A Hacker Lab Startup Hustle Success Story
For over five years, Carla Mathis has run ReEmporium, an online and retail shop in Sacramento, CA that offers vintage and handmade items. Participating in the Hacker Lab Startup Hustle in fall 2015 helped her focus on her new venture, Sacramento Creative Colony.
“I got further faster in establishing Sacramento Creative Colony because of Start-up Hustle,” said Mathis. (Apply for the next Startup Hustle by March 17)
While running her ReEmporium store, Mathis was frequently asked by intrigued shoppers how she got started in the successful business. This gave her the idea to establish the Sacramento Creative Colony, an indoor/outdoor market where micro businesses could sell their vintage and handmade wares, and benefit from the support of a community of artisans.
She pitched the idea to the investors who owned the market and secured the space in August 2015. In the initial phase of the Sacramento Creative Colony, there are seven indoor/outdoor spaces and over 50 outdoor pop-up booths located inside the Folsom Blvd. Flea Market in Sacramento.
“Startup Hustle helped me understand what needed to be done and what comes first to develop a business plan.”
She stumbled upon Hacker Lab by attending a Meet-up and was impressed with the energy of the maker and co-working space as well as the camaraderie among members. A notice on the bulletin board announcing Startup Hustle sparked her interest. She applied to participate in Hacker Lab’s six week intensive program for entrepreneurs co-sponsored by Sierra College and other organizations, hoping to gain insight into building a community like Hacker Lab for artisans at the Sacramento Creative Colony.
According Mathis, Startup Hustle offered an organized approach to building her new marketplace. “I am a creative and can be all over the place with new ideas,” said Mathis. “Startup Hustle helped me understand what needed to be done and what comes first to develop a business plan.”
Doing the homework assignments and getting advice from mentors changed her approach. “I had been focusing on building a community,” said Mathis. “I realized that I needed to attract people to rent space at the marketplace. After they moved in, they would start collaborating and building the community.”
Her plans included hosting a Thursday Night Marketplace and offering workshops, support and resources to colony members to grow their businesses. To complete the assignments of validating the business concept with customers, she hosted a Meet-up in early December. “I was able to explain the colony, gain feedback and attract vendors,” said Mathis.
“I also decided to move up the date of the craft fair to take advantage of the holiday shopping season,” said Mathis. “Industry advisors told us to test often and fail quickly – just do it and then readjust.”
The early test went well according to Mathis. ““I decided to host a Vintage Arts & Craft Fair in December instead of March as originally planned to test customer response,” said Mathis. “We had good turnout, 14 vendors signed up for the Vintage Arts & Craft Fair and over 100 are following us on social media for event updates. Although it rained, this was good test market and it provided data for planning future events.”
Mathis said that she thrives off from the type challenge that Startup Hustle offered. “It was a balancing act – running my existing business, earning a living and working intensely on developing the Sacramento Creative Colony,” said Mathis. “If I do something, I stick to it. The accountability and deadlines pushed me forward quickly. Validating my ideas with customers was something I already knew but I gained new tools to put it into practice.”
Building relationships with mentors and participants was an unexpected benefit of the program, explained Mathis. “I appreciated the seriousness of the mentors in helping me one-on-one in developing and fine-tuning my ideas,” said Mathis. “There was also a wonderful feeling of respect, connection and camaraderie. It was a pleasure to be part of something where people have the desire to see others succeed. Hacker Lab is the visual representation of what I’d like to inspire through the Sacramento Creative Colony.”
Participating in Startup Hustle was time well spent according to Mathis. “I enjoyed the process and am so grateful to be a part of it,” said Mathis. “Participating helped me ‘move past me,’ and now I’m focused on others who do what they love by creating for a living. I know that they’ll collectively build the Sacramento Creative Colony into a community of creatives.”
Since Startup Hustle, Mathis attracted 25 vendors to participate in the December pre-open house fair and many are considering leasing permanent space in the colony. Learn more about Hacker Lab.