22 episodes

There’s a personal story behind every business. Some succeed. Some fail. Many do both. I Made it In San Diego will introduce listeners to the stories behind the city’s small and well-known businesses, and the people who made them what they are today. It’ll delve into the triumphs, tough times and lessons learned along the way – as well as stories unique to San Diego’s technology and border economy.

I Made it in San Diego Voice of San Diego

    • Entrepreneurship

There’s a personal story behind every business. Some succeed. Some fail. Many do both. I Made it In San Diego will introduce listeners to the stories behind the city’s small and well-known businesses, and the people who made them what they are today. It’ll delve into the triumphs, tough times and lessons learned along the way – as well as stories unique to San Diego’s technology and border economy.

    The Making of a Local Music Legend

    The Making of a Local Music Legend

    If you listen to local music, then you’ve heard of Tim Mays.
     
    Mays is the cofounder and co-owner of San Diego’s mythic music venue The Casbah.
     
    On this episode of "I Made it in San Diego," Voice of San Diego's podcast about local businesses and the people behind them, hear how Mays went from a kid handing out concert fliers to an indie music legend.
     
    Mays started booking and producing shows in San Diego in the early 1980s as a way to make sure his favorite bands came through town. By the mid '80s, Mays and some of his friends also wanted to open a bar more geared toward his generation – with their music in the jukebox.
     
    Mays' side gig promoting shows and the bar he helped open, The Pink Panther, both found quick success. He quit his day jobs and became a serial entrepreneur with a knack for opening businesses that grew to be local icons.
     
    "I never said, 'I don't want to work for the man,' I just was lucky enough to not have to after a certain point."
     
    After the birth of The Casbah, Mays continued to open new bars, restaurants and businesses in San Diego – Starlite restaurant, Vinyl Junkies record store and Krakatoa coffee shop among them. He's created opportunities for dozens of local bands and artists, helped turn neighborhoods into thriving communities and still finds time to think about what business he might open next.

    • 48 min
    When Running a Hotel Isn't Enough

    When Running a Hotel Isn't Enough

    Entertainment and hospitality is one of the top 10 industries in San Diego.
    Because hotels play such a big role in our region, their owners have some political power.
    In a new episode of I Made It in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to hotelier Elvin Lai about how running a hotel has led to his involvement in several business ventures, city politics and the community.
    After his father’s death, Lai was unexpectedly handed his family’s hotel when he was just 21. During the first few months of running Ocean Park Inn, a 72-room boutique hotel in Pacific Beach, he slept under his desk while he learned the ropes.
    He turned out to be an astute businessman. But running a hotel was never enough for Lai. He’s become a serial entrepreneur and an active community member. Currently, he’s a member of a few hotel trade associations, he’s on the San Diego Convention Center board, and he helps run a program addressing homelessness in Pacific Beach.
    “If the community is not succeeding and thriving, then there’s no business to be had,” Lai said. “You have a responsibility to the community that you’re doing business in.”

    • 37 min
    How Redhorse Became One of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Country

    How Redhorse Became One of the Fastest Growing Companies in the Country

    Last year, $9.4 billion flowed to defense contractors in San Diego.
    At the helm of one of those local private firms getting some of those military dollars is David Inmon, the CEO of Redhorse Corporation.
    In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, Inmon talks to Scott Lewis about how he built a fast-growing business that provides program management and technology services to the military and other clients.
    Almost exactly 10 years ago, Inmon and his business partner opened Redhorse Corporation. They had no capital besides a $50,000 loan from the small business administration.
    Inmon is from Oklahoma, a descendent of Choctaw Indians – a minority status that helped him get his foot in the door on government contracts.
    Redhorse grew quickly. By 2016, the business had revenue of $57 million and was among the 1000 fastest growing companies in the country, as ranked by Inc. 5000.
    In the world of government contracting, small businesses get a big boost. Redhorse is not longer a small business, so Inmon says that shift has been a challenge.
    "We made it, but now we've got to sustain it," he said. "We're no longer a small business and that changes the calculus quite a bit, particularly in the federal market space."

