Self-starters with vision drive Lake County’s economic engine

A version of this article was first published on Record-Bee.

LAKEPORT— At the outset of this year’s Hands Up Lake County Business Competition its goal was clear, to generate action and results. And it was no surprise the fourth Gala was the most successful business competition since it began in 2020.

From left: Olga Steele, co-founder with Judges, Colleen Assavapisitkul, Adventist Health, Clearlake; Julie Golden, Golden Vineyards; and Scott Johnson, Community First Credit Union. (Courtesy photo)

Monica Rosenthal, director of 1TEAM1DREAM, the nonprofit that initiated the annual business plan extravaganza designed to boost the local economy but also demonstrates the resiliency of the local community’s determination to recover from disaster. “Their passion is off the charts, and we’ll see how they’re making a difference for themselves, their families and their community,” Rosenthal said. “It is the vision and entrepreneurial spirit of Olga Martin (and) Steele Maryann Schmid to start the nonprofit 1 Team1Dream and invest time, energy and their savings to help support the Lake County economy.”

This is a banner year with $120,000 in funding awards disbursed among the eight finalists. In the Hands Up process participants present a business plan, financial statements, marketing and competitive strategy, team building but perhaps most importantly, in times of crisis, show the way to sustain resiliency. “Buckle up for a truly inspiring afternoon,” Rosenthal,” said. “I leave with you a tremendous amount of hope and excitement for the Lake County future.”

From left, Alan Flora, City Manager, City of Clearlake, Daniel Tyrrell of Tyrrell Martial Arts, First Prize Winner in the Established Business category, MaryAnn Schmid, 1Team 1Dream Founder, and David Claffey, Vice-Mayor, City of Clearlake.

Capturing first prize among the established business finalist was Daniel Tyrrell, receiving the top award of $30,000. He is the owner of Tyrrell Martial Arts with a fitness studio in Middletown. Tyrrell recalled he has been in business in Lake County for the prior 17 years in which they have survived the 2008 recession, along with the Mendocino Complex fire and along with half their clientele impacted with by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When that struck, we closed our Hidden Valley location and produced an online learning mode,” he said. “In January we opened in the heart of downtown but by June it was apparent we were running out of space due to the popularity of our program.” But without missing a beat Tyrrell rented space in the vacant building next door, razed a couple of walls and expanded to suitable training space.

“We have classes in bullying prevention, strength building and awareness,” Tyrrell said. “Kids love our classes because they are fun and exciting, and adults love our training to build confidence.” Last month he began a partnership in education, a four-class instruction program in public schools, where they offer bully prevention along with character building skills. Along with Wing Chun martial arts, there’s Brazilian jujitsu, and traditional karate. “And we also provide Family Hour, where parents can get an amazing workout while their children learn like skills on the other mat,” he said. They will hire a third team member the first quarter next year and plan to bring in outside help next year, with some of the best coaches in the country. So, their attrition rate is lower than the national average for martial arts schools he noted. “I rely heavily on word-of-mouth and social media; Facebook, Instagram, snapchat,” he said. “And we also have an amazing referral sports program.”

Tyrrell has 200 active students yet room for 500. He maintains he did $11,000 in retail business between the first and second quarters and projects a 55 percent growth between the second and third quarters. But he wants to expand where no other has attempted; get a used van to transport students to his dojo. Many are facing tight budgets with recent inflation and cannot sacrifice daycare, but he can shuttle students to the martial arts studio. “It’s been a challenge to put this together, but I thank the 1 TEAM 1 DREAM; I’ve learned a lot from it,” he said. “And I thank the sponsors for continuous generosity year after year.”

Michael and Claire Zimmerman, $12,000, 1st Place Startup Winners with sponsors Rita & Roxana of the Olympix Team. (Courtesy photo).

Claire and Michel Zimmerman won the $12,000 first prize in the startup business category. They operate the BiZi Bees preschool from their home in Kelseyville Riviera and aspired to offer the highest level of standard in education in the lake area. “We started in September 2022 with our own two kids and one other in a 110 square foot room in our home but we made it work,” said Claire. “It quickly grew and then we purchased a table for six. And I always said to myself, dream big, start small but most of all, start.” The Zimmermans have education experience at all levels for ages 2 and older.

“Next we put up a campus sign, leveled a slope in the back yard, put in play structures and fenced it in, he said. He added they put some paving in the back yard and plan a shade structure to hold winter and summer classes outdoors when viable.

“The great news is we grew from six into 10 to 12,” Claire said. “We started with $4,600 monthly (revenue), and now we’ve added another $4,600. We’re able to hire another employee and that will cost $1,400 a month.”

The Zimmerman’s plan to expand BiZi Bees Pre-School to have a garden with fruit, flowers and vegetables. “It’ll help students learn what life is like in the future,” added Claire. “But for the indoor class, we’ll need writing pads, and other school supplies some musical instruments and better lighting.”

Alan Flora, city manager of Clearlake, recalled when Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele approached him four years ago about the Gala. Every year it draws more businesses, more sponsors and draws more competitors. “You got to agree, it’s a great way to welcome our outstanding examples of entrepreneurs to the stage” he said. “I always encourage the sponsors to continue to keep supporting this program and remember the value of new ideas. When Maryann and Olga come to your door it not only supports our economy but sustains jobs, as we all invest in the economy directly as well.”

It All Starts With An Idea. Be The Difference.