumping into the marketplace.


with fellow Renaissance graduate award winners, Heidi Gibson, Yvonne Hines and Alphonso Rhodes

These small and micro businesses are the engines of our local and national economy. We need to support them so they can thrive, continue to expand, offer jobs, and become community-based institutions for our neighborhoods and cities. When you choose to frequent small, independently owned businesses you are directly building the local economy and, in the process, supporting some amazing, dynamic people. Our small business owners are heroes. They are making a difference through their focus on sustainability and their attention to the local community. We need to award the local, small business owner for outstanding service!