By Michele Lutes
Signal Staff Writer
Whether the small business is a startup operation, a passed-down-from-the-generations family business or a “side hustle,” each entrepreneurial experience has its own unique challenges and rewards, according to Santa Clarita Valley business owners.
And Santa Clarita Valley has seen a boom that’s echoed a statewide trend of individuals trying to set their own path in business.
To get an idea of how common it is, there are more than 3.6 million small businesses in California, according to the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, and nationally, that figure is about 10 percent of nation’s workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the large majority of those are comprised of entrepreneurs who are running their own operation.
“Small businesses are and will continue to be the backbone of our state’s economy,” said state Sen. Scott Wilk, whose representation includes the Santa Clarita Valley. “As small businesses make up 99.2 percent of business in California, it is imperative the Legislature do all we can to foster small business.”
Starting from scratch
For many business owners, the entrepreneur’s journey is about finding passion in the workplace.
“Sometimes, it’s still surreal — I am my own boss,” said Gabby Spooner, owner and photographer of Spoon Images. “But it is the best decision I have ever made.”
Spooner started her business two years ago, after quitting her day job in the jewelry industry.
Working for a jeweler was not what she wanted to do with her life. Now that she’s doing what she loves, and is able to share her passion with her clients, she said.
“My favorite perk of my job is the smiles on people’s faces when they see the photos I have taken,” said Spooner. “That makes me love my job and makes all the struggles worth it to make someone happy.”
When your job doesn’t feel like work, you’re doing something right, said Kayleen Kemp, fitness instructor and owner of Get KayLEAN.
Kemp became her own boss after being a dental assistant for 19 years.
“My heart wasn’t in the dental field and I needed to do what set my soul on fire,” she said.
The flexibility is Kemp’s favorite perk, she said. “I don’t have to worry about requesting time off for family events or vacation. Or even just to go have lunch with my husband and not feel rushed for time.”
The goal of her company is to help people create happy and healthy lifestyles through fitness in the comfort of their own home where they aren’t overwhelmed by the gym experience, Kemp said.
The family business
Finding the name of your business doesn’t always come easy, and sometimes it changes.
Jim Habeger, president and CEO of Pacific Vista Landscape Services Inc., began his business in 1988 under the name of Jim Habeger and Son Landscape Services. The company specialized in commercial land-care and landscape services.
Habeger began this business in partnership with his father and sister. He was thrust into the position of president and CEO as result of a family tragedy. His father was his original partner.
“I had very large shoes to fill,” he said.
“He was an incredible individual and was pulled away to care for my ailing mother,” Habeger said. He wouldn’t have the success he enjoys today without his partner, he said without hesitation.
“I love the thrill of a new project. This is a big part of why I still do this,” Habeger said. “The other part for me is knowing that we make the decisions, right or wrong. I’m not always right but if I am wrong I have the opportunity to fix the direction and right the ship.”
A challenge many entrepreneurs face is balancing time between work and family, and expressing gratitude for their family’s support was a common thread.
“It’s no secret, the sacrifices business owners endure are heavy,” Habeger said. “We rarely get to turn off the phone and are on-call 24/7.”