This week we chatted with Lanakila (Kila) Rodrigues, Founder/Owner of Killa Teas, a brilliant business currently in formation while Kila participates in the five-month StartUp Mendocino business management program. He’s creating a community-building gathering place for young people — so needed in our county. Here is his story!

“I’m currently working on moving forward with the ideas I have on my plate. We’ve come up with our Killa Teas mobile tea shop drink menu, for example. And we just got our waffle machine in — I’m excited about that! I’m putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

The StartUp Mendocino classes have been super helpful, especially this last session on Navigating Legal and Tax Implications to understand the permits needed and the hurdles I’ll have. I’m the kind of guy who likes to see what’s in front of me and chop off what I can. I’m grateful to our instructor Rachel and the program itself. 

We’ll be the #1 place that kids and families can enjoy. I’m envisioning setting up somewhere like a community park, in a parking lot with space, perhaps near to the Skate Park and Ukiah High School.

I want to set up a couple of corn hole games and have a tournament every other week for kids to enjoy after school. 

With other tea shops, it’s hard to let kids enjoy the restaurant AND the space where they are hanging out. Because I’m mobile I can be more flexible, with places to sit down and relax. I’m thinking about exterior music on my truck or trailer like when you go to a street food vendor … for an atmosphere that kids enjoy. 

And I want to show movies with a projector, with the side of my vehicle as a screen to enjoy a movie once a month as the sun goes down. I have to find out the legalities of all of this, but basically I want an environment to sit down and relax.

I have 3 kids myself — they are 10, 14, and 16 — and I know how important it is to have a safe environment for kids. 

My top takeaway from the recent business management training session is definitely that there are a lot of permits that I need to be aware of and timelines to take into account. For some I may need to get the ball rolling NOW and apply instead of waiting until it’s a week before I want to open! Some take time. As well as insurance — I’m learning about incorporating and the liabilities involved in each type of business. I’m a homeowner so it’s important that my business doesn’t affect my personal property. 

As a result of the training, what’s changing for me is certainly accountability — holding myself accountable to what I know needs to be done, and pushing myself forward to the next task. Before this, it was easy to postpone something for a day. Now I do an hour a day at least, which is what our instructor Rachel recommended. Wherever I can squeeze it in, and then I get a little more accomplished. That kind of attitude. 

I’m hoping to have a tea recipe finalized and samples ready by the end of this StartUp Mendo program in June! 

Something you might not know about me is that I was born and raised in Hawaii, on Waimanalo, within a very diverse community that has a rich history. My first job was selling coconuts on the side of the road to tourists. It taught me customer service and the value of serving others — and how I can get value from serving. My mom was a flight attendant on United for 55 years. Our island culture and service industry is part of who I am. There wasn’t much on our side of the island, so we understood the value of counting on each other and having safe places for our kids to enjoy. Everyone is family. 

Creativity plays a huge role in my life and business and it’s what brought me here. Killa Teas started with an idea and grew with research. My creativity comes when I’m driving and listening to instrumental music. I’m kind of going through a jazz phase right now 🙂 My brain starts thinking of ideas. It inspires a lot of creativity. 

I’d like to learn more about what the Community Foundation of Mendocino County — one of our program sponsors — does in our community. I’m interested in scholarships for kids, community building, and incorporating a work study program with the school system or with an organization like SPACE, where my daughter participates in dance classes.”

The John and Sandra Mayfield Family Economic Fund at the Community Foundation of Mendocino County is proud to support West Center and StartUp Mendocino. As Jim Mayfield says: “Economic development is critical to a healthy community. Supporting entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to bring jobs, income and tax base to Mendocino County.”

This is the second profile highlight in a series. Check the previous blog post to learn about local food retailer Mo Heinrich of Mama Jama! Stay tuned for a profile highlight on each of the 13 cohort participants as they take the StartUp Mendocino journey through June 10, 2022.

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