Monday, September 15, 2014

Client Spotlight: Running Hard with Milestone Running

By: Oren Rosenberg

Chad and Greg have hardly had time to catch their breath, as business has been so hectic at Milestone Running. They formed the idea for their business while working together in a Los Angeles area running store. Looking around, they saw a sales and commission-focused industry and decided that they both preferred to be involved with a store that emphasized community, health and quality customer service over profit.

“Greg and I wanted to make it our own thing,” said Chad. “And grow it how we want to grow it, as a community based-enterprise rather than a sales-based enterprise.”

After a little over a year in business at their North Park location, the community has clearly taken notice. The store resembles a sitcom set as much as it does a shoe store, with a revolving cast of local characters coming in to shop or just shoot the breeze with the ever-affable Chad and Greg.

The Milestone hang-out crowd are often left talking amongst themselves, however, as customers frequently cycle in and out, each receiving the full treatment from Chad or Greg. First they undergo a “gait analysis,” which involves running on a treadmill in the store while Greg or Chad films the way the potential customer’s feet land. Then, using their knowledge of exercise physiology gained from years working in the industry, they assess the way a customer’s foot rolls and use that assessment to recommend shoes that fit the customer’s specific needs.

This first-class service comes with both current style running shoes, as well as heavily-discounted styles from last year. Greg and Chad are acutely aware that some customers may have more limited means.

“We try to keep other brands or styles in stock that are a bit less expensive so that everyone has access to a comparable level of quality in terms of shoe,” said Greg. “We even keep shoes on sale on purpose.”

None of this would be possible, they said, without their $25,000 start-up loan from Accion, which allowed them to build an inventory and design a retail location that would be pleasing both for customers and for the local running community.

Since receiving the loan early last year, Milestone has almost tripled their sales, allowing them to reinvest earnings into more inventory to meet their growing demand. With this strategy, Greg and Chad are confident that they will continue to draw market share away from their competitors.

While their increase in sales is impressive, the numbers fail to fully capture the buzz Milestone Running is creating in their community. Through working with like-minded organizations like the San Diego Track Club, as well as through their weekly Wednesday group runs that start in front of the store, Milestone Running’s impact reaches far beyond their bottom line.

They hope one day to expand to another location, but for now, Chad and Greg are focused on grassroots, word-of-mouth marketing and community involvement, which they believe will ensure the long-run success and viability of Milestone Running.

Need some new running shoes? Make sure to check them out online at:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

San Diego Microfinance Summit Recap

The 6th annual San Diego Microfinance Summit was held on April 8th at the University of San Diego and featured a great lineup of industry expert speakers, along with a variety of unique microfinance clients who provided food and goods for the lunch time client marketplace. 

Keynote speaker Larry Reed, from the Microcredit Summit Campaign, kicked off the event with tales of his experience with microfinance abroad and an inspiring call to action. The morning panel session featured three organizations in the microfinance industry. Leaders from GiveDirectly, Kiva and Puddle talked about peer-to-peer financing, the critical role technology plays in and using it to reach people in all corners of the world.

Following the morning sessions lunch was served, featuring a sampling of dishes from different microfinance clients serving Mexican, Italian and East African foods. A client marketplace with over a dozen various microfinance client vendors featured everything from jewelry to loose-leaf tea.

The afternoon sessions began with a focus on local micro lending and returning to traditional ways of saving and sharing. The microlending session included panelists from local lenders, including Foundation for Women, IRC, Accion San Diego and CDC, while the saving and sharing session featured panelists from Women’s Empowerment International, San Diego Microfinance Puddle, Microloans for Mothers and Puddle.

At the closing Keynote, Larry Reed and Chris Crane chatted about microfinance and education. Edify, founded by Crane, builds schools around the world and gives people access to education that previously never had the opportunity. This inspirational session gave participants a glimpse of how innovations in microfinance are granting access to educational opportunities for the poor.

For more information about the Summit visit the San Diego Microfinance Alliance.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Using Text Message Marketing to Attract Repeat Customers

By: Michael Sasaki, Vice President of Sales, Omni Mobile Marketing

Text message marketing, also known as SMS marketing, is an increasingly popular way for small businesses to communicate specials, coupons, promotions and discounts by text message. This kind of regular communication can help increase the amount of repeat customers to your business.

First, let’s define some key text message marketing lingo:
  • Keyword - A word or name used to distinguish a targeted message. For example, you will see ads and signs that say “Text joespizza to 96000 for an immediate $5 off your order.” In this case, ‘joespizza’ is the Keyword. 
  • Short Code - A special telephone number, significantly shorter than full telephone numbers that can be used to address SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones. In the example above, ‘96000’ is the Short Code.
Now, here are the 5 steps to use text message marketing:

Going Nuts for Praline Patisserie

 Cruz Caudillo, founder and owner of Praline Patisserie, was always interested in creating amazing food. After eight years as an executive pastry chef in fine dining restaurants, Cruz decided to venture out and start his own business. Using a praline-inspired recipe, he created his first product, a specialty caramel sauce. After perfecting his recipe, he attended his first San Diego farmers’ market in Little Italy and sold out of his 150 jars in only four hours.

Increasing sales and the eventual acquisition of his own commercial kitchen enabled Cruz to produce a variety of different products. The biggest barrier to his growth, however, was the inefficiency of his production. Cruz was labeling and pouring all his sauces into jars by hand, producing only 200 jars of sauce on a good day. After painstakingly filling over 20,000 jars by hand, he finally decided that he needed to invest in creating a more efficient process.

A friend told Cruz about Accion San Diego, and he decided to apply for a small business loan. In less than a week, Cruz was approved for a $7,200 Brewing the American Dream microloan, which he used to buy a piston filler (shown above) and labeler. This small loan allowed Praline Patisserie to go from producing 200 jars of product a day to over 1,500. Even with the increase in inventory, Cruz has had no problem selling out of his popular sauces online, at multiple farmers’ markets around San Diego and local specialty retailers like Whole Foods.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

America Saves Week

With America Saves Week approaching (February 24-March 1) there’s no better time to reflect on your savings strategy. Last year, the average American spent about $2,000 on unexpected expenditures and emergencies. And while nobody can control when these situations happen, everybody can control their savings plan. Here are some tips to help you save more:

Direct Deposit Your Paycheck – Ask your employer to directly deposit your paycheck into a savings account; it’ll make it harder for you to spend it. Being more conscious about transferring your money from savings to checking in order to make purchases will help you be more aware of how much you are spending.

Track Your Goal – Make it a goal to review your credit card and checking account statements once a month. See where you’re spending money that could you could otherwise be saving.

The 24 Hour Rule – Don’t buy anything expensive on impulse. Instead, wait at least a day to think about it.

Develop Savings Discipline – Every time you indulge or spend money on something that is a nonessential, match the purchase by putting an equal amount into your savings account. If you can’t afford to move money into savings than you probably don’t need that $5 cappuccino.

Start With Short Term – Instead of focusing on yearly or monthly amounts to save, start with a weekly or daily goal. A short term savings goal keeps it relevant and you’ll be amazed how quickly even $10 a week adds up.

Dine In – Eat out one fewer time per month. Spending the $5 to eat at home instead of the $25 to eat at a restaurant once a month is an additional $240 a year that you could be saving!