Three Hollister businesses were represented May 12 at the ninth annual Startup Challenge Monterey Bay in Salinas. One walked away with the top prize in its division.
That Garlic Stuff, owned by Michelle Doty, won $10,000 in prize money in the Main Street division. Arti-Culture was runner-up in the division and won $2,500. Ohana Shave Ice, a runner-up in 2017 in the same division, competed in the Venture division this year, but did not win money.
The event was sponsored by the California State University Monterey Bay Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, which is housed in the university’s College of Business. It was held in Salinas.
“I think I’m still in shock by it,” Doty said about the win. She spoke to BenitoLink while driving to a farmer’s market in Pacific Grove on Monday. The victory was particularly sweet because she competed in the Startup Challenge Monterey Bay last year and didn’t win money.
“Last year I went from 28th to the top eight, but didn’t advance to the top three,” Doty said. This year, Doty brought in her cousin Denise Mellor from Elk Grove as a business and financial adviser. Mellor participated in the pitch that That Garlic Stuff gave to the event’s six judges.
What does Doty plan to do with the $10,000 prize?
“The money is going right back into the business for bottling, label machines, and to form our LLC (limited liability company),” she said.
That Garlic Stuff makes a marinated garlic product that is drizzled over food, such as french fries, nachos, teriyaki rice bowls, and meatball sub sandwiches. Doty developed the product for her food business Spice of Life Catering, which she takes to farmer’s markets and other events. She began using the sauce eight years ago, and started bottling three years ago. She and her daughter first used the product on garlic fries.
One day, Doty said, they were running low on chips for their meals so they put the sauce on nachos.
“People began coming back saying, ‘What’s that garlic stuff?’” Doty said.
The motivation to begin bottling the sauce came during a long weekend while selling her food at the San Benito County Fair.
“A lady came with a container and wanted to buy what we had left,” Doty said. “I told my daughter, ‘That’s it. We’re going to bottle it.’ And that’s how it happened. It was customer demand.”
The product, made at a commercial kitchen in Hollister, comes in two varieties: original and sriracha. Doty plans to offer more varieties in the future. Production will soon move to a food incubator in Watsonville, and retail sales are in the works.
“We’re over the moon for her,” said Arti-Culture’s Rolan Resendiz of Doty’s division win. “She’s got a great product. She’s got a wonderful product and we’re very proud of her.” Resendiz said owner Joel Esqueda plans to put the company’s $2,500 in startup money back into the business as well.
“We want to do some marketing and expand our services in Hollister, and we want to branch out into other communities,” Resendiz said.
Arti-Culture, a community-based art studio, strives to make art accessible and affordable for everyone. It’s located at 910 Monterey Street, Suite Number 220 in Hollister. The art studio also books private art parties at homes, offices, and restaurants.
Esqueda started Arti-Culture a year and a half ago.
“We felt like there was a need for a positive form of experimenting (with art),” Esqueda said at the startup challenge last Saturday.
The company offers a variety of art forms, including ceramics, painting and sign making. Friends and family members of Esqueda help out at events.
“We’re all really close friends and family that he’s known for years, and they all help out,” Resendiz said. Of the business, he said, “We think it’s a really rich model that’s going to help all around. It’s the wave of the future. It’s a pop-up, so we can change our model. It’s really a lot of fun and we’re solving our own community issues. We’re really grateful for all of the support.”
Ohana Shave Ice, which operates at 738 San Benito Street in Hollister, opened in 2017. The business motto is, “Bringing Hawaiian Flavors to the Mainland!”
“Our business grew from going and visiting Kaui (Hawaii) and falling in love with Hawaii, and that’s what we are sharing with the community,” said Owner Karina Hernandez. She and her husband Peter Hernandez, a candidate for the San Benito County Board of Supervisors District 3, founded and operate the business. The shop is busy, Karina said, and they are booked to cater events through September.
“That’s going to continue to be our main drive, to be able to serve our customers where they’re at through our catering,” she said.
Hernandez said she and her husband decided to compete in the Venture division at this year’s startup to challenge themselves. The couple entered the Main Street division last year.
“We’re so proud of the other people [who won this year],” she said. “We were all like cheering each other on.”
The people from That Garlic Stuff actually showed up at Ohana Shave Ice Saturday evening to celebrate their win, Hernandez said.
“We’re super grateful for the opportunity to make it to the finals in this other category,” she said. “We’re so happy how Hollister was represented. That’s so amazing. It just demonstrates what Hollister had to bring to the surrounding communities.”
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