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Client Spotlight – La Plantes Soft Drinks

Kathy La Plante

Remember the joy you felt whenever you went to your local A&W or heard the bell of that ice cream truck in summer? La Plantes Soft Drinks specially outfitted truck travels to sporting events, dog parks, arts and craft fairs, local businesses, multi-cultural centers, parks, and open spaces in and around Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and the Edgewood/Moriarty areas. Look for them wherever fun things are happening and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram

Where did the “big idea” for your business come from? What made you decide to move forward with it?

When I lived in Seattle, WA, I kept going by this little strip mall near my favorite Whole Foods and kept seeing a place named “The Root Beer Store” until I got curious enough to finally go in. As I entered that store, I saw shelves of root beer and soda I either had never heard of or remembered from my childhood. It just made me smile. Right then and there I decided that I would love to have a store like that one day and make people happy. When I retired from federal service two years ago, I took a year to try and decide what I wanted to do next. I started thinking of that little store and began to wonder if I could actually create something like that in my hometown of Edgewood, NM. I got on the internet and somehow discovered the WESST web site and sent an email. Next thing I knew, I was meeting with my business mentor, Clint Reecer, and started taking classes to explore whether my idea was “viable”. Nine months later, I started up my business and have been going strong ever since.

What’s the most satisfying part of being an entrepreneur?

I have been a civil servant in one form or another all my working life. I worked for large cumbersome bureaucracies and often felt stifled in terms of my creativity and ability to get things done in a timely manner. Now that I am my own boss, whenever I have an idea I can choose to act on it or not. I love the creative process of taking something from nothing and making it real. I don’t have to answer to anyone but my family and my customers. I am free to work my own hours and have much more control over a healthy work-life balance. On the other hand, I carry all of the responsibility for my decisions and any accompanying consequences. Because all of this was new to me, my learning curve has been steep at times, but I never really felt that it wasn’t manageable. Having enough start-up money was a bit of a challenge as well. I am self-supporting so no grants, loans or any other form of financial assistance was available. Although I am retired and have an income, I admit it has been expensive to start.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I live my life. I workout. I bake. I garden. I read. I watch historical documentaries and movies. Since my most favorite activity is going to the movies and having a soda and popcorn, it fits right in with my business. That was one of my motivators. I love a cold soda and popcorn. The difference now is I feel a bit guilty when I buy movie theater popcorn and a coke knowing I have access to a small-batch, high-quality, naturally-sweetened, great-tasting craft root beer or vintage-style soda waiting for me at home. Not to mention the gourmet popcorn!

Would you do anything differently, if you could start your business over again? If so, what?

I think because I got great advice and lots of support from all the WESST folks along the way, I was able to formulate my ideas into a viable business in exactly the way it works best. My initial business was to have a brick and mortar store in Edgewood off old route 66, but after doing some research and cost analysis, I determined that it wouldn’t work for me. I did what Clint said to do in these cases and decided to “pivot” resulting in a mobile vendor format. Today I have a great Ford Transit Connect with my name draped across it and sell at locations on any given day. My truck is nick-named “the Joy-mobile” and that really is what I deliver.

What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own business?

Make sure you know yourself thoroughly. Know who you are including your strengths and your weaknesses. Based on that analysis, decide what you think you might like to do and start dreaming in living color. Be able to either find safe, reliable financial resources or be able to self fund. Don’t quit your day job! No matter how good your idea is there are still risks and no guarantee. Make sure you can withstand the hard times without jeopardizing your family finances, your integrity or the business when times get rough. Above all else, choose something you have a passion for and be willing to do whatever it takes to be a success. If you don’t love what your doing, it will be too hard. Finally, get great help. The smartest thing I did was to email WESST and connect with Clint Reecer.

What was your biggest takeaway from your work with WESST?

I have never felt or been so supported in my life than I have and continue to be by all of the WESST staff. I feel at home and welcomed as soon as I walk in the door. Every time I meet with Clint, I get great advice mostly because he listens very carefully to what I say and don’t say before we begin to problem-solve. Taking the classes has also been very beneficial. Not knowing even how to begin was daunting, but the courses they offer definitely help with those issues. The primary goal for WESST, as far as I can tell is to strive in every way possible to help make me a success. It has worked so far and I am, for one small business owner, deeply grateful!

Clint Reecer

Clint Reecer

Born in Los Alamos and raised in Albuquerque, Clint is a native New Mexican that is passionate about assisting the local small business community. He has a B.B.A. in Finance and an M.B.A. in Management of Technology, both from the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico.