Cathie Anderson

Insights into the people who shape Sacramento’s business landscape

Cathie Anderson: Son says dad’s five Sacramento-area battery stores have a lot of life left in them

06/24/2014 12:00 AM

06/23/2014 7:36 PM

Father-son team Don and Ryan Tollefson are seeking a Folsom location for their sixth Batteries Plus Bulbs store.

That’s a long way from 1995, when friends told Don Tollefson he was nuts to open a battery store. “Are you sure you can make it with just batteries?” they asked.

Due to the explosion in battery-powered devices, Tollefson today has a one-stop shop for powering cellphones, golf carts, cars, motorcycles, cordless devices, boats, RVs, laptops and more.

The average U.S. household, Tollefson said, has 28 portable power devices, and his employees can help replace batteries in virtually all of that equipment.

In the past month, the Tollefsons’ five stores in Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Roseville, Sacramento and West Sacramento also started doing repairs on cellphones, including broken screens, charge ports or headphone jacks. It’s a service being integrated by all Batteries Plus Bulbs franchisees nationwide.

They added light bulbs to their inventory in 2012. If someone has an RV equipped with incandescent light bulbs, for instance, the Batteries Plus team has a device that shows just how much power those old bulbs use.

“As far as battery run time in your RV, you can go three times longer if you switch to the LEDs,” Ryan Tollefson said. “We can retrofit the trailers to LED brake lights.”

Does 31-year-old Ryan Tollefson think his dad’s battery store idea has much life left? Yes, he said, having acquired a small equity stake in the franchise, which he hopes to own one day.

Beatnik expands at 723 S

Art and events already are filling the space at 723 S St. in Sacramento, the new home of Beatnik Studios, but the building will be undergoing remodeling through 2015.

Lindsay Calmettes, Wesley Davis and their families acquired the building back in August 2013 after Beatnik outgrew its space on 17th Street, near Broadway. Calmettes and Davis, who met while working toward photography degrees at Sacramento State, envisioned a thriving community of artists when they opened Beatnik in May 2008. A few months later, though, the so-called Great Recession hit, and art sales dried up.

Davis, who plays banjo in a folk rock band, said his musician buddies suggested that he and Calmettes start using the gallery as a concert space. Then a woman walked in one day and said: “I love this space. Can I get married here?” The idea appealed to the duo, who are both wedding photographers. Once they added weddings to the mix, Davis said, the concept of gallery-as-event-space took off, generating instant revenue.

“We found this niche in the market as a blank canvas for a creative wedding space,” Davis said. “If you’re shopping for wedding space, mostly what you find are hotel ballrooms, country clubs, places like that.”

There was only one problem for the business partners: space. They didn’t have enough room for storage or a kitchen. They thought about making improvements to the 17th Street building, Davis said, but didn’t want to invest in a leased space.

In their new building, they have added a kitchen for caterers, built new bathrooms and created a large storage space. They are doing energy-efficient upgrades to the roof and air-conditioning systems; next year, they plan to construct an outdoor deck.

Beatnik now has three employees, a gallery director and two event organizers.

Radio + video = Vadio?

Elk Grove native Bryce Clemmer and his Portland-based partners are turning deejays into veejays with new technology that can convert audio players into video players.

Clemmer’s company, known as Vadio, isn’t just for radio. He said it can convert any company’s audio stream into a video stream. Last week, the young startup announced a deal with video-hosting giant Vevo that gives it access to more than 100,000 music videos from Sony, EMI and Universal artists.

Clemmer and his partners – Sam Oluwalana, Matt Polzin and Elliot Swan – came up with the idea for Vadio in 2011, but it took a year to develop the technology.

“We were studying Internet trends and how people were consuming content how people were using Pandora, how people were using iHeartRADIO or any of those apps,” Clemmer said. They also studied how people were using YouTube.

The four partners thought they would find a ready market to provide audio-streaming companies the same chance as YouTube to engage listeners in a multi-sensory experience. For startup capital, Clemmer used money earned in 2007, working as part of an Apple Computer team helping to get the iPhone launched. He also secured an investment from a family friend, Ken Lupton of Lupton Excavation in Sacramento, who saw promise in the idea.

Those were the early days. Vadio now has received more than $1 million in venture capital and from angel investors, including Marc Geiger of William Morris Endeavor, Rogue Venture Partners, former MCA President Jay Boberg and former Google executive Dean Gilbert. The company will make its money through profit-sharing agreements on commercials aired on their technology.

 

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