Our Mendo-Lake SBDC clients come from all walks of life, which their small businesses represent. We caught up with Billy Arana on the beach in beautiful Point Arena on the south coast of Mendocino County.
Billy is the owner of North Pacific Adventure, which is an adventure tour operator that offers sea cave kayaking, kayak fishing, whale watching, and surfing tours for locals and tourists alike. As Billy says, “We have a passion for taking people out on the ocean to explore our beautiful coastline.”
A native of Point Arena, Billy grew up exploring the tidepools, reefs, and waters of the area. He attended UC Santa Barbara where he focused his studies on oceanography and coastal environments and processes. These studies only fueled his passion for the natural environment. After school, he worked as a guide in different areas of the country eventually working his way up to management positions. He says, “At that point, I felt that I had the experience to start my own business. I had some savings so I invested in my passion – North Pacific Adventure – and I started with that.” He saw an opportunity for his business on the south coast where there were no outfitters providing ocean-based tours and he has the experience and education to provide top-quality tours to people who want to experience the coastline from a perspective other than the land.
We asked Billy how he got his business started: “For a while I considered starting my own business but hadn’t taken it very seriously. I didn’t know where to begin or a location to put it. Then it finally clicked that the place to start my business was where I was most comfortable and was uniquely suited to my vision. Once I had that realization, I knew it was time and I went all in to start the business to fulfill my dream.”
Billy first heard about the Mendo-Lake SBDC at West Center from a friend who told him that it was absolutely essential that he talk with them before starting a business. Billy stated, “And I’m extremely glad I did. I had no idea where to start from getting a business license to registering as an entity. That’s when West first started helping me. They helped me get all my legal stuff in order to become a business and now they’re helping me even more as I’m beginning to grow and expand. I’ve got advice on marketing to advice on how to structure and run my business.”
He continued, “The fact that West Center’s services are free is amazing. I couldn’t have employed somebody to help guide me through starting my business and even today, as I’m growing it. Since West Center is completely free, it’s a no-brainer! They offer free help and consulting, answer any questions you may have, and guide you down the right path to success. For a zero dollar cost, it doesn’t make sense not to try their services.
I’ve worked with a few consultants from the Mendo-Lake SBDC and I’ve been extremely happy. They started off making sure the consultant I work with fits my interests and my business option. You can schedule a weekly or monthly consultation at my convenience, which is great as it accommodates the season when I’m really busy.”
So what does a typical day at North Pacific Adventure look like? “We get up and we begin gathering up gear for tours: wetsuits and booties in a variety of sizes, fishing gear, kayaks, pedals, and paddles. We get everything set up for the day’s customers at Arena Cove. We take our clients through a safety orientation and how to use the equipment. Then we get out on the water… we make sure everyone is comfortable and secure before we take off to explore. Depending on the activity, we take photos, talk about the wildlife and area. Head back to the beach and get everyone changed and warm. Once our clients have departed, we wash all the gear to keep it clean and protected from the salt water. We download all the photos we’ve taken, edit them and send them off to the clients. And that wraps up our day!”
Billy’s favorite part about owning North Pacific Adventure is that he can really customize the work to the way he wants it to be. “If something’s not quite working right, I can make adjustments to make things better, which is a huge goal in my life.”
We asked Billy what he would tell a younger version of himself about where he is now: “I would say keep doing what you’re doing… exploring the tidepools and the water, because you can make your passion a job when you get older.”
Happy paddling Billy!