Andy Paul is brimming with the excitement of a kid in a candy store after winning a prize worth $135,000 that will allow him to open his dream business, Andy's Candy Apothecary.
The Downtown Sacramento Foundation awarded Paul the top prize in its Calling All Dreamers contest, which includes free rent for up to a year at the 800J loft building in Sacramento. Paul is already in the process of choosing his space and hopes to have his gourmet store up and running as the busy holiday shopping season begins.
Paul's concept advocates moderation: "You don't want to eat a ton of candy, so when you eat it, you want to eat something that's really good. It's like when you eat at a gourmet restaurant, you don't eat a pound of steak. You eat a small amount, but it's very rich and satisfying."
One day, Paul said, he just might sell confections he makes himself, but that won't be the case when he opens.
"All of my candy initially is going to be the greatest things I've found from all over," Paul said. "Some of that will be handmade. I've already contacted a handful of producers who make chocolates, caramels and other things."
The future retailer plans to slowly phase out of his current 9-to-5 job as a trainer and organizational coach with the nonprofit Youth Development Network.
The Downtown Sacramento Foundation, sister organization to the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, also announced Wednesday that a pair of fitness gurus garnered the most online votes in the Calling All Dreamers contest and received the $5,000 people's choice award. Sandra Lemos and Stacey Armijo will open a third branch of their studio, The Dailey Method, in the building at 800 J St.
The Best pitch ever
Mira Loma High School grad Emily Best flashed back in horror to the Academic Decathlon, circa 1998, when she recently had to pitch her young startup in an online video.
Her extemporaneous speech had gone down in flames 15 years ago, Best said, and she didn't want her Seed&Spark crowdfunding site to meet the same fate. It fulfills Best's longtime passion, raising seed money to fund independent films.
"My response to that level of fear is just to prepare and prepare and prepare," she told me. "I definitely didn't expect to win because during the finale, there's three of us, and they sort of make you answer questions right in front of one another, and the other contestants were so smart and their businesses were both very developed. You know, they already had paid employees.
"And, I thought, 'Oh, my God, there's no way!' And they announced my name, and they called me 'the dark horse.' But it all goes back to Academic Decathlon in 1998."
Best's online startup, now just 7 months old, won $10,000 in cash from The Pitch, a competition run by The New York Observer blog BetaBeat, in May.
Then, last month, she was named one of 40 Indiewire Influencers as a leader in figuring out the future for independent film. Other people and companies on the list included streaming service Vimeo and "Veronica Mars" film producers Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas. Indiewire, by the way, is the daily news site for the independent film industry.
Best recently moved her company to San Francisco from New York. She's raised roughly $1 million from angel investors so far and is just about to close the second round of this funding.
Determined to shine
Sandiye Rae started all over in the shoeshine business last year after deciding she couldn't make it on what she'd earn from the company taking over that concession in the new airport terminal, where she had shined shoes for many years.
My colleague Cynthia Hubert told Rae's story last year, how she had landed in a tiny office in the Sutter Club Parking Garage. Back then, Rae told me, she was lucky to get one shine a day.
"On average now, I do somewhere between five and 10," Rae said. "I still want it to be better. The one thing it takes is time, and I can't make that happen. Other than that, I think I'm doing everything right. I'm consistent, and I do a good job."
She now floats between the Wells Fargo Center at 400 Capitol Mall, the federal courthouse at 501 I St. and the Sutter Club garage at 824 L St. Her website, ilovemyshoeshine.com, details her hours at each site.