The Out-of-Work Innovators
Meet These 10 Santa Barbara Entrepreneurs Who Launched Businesses During COVID-19
By Matt Kettmann | Photographs by Daniel Dreifuss
Published September 17, 2020
We’re understandably exhausted of the word “pivot” these days, but that act of adjusting one’s life —whether in work, school, or play —to better survive the COVID-19 pandemic will endure as the triumphant tale of this uncertain era. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up 10 Santa Barbara entrepreneurs who, when faced with threats to their existing employment, income, and everyday enjoyment, launched innovative new projects to pay bills, flex creative muscles, and stay engaged.
“This pandemic has taught me not to take things for granted and to go with the flow of life,” explained Alex Ramirez, who went digital with his personal training business when gyms closed. “When one door closes, it’s not the end of the world, because another door will open. Now I have the courage and faith to open that door and walk through it knowing everything will be all right.”
Hammer Head Hand Planes
The 10-year-old son of the owners of Casa de Comer Foods, which makes “smokin’ good” salsas in Goleta, Comer started making these bodysurfing devices after seeing a neighbor use one on a flat day. “This came out of a need to channel his energy in a positive way during long stay-at-home orders,” said his mom, Silvia Comer. She and her husband, Sean, helped Jude make the first one on an old wood cutter, and then his friend Kyvon Reeder got involved. They’ve sold a few to friends and family since, with more orders on the way.
Deep Blue Bikini Co.
When her internship —and potential post-graduation gig —with rising tech star TripActions was derailed, this 21-year-old UC Berkeley senior started a beachwear line, learning a lot about sales, marketing, web development, finance, and, yes, sewing. “This gave me the opportunity to gain the experience that I lost through losing my internship, plus helped me start saving for post-graduation,” said Drury-Pullen, who hopes to get her bikinis in boutiques soon. “Growing up in Santa Barbara,I basically lived at the beach, playing beach volleyball as much as I could as well as loving the ocean. This business gave me the opportunity to connect with a lot of my passions that had to take a backseat while being a student.”
deepbluebikinis.com, @deepbluebikinico, firstname.lastname@example.org
When this civil engineer was laid off in December, he combined his two passions of riding bikes and baking sourdough by delivering fresh loaves, cookies, and scones between Summerland and Goleta on his two-wheeler. “It has been a fun and challenging experience —I have had tolearn a lot about the financial, marketing, and administrative sides of running a business,” said Rossi. “It has helped me use my extra time toward something that I am passionate about and I get paid for it!
The well-known skin ink artist from Tattoo Santa Barbara had her studio closed by the pandemic’s shutdown orders in March. Soshe started selling her designs as t-shirts, painting pet portraits, and ramping up the licensingof her custom Celtic imagery for tattoo artists to use in regions where studios are open. “I miss the lively interaction with my tattoo clients, so the isolation is lonely,” said Fish, who corresponds with friends via email and postcards while occasionally taking out her mule with equestrian friends. “Riding up at Live Oak by Lake Cachuma is an antidote for being stuck on the computer at home.”
luckyfishart.com; zazzle.com/store/luckyfishart; redbubble.com/people/patfish; @luckyfishtattoo
Fit for Life 805
When gyms closed, this personal trainer and health and wellness coach lost his primary place of business, but found hope on the Internet, where a majority of his clients followed and even helped name the company. “It has manifested into a reflection of how I eat, live, and train,” said Ramirez, who relaxes by taking walks with his wife and two dogs. “This pandemic has helped me hone my craft and allowed me more time to dedicate to my clients. I feel more connected with my clients now than in years past.”
email@example.com; (805) 896-7514
Pregnancy to Performance
With nine years of experience as a physical therapist under her belt, Lamb was already planning to launch a telehealth clinic for women before, during, and after pregnancy. But when the pandemic slowed her in-person work to a crawl, Lamb launched her service in April, months ahead of schedule. “I am still distracted and saddened by what is going on, but my business has forced me to focus and keep regular hours,” she said. “It also feels like a way to help since it allows people to continue accessing care from the safety of their own homes.”
pregnancytoperformance.com; (805) 284-7299; firstname.lastname@example.org
Bryan and Asher Foehl
The Bagel Boiz Kitchen
This father-son project started at the end of May “to help with bills and boredom,” said Bryan Foehl,who also works as a cellar hand at Municipal Winemakers. “I wanted to do something with my son besides play video games.” They make East Coast–style bagels that are ordered through Instagram and paid for through Venmo every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. —“They sell out fast!” —and then distributed on Saturday through Third Window Brewery’s kitchen. “We talk, laugh, and share ideas about what flavors we can do,” said Bryan. “Being a 12-year-old during this time is tough. It’s awesome to see him jump in and help.”
Zach Baum and Olivia Jewell
Whale Tail Pizza Peel
When Jewell’s downtown bakery job dried up in May, they began making peels from scratch out of hardwood, first wanting to up their own Saturday-night pizza game and then realizing that they wanted to share their signature design with others. “We have been able to put some of our anxiety and uncertainty about the situation into something productive and beneficial to the community,” they said. “It’s so rewarding to put work into something that you care about and end up with a beautiful product. When people appreciate the work,it’s even better.”
Jennifer Curran and Jaimie Kytle
805 Side Hustle
These two friends have no idea when their jobs as bartenders will return at The Cliff Room, the legendary dive bar on the Mesa that closed due to shutdown orders on March 16. So they turned to their artistic sides —both Kytle’s already-established painting skills and Curran’s driftwood art, beaded jewelry, and emergent painting talents —by applying designs onto denim and selling the works as JMeK jeans. They’ve built a small studio and plan to keep it going when the bar reopens, albeit in separate shifts. “A bartender is a social animal and deals with many different personalities and drama all day long, and then there is our ‘family’ of regulars,” said Curran. “We’re always center stage, and when the stage lights dim, the depression sets in. Being together with a purpose has helped us stay sane.”
High Seas Meadery
This former chef —now a Los Padres National Forest firefighter —is turning his garage honey wine project into a commercial enterprise called High Seas Meadery. “I blend winemaking and brewers’ techniques, while also incorporating aspects of hard dry cider and hard kombucha, to hit all the parts I love about these other beverages with hopes people will catch on and enjoy it as much as I do,” said Corrigan, who’d like to open a tasting room one day but currently sells kegs and cans while building a mead club for regular releases of seasonal batches
[website coming soon]
What’s Your Pandemic Side-Hustle?
Tag @sbindependent in a pic of your pandemic side-hustle on Instagram today!