By Jessica Greene | Stories from the Storefront
Stories From the Storefront turns the spotlight on the bold, passionate small business owners who put the work in and never stop chasing the dream.
Jake Castro is based in Oak Park, Sacramento producing custom laser cut fabrication and hand-sewn leather goods. From cultivating his craft within a co-op workspace to taking classes, he finally took the plunge and ventured off on his own to start his business. Learn more about how he stays motivated during the challenging times and the perks of being your own boss. You can follow Jake Castro on Facebook and Instagram.
Jessica Greene: Tell me about your business.
Owner, Jake Castro: Being an artist, I find myself working creatively in a couple of different fields. I produce laser cut wooden accessories and hand sewn leather goods under my brand, “Jake Castro”. I also run a custom laser cut fabrication studio where I work with a number of different businesses, including restaurants, wineries, and breweries to create custom wooden and leather-bound menu boards among other collaborations.
What motivated you to get into business?
After moving to Sacramento from Chicago, I joined a co-op workspace that was maker-oriented and housed a variety of tools and equipment available for members to use, including laser cutters, a full woodshop, metal shop, 3-D printers and more. I took a few classes to become certified in operating the equipment, and really dialed in my skills using the laser cutter, which served as the catalyst to starting my own laser cutting business.
Have you always been an entrepreneurial type?
As an Artist, it is pretty difficult to become successful without some form of entrepreneurial spirt, so it has always been in my mindset. I wanted to do what I love full-time while being able to support myself.
What’s been the most unexpected part of starting and running your own business?
Things often take longer than you anticipate, so patience and perseverance has been key for me. You can have an enthusiastic following, which is so great, but it is so important to keep making new products and provide new services to keep the business going and keep building up a customer base.
What’s your favorite part about being your own boss?
Flexibility with my schedule is definitely a huge perk — it allows me to focus on specific aspects of my work on a timeline that makes sense. I also get to do what I love everyday!
What’s the most stressful part about being your own boss and running your own business?
Inconsistency can be challenging. Depending on the time of year, business can ebb and flow. I think this motivates me to hustle harder and always work toward the next thing and a bigger end goal. There will always be up and downs throughout the process, but the entrepreneurial drive and small achievements are so rewarding.
How has your business evolved since you started?
My reach is much wider in terms of the clientele I work with, and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with some bigger brands and companies to produce different kinds of products. As far as my own brand, I have been able to expand the number and type of products that I offer, while gathering a bigger following.
Do you still go to farmers’ markets to sell, or is it all online?
I still sell at a handful of markets within Sacramento and the Bay Area. It is important for me and my brand to interact with my customers face-to-face to get insight and feedback on my products. My goal is to work toward pushing more online sales to expand beyond California.
In terms of being your own boss and running your own business, what keeps you up at night?
Quick turnarounds and tight deadlines are always challenging when working on custom orders for a client. A slow month in sales also can be stressful for me as a small business.
And have you found that working out of your house has changed your drive or motivation?
Definitely. Having my own lasercutter and wood shop has been a game changer in terms of production and time management. It’s convenient to work from home for hours on end in a workshop that I have built and designed specifically for my work flow.
What do you wish was easier about running your own business?
Having more guidance in finances, primarily business taxes would be helpful. You’re a bit on your own when first starting out and that can be daunting.
Do you have any business goals, or what’s the next milestone you want to cross?
I’d like to push my online sales within the states and internationally to reach a wider audience, as well as continue to collaborate with larger brands and companies.
How do you define success for yourself? Is it time with loved ones, the creative process, financial freedom?
The fact that I can be a full-time Artist and spend time dedicated to my creative expression is my definition of success.
What’s been your biggest failure in your business, and how did it set you up for success later?
[Laughs] There have been so many. I think my biggest failure would be undervaluing my work at times. It can be aggravating underbidding a job, but I have learned that quality work can be expensive and time consuming, so those qualities are reflected in my pricing.
What do you like most about using QuickBooks?
I like that everything is kept in one spot which makes it easy for me to keep track of my finances.
Any parting words of wisdom for other small business owners?
Create an environment that values a healthy work-life balance.
Jessica Greene is an Intuit employee who loves connecting with people and learning about what makes their world go around. When she isn’t working, she enjoys eating Thai food, spending time with her husband and adorable baby, performing improv and walking her dogs.