    • 24 min
    Creating a Future Through Music

    Creating a Future Through Music

    For music engineer Justin Watson, music has always been a part of him.
    Growing up in Detroit was tough. He lived near the stretch of highway known as the 8 Mile Road, in a neighborhood where everyone and everything was about work. Watson, who goes by Jay Wat, had to grow up fast. Music kept his family tight.
    Wat's parents would put on basement parties that got the whole neighborhood dancing to Roy Ayers and Sly and the Family Stone. In the sixth grade, Wat's mom bought him his first boombox, and he'd play his cassette tapes on repeat.
    In high school, Wat got a hip-hop education in Detroit’s "school of hard knocks," where DJs spun records, b-boys breakdanced to the beat, and emcees battled with freestyle rhymes.
    In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, Wat talks about how he turned his love of music into a career.
    “It just became a point to where I wanted to really do this full on,” Wat said. “I didn't make a conscious decision yet that I wanted to be a producer, a music producer. But I just felt like I wanted to be involved in music some way. Somehow, destiny guided me.”
    Today, Wat is busy with more than 100 clients at his La Mesa studio, Jay Wat Production Studio. A lot of the artists he works with are young and come from inner-city communities like southeastern San Diego. Many of them mirror his own experience growing up in Detroit: Getting in trouble with friends, struggling in the classroom, and feeding a voracious appetite for music.
    Wat views music as a way to offer the guidance and mentorship that was often missing during his childhood.
    “I feel like I am a part of these kids lives,” he said. “And I just want to see them do so much better and succeed.”

    • 1 hr 1 min
    A Place Maker Builds a Business

    A Place Maker Builds a Business

    Ilisa Goldman thinks it should be easy for a group of neighbors to spruce up a vacant, city-owned lot with seating, shade, art and other simple amenities.
    Instead, they often end up having to claw through a series of bureaucratic barriers and many simply give up, or avoid the ordeal entirely.
    Goldman is the landscape architect and planner behind Rooted in Place, a firm she started to help clients – mostly nonprofits and community groups – create public spaces and outdoor learning environments for kids.
    In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to Goldman about the community gardens, outdoor classrooms and other projects she's designed, and her ongoing struggle to make it easier for people to improve their neighborhoods.
    Jargon like "tactical urbanism" and "placemaking" have gained popularity in recent years. Both concepts refer to the kind of work Goldman does – quicker, easier, more affordable urban projects, often in historically underserved communities.
    Goldman said the placemaking movement is gaining popularity, in part, because once one community builds a successful project, other people take note and feel empowered to do it, too.
    "I think that communities were sort of tired of waiting," she said. "They were waiting for improvements to happen in their community and trying to go through City Council and trying to go through governance and realizing it was really hard."
    Goldman has successfully completed several placemaking projects across the county, both with her firm, and during her stint with the city of San Diego’s short-lived Civic Innovation Lab, a pet project of then-mayor Bob Filner who envisioned it as an incubator to help the city do quicker, more affordable, neighborhood-driven projects.
    "I saw firsthand what the real issues were inside the city, and outside of the city with community organizations," she said. "What were the biggest challenges, why was it hard to do these placemaking projects. I had really come to understand that our development services [department] was geared toward developers who had money, not toward communities that wanted to make their own change."

    • 45 min
    Moving Doesn't Have to Be Terrible

    Moving Doesn't Have to Be Terrible

    Moving sucks. Mike Glanz went all in on that basic premise and ended up running an online moving business in Oceanside that now pulls in about $8 million in annual gross revenue.
    A decade ago, most people were either renting their own trucks or hiring full-service companies and paying them thousands of dollars to do everything.
    Glanz and his roommate Pete Johnson started seeing the rapid emergence of a new type of move. More and more folks were renting their own moving trucks and then finding movers to hire by going online to sites like Craigslist, or swinging by Home Depot to pick up day laborers. Glanz and Johnson called it the "hybrid move," and they decided to build HireAHelper.com, a website that would make it easier.
    In a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, a podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to Glanz about how and why he's helping to disrupt the multibillion-dollar moving industry.
    By simply entering a date and zip code, folks can easily compare prices of local movers. With just a few clicks, the movers are hired and the deal, which typically ends up costing under $300, includes insurance, meaning anything that breaks in the process will be replaced.
    When the website launched in June 2007, it grew steadily. By 2008, Glanz and Johnson were feeling confident they could turn HireAHelper into a very successful business. But then the mega-business U-Haul stepped in and served them with a lawsuit. U-Haul said they were infringing on the term "moving help," a term the company has trademarked. 
    The lawsuit nearly shut the business down.
    "[U-Haul] didn't give us an option to go away or to close up shop or to just quit," Glanz said. "They seemed like they were out for blood."
    Instead, HireAHelper doubled down and worked to grow the business enough to pay off the legal fees and make a profit. The lawsuit was eventually settled, and the website has gone on to become a solid business that helped facilitate over 65,000 moves across the country last year.

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

Ol' guy in Carlsbad, CA ,

I'm 74 but I LOVE hearing how people make it!!!

Wonderful beginning to your series, Kinsee. Really compelling. Your banjo-pickin'-and-makin' first guests were very inspiring. Your questions were thoughtful. And, the part about you buying their banjo for your friend had me tearing up. Their stories and their commitment to make growth happen when the odds are really high. Inspiring.

Can't wait for next week.

Top Podcasts In Entrepreneurship

Listeners Also Subscribed To