Good art not only captures the spirit of a time and place but also redefines it. So, too, does good entrepreneurship. On Friday, May 6, the Spirit of Entrepreneurship Foundation honored 10 women whose business visions have uniquely captured and redefined the spirit of Santa Barbara.
Among those honored were established Santa Barbara icons, such as Mahri Kerley, founder of Chaucer’s Books; Sherry Villanueva, visionary behind the Funk Zone’s The Lark, Lucky Penny, and Santa Barbara Wine Collective; and Randee Disraeli, cofounder of Kanaloa Seafood. Each of these businesses has been able to thrive in large part because they recognized unfulfilled passions in themselves and their community. For Kerley, that passion was a carefully curated book collection; for Villanueva, neighborhood eateries; and for Disraeli, it was getting environmentally responsible seafood on diners’ tables.
Two newcomers to Santa Barbara’s business community were also honored — Norah Eddy of Salty Girl Seafood and Andrea Neal of Blue Ocean Sciences. Both of their visions are quintessentially Santa Barbaran — ocean-soaked, science-savvy, and environmentally conscious — but hope to make an impact that extends far beyond the South Coast. For Salty Girl Seafood, the dream is to make it so easy for everyone to purchase, prepare, and learn about sustainable seafood that consumers will drive global demand for healthier oceans. For Blue Ocean Sciences, which was presented with an additional $10,000 award to support its success, the dream is to forge fruitful collaborations that catalyze solutions for ocean pollution.
Great entrepreneurship, like great art, is also able to resonate and endure through space and time. Two Santa Barbara greats were present at this year’s awards. Sara Miller McCune was honored with the Rock Star: Life Achievement Award for building Sage Publications, a publishing company founded to champion social science research and disseminate it on a global scale. The night’s master of ceremonies was another great, Lynda Weinman, cofounder of Lynda.com, an online skill-building platform that has truly revolutionized learning.
The next generation of entrepreneurs — finalists in the SBCC Scheinfeld Center’s New Venture Challenge — were also in attendance and shared their visions for the future. The top prizes went to an electronic skateboard that can climb hills at 20 miles per hour (Johannes Beck) and an app that gets surfers out of bed when conditions are good, but lets them sleep in otherwise (Daniel and Dakota Crowley). Other prizes went to healthier renditions of the traditional Latino beverages, agua frescas (Mildred Salazar and Ana Avalos), a bike lock that offers U-lock and wire security in one (Yash Agarwal and Karan Maitra), cannabis jewelry (Tommy Kelly), and designer wear that is not only chic, but also comfortable (Mary Beth Larkin).
Together, these ideas paint an enticing picture of a redefined, but still very Santa Barbaran, Santa Barbara — one with more skateboards, fewer stolen bikes, grump-free surfers, and a flock of dashingly comfortable and cannabis-adorned citizens toasting to the spirit of entrepreneurship with glasses full of agua fresca.