Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Challenges of Local Small Business Owners

Alright everyone, brace yourselves... it's incredibly rare, but I'm actually going to say something negative about San Jose. Often to grow you have to take a critical look at yourself and make a conscious decision to improve. I think that's exactly what we need to do in order to improve the retail scene in San Jose, especially high-potential, burgeoning areas like Downtown.

A couple days ago I had the great pleasure to meet with the proprietor behind Satori, a phenomenal new tea shop located in San Pedro Square next to Peggy Sue's. After hearing her challenges in opening up the store, I decided to break that section out of the blog post I'm planning for their upcoming grand opening. I'm doing this for 2 reasons: 1.) I think this topic requires special attention and applies to many current and potential business owners and 2.) Satori doesn't deserve to have anything negative in their grand opening post--they are 100%, positively, without a doubt the type of business that downtown needs more of... unique products, local character (including local art), community focus, and a new experience for downtown patrons.

Okay, now for the stuff I hate to write about, so I'll make it quick. The proprietor decided to put her entire life savings into a store selling what she's truly passionate about--awesome tea!--and she wanted to do it in the heart of San Jose. How long should it take to open up a small tea shop in San Jose? Two months? Three? Well, it actually took an entire year... every day of which means lost revenue and a lower probability for success. How much should it cost for business licenses and permitting in a 1,000sqft space in an area the city is actively trying to drive retail to? No need to guess, I'll just say it... $15,000. Huh?

I think something is not right with the situation above. The message we send out to business owners should be "COME TO SAN JOSE! WE ARE A CITY BUILT ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND WILL MAKE IT RIDICULOUSLY EASY FOR YOU TO DO BUSINESS HERE!  That type message doesn't seem to always align well with reality, and I have heard this from several business owners that I have spoken to, not just Satori.

If you ask anyone that really knows me, I really do love San Jose more than any other city on the planet.  I hate writing anything negative here, but this is one kink that we need to iron out before districts like Downtown can become the magnetic retail destinations they should be. Santana Row is great an all, but we need places where local businesses offering unique products and services can also thrive and grow the collective soul and culture of our great city.


  1. I completely agree 100%. San Jose needs to make it MUCH easier for businesses to start and grow... I've been gone 10 years and recently returned and am very disheartened that Downtown San Jose still remains.... lethargic. It is for this reason that I am not buying a home in downtown....

  2. I sure hope it survives. I work less than a block away and thought it was really hard to find. Looks cool though! New to living downtown, I really wish there were more choices like this and less janky places that are just plain lame! Jon

  3. I am so happy to hear that Satori had the fortitude and wherewithal to make it to opening day. These are the type of businesses local residents must support.

    The even sadder part of the story is not knowing how many businesses the area has lost to the proverbial "red tape" associated with bureaucracy.

    Best of luck to you Satori. Hope to see you soon. Jill

  4. $15,000 for tea shop permits????

    Please post a listing of the permits and the fees associated with each because right now I don't believe it.

    Thank you