When the Great Recession hit, Joze Lopez was working as a contractor for HP in Silicon Valley as an industrial electrician until the company announced it was moving the operations to India and he was laid off. The father of three, he needed to provide for his family, but he also saw this as an opportunity, a ‘clean slate’ to escape the nine-to-five world.
At the time, the mother of his children was thinking about opening food business. They found about La Cocina, whose staff was brutally honest and opened their eyes as to what was need to open a business. It wasn’t a “cakewalk,” he said. “If you want to play with big boys, you have to do big boy things.”
The couple had saved a bunch of money and decided to travel. They sold everything and moved the family to Mexico. They spent the next half a dozen years going back and forth to Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area. Along the way, they learned about food and culture of the Yucatan and bought fish from fisherman of Playa del Carmen. While in the Bay Area, he went to bartending school and she went to culinary school and worked with a bunch of chefs that mentored her. They started a catering business in San Miguel de Allende, an ex pat community in Mexico. The business did well and turned into a small bakery and a café that they named Goodies & Co. (applying what they learned from La Cocina). She cooked, he managed, but the partnership didn’t work out in the end.
They shook hands and went separate ways.
Joze returned to the Bay Area in 2015 without anything, including his children. He knew he wanted to open own business so that he could return to Mexico and see his children (who are now back in his life). In Mexico, he created a business to make money and live a certain way, but he learned from the experience and now had a deeper purpose.
He enrolled in classes at City College – film, marketing, acting –not necessarily to work on a degree, but to meet people. He was contemplating different business ideas, met a guy with a photo booth and invited him out to dinner to pick his brain.
He also went to several meet-ups and events geared to local Latino businesses. Someone he knew gave him a flyer about microloans from MEDA (Mission Economic Development Agency.)
The dinner and the flyer turned into a business idea. He went to some workshops at MEDA – business plan, Facebook workshop, social media – ran some numbers, took a risk, and pitched his dream. In the fall of 2016, MEDA lent him $10,000 to start a photo booth business, which is now called Stardusted Events after his pet name for his children.
He frequently visits MEDA for business consulting to better his credit and his business. “Diana is amazing,” he said. He loves the nurturing and tools they provide that helped him create a business from nothing.
In the beginning of 2017, he started driving for Lyft because he needed a car and some extra cash. If he’s in the Mission neighborhood, he sometimes will pull over near MEDA to chat. He heard about a Lyft promotion that gives you a car if you drive 75 rides per week for them and pays insurance and maintenance. His take is about $700 per week and he intends to keep driving to re-invest the money in his company and meet people from all walks of life.
(Side note/small world fun fact: we heard about Joze because he drove Emily Gasner who is on the CAMEO board and is CEO of Working Solutions.)
Even though his company is young, he’s thinking about growth and has five year strategy. He is preparing for another loan to buy a drone for festivals, and go from two part-time photographers and one photo booth to four photo booths. And he plans to morph the business into an event production company.
“I wake up and tell myself, I’m doing it for my kids,” he said. “I’m doing it to show that even if you lose everything, you can build again. Everything you want you can have. It’s already waiting for you, but it can only be found in one place – outside your comfort zone. So get uncomfortable to get comfortable.”