It was an extremely cold January with snow was so deep you couldn’t walk or drive. Business was at a standstill. No cars were being sold on Roby’s used car lot. Customers were not booking hair appointments at Cathy’s Coiffures. We decided to take a vacation in a warmer climate. We flew to Los Angeles, California.
At first Roby was hesitant to make the trip. “Those folks are crazy,” he said, referring to recent earthquake reports, “that place is going under.” Still, I convinced him it would be ok because God is in charge.
When the plane landed at LAX the temperature was sixty-five degrees. Just fifteen minutes later, driving down Century Blvd. with sunshine and palm trees, my husband declared, “This is God’s country! This is where we should be!”
After a week, we were convinced to make the move. When we got home from the trip, sold both our businesses and all our other property. My beauty shop sold quickly and I stayed on as an employee of the new owner for an uncomfortable few months. Roby made the transition by splitting his time between his Chicago car lot and establishing another auto sales business in LA. By September, we were settled in our new California home.
A Mind Expanding Experience
It took some getting used to the subtle differences between Midwest and Pacific Coast business practices. For one thing, while Chicago seemed buttoned-up formal, California appeared laid back and casual. But looks can be deceiving. Certainly there was corruption and under-the-table dealings in Chi-town. But in LA we discovered sharks with big teeth were a force to be reckoned with.
Running a used car lot in Chicago, Roby had his own finance company and could rely on his customers to pay their bills on time. They either lived in the community or went to the church in one of the buildings he owned. If they didn’t pay on time and the car came up missing, they knew Roby’s impound. In Los Angeles, the area is so wide-spread and people tend to move around a lot, making it very difficult to repo a vehicle. Also in Chicago, Roby had a good relationship with the suburban new car dealers to pick up their trade-ins for just a few dollars, which he resold on his lot for profit. In LA, he had to go out to the dealers’ auto auctions in heat and smog, and spend considerably more money for inventory.
Roby kept the car lot going in LA for a while, but soon discovered the car wash business was more lucrative and successful. He opened Roby’s Hand Car Wash at the top of a hill at the intersection of three much-traveled roadways: Stocker, LaBrea and Overhill. In its day, this car wash was a popular meeting ground for politicians, celebrities and sport stars. Deals were made through direct contact, sometimes out the trunk of a Bentley or Rolls Royce.
Meanwhile, my beauty shop days were over. I was ready to move on. I had become an avid reader of business magazines and classified ad papers, opening myself to new ideas and inquiring about business opportunities. I was learning about mail order and looking for products to sell. I tried several items that car lots might use, but the products required demonstration and I grew tired of traveling around in the big city traffic.
My passion was in being near the beach. At that time, roller skating was the rage and Roby felt I would do well in a skate rental on the boardwalk. That was great! I had a little hut right under Santa Monica Pier renting out skates and bikes. I met celebrities and tourists from all over the world and became part of a unique community of beach lovers like myself.
That went on for a couple of years, until one day I got a postcard for a new sun tanning parlor. I thought what a great idea! Here I was at the beach every day tucked away in a little cave, but never out in the sun. When Roby heard the idea, he invested in sun tanning equipment and we opened up shop in the business district in downtown LA. Surely those office folks would want to work on their tan; but sadly, no. We lost a lot of money and I went back to the beach.
By now, Roby’s imagination was so fertile he was coming up with new ideas all the time. The next adventure took us to build Marina Hot Springs, a ten-room motel converted to a hot tub spa. It was a luxurious place for relaxation, rejuvenation and romance. Theme rooms like the redwood terrace, mirrored room and Flintstone’s Cave rented by the hour. We handed out 2-for-1 passes everywhere we went and the place was filled 24 hours a day, every day.
To help promote the spa, we produced our own television, radio and print advertisements. I started a company called Commercial Network that allowed us discounts when purchasing ad space and time. I took a class in paste-up and layout to create promotional materials. Though still very young, our children participated in construction and spa maintenance. It was a beautiful place and drew crowds of attention, but ended sadly for us. (That’s a story for another day.)
On to the next idea
Roby became ill following Marina Hot Springs. Stress had taken a toll on him and he needed rest. During the next year, he sold a few cars but became interested in distressed real estate. This led us to write our first talking book: BUYING FORECLOSURES BEFORE THE AUCTION. It was a big hit on three audio cassette tapes with workbook and user-friendly forms, produced in-house by Roby and Cathy. We sold thousands of copies through mail order, The Learning Annex and Entrepreneur Magazine.
Following the success of Buying Foreclosures, Entrepreneur Magazine asked us to produce additional start-up manuals on other businesses we were involved in. This partnership was very successful and continued for a few years. Like everything else, we eventually moved on to greener pastures.
Having successfully conducted business on both local and national basis, we were led to discover the international marketplace. And that takes us to present day, World Business Exchange Network.
I’ll tell you how to turn your idea into a profitable business.