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Marble Falls small-business owners jump in and live their dreams

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — Sometimes, you just have to jump in.

That’s what Lakriesha Cesario did last fall when she opened up her cafe and coffee shop, Love Bites.

“As for the process of opening a coffee shop, it kind of fell in my lap,” Cesario said.

When Main Street Coffee in Marble Falls closed, the owner offered the equipment at a much lower price than if Cesario purchased it new or even from another seller.

“It was my chance, my opportunity,” she said. “If I didn’t grab it and let it pass by, I don’t know if I ever would do it — start my own business.”

Now, it wasn’t as if Cesario woke up one day and decided to open a coffee shop. She had worked for several years as a barista and co-owned a tattoo shop at one time with her ex-husband. Owning a coffee shop was something she had set as a goal.

“But, at some point, you can only plan so much, and you have to take the chance,” she said. “Otherwise, you’ll never do it.”

Starting your own business is one of those quintessential American dreams. Even if you don’t head down that path, many people have thought about it — especially when it comes to something they love doing. But starting a business takes hard work.

Less than a quarter of a mile from the 12th Street coffee shop is Sana Vida, located on RR 1431 West. The yoga and wellness center has grown into one of the most well-known businesses of its type in Central Texas. Along with a full tea bar, a shop, yoga classes and Chinese medicine services such as acupuncture, owner Patti McCormick offers yoga instructor classes and recently announced franchising the business.

Building her successful business took years. She first opened a Chinese medicine facility, the Rosedale Clinic, about 18 years ago in Austin before starting Sana Vida about 11 years ago in Marble Falls. Like Cesario, she didn’t just jump into the role of a small-business owner.

McCormick was working as a petroleum engineer when she first became interested in Chinese medicine.

“I had a strong interest in mind-body healing for several years already and had done self-study on the topic,” she said. “It was literally during a ‘light bulb moment’ during my first acupuncture treatment that I knew it was what I would be doing for the rest of my life.”

But it meant going back to school to earn her master’s degree in Chinese medicine. The thought of four more years of school after already working five years to get her engineering degree didn’t really have McCormick jumping up and down. However, she realized she had to put in the work to realize her dream.

One thing McCormick and Cesario share when it came to developing their small businesses was focusing on something about which they were passionate — not a touchy-feely passion, such as people talk about during commencement speeches, but one around which they could actually build a concrete business.

Even though she put in the time on her training and education, McCormick admitted she felt a twinge of fear the day she hung the “open” sign on her business’ door. It was a fear of the unknown because this — the Rosedale Clinic and later Sana Vida — fell on her shoulders. She wasn’t collecting a paycheck from someone else. If she didn’t get customers, she didn’t earn any money.

Fear, McCormick pointed out, can be a great motivator.

Cesario agreed that starting your own business isn’t for people who thrive on security.

“It can definitely be scary,” she said. “And you gotta work.”

Cesario often works the small coffee shop by herself, though friends Samantha Wuerster and Tasha Hart help when they can. This leads to long hours.

It’s typical for owners of new small businesses to work the longest days.

“I don’t even realize it, sometimes, how many hours I’ve put in,” Cesario said. “It’s what I love to do. And I love the customers. They make it such a great place.”

Still, owning a business means balancing — especially when it comes to family. Cesario is raising two children, ages 7 and 9, so she carves out time for them outside of work. But her kids sometimes lend a hand around Love Bites.

“My daughter thinks she’s the best waitress in the world,” Cesario said.

And that’s where having a good support network comes in. McCormick pointed out that, when starting a business, you have to surround yourself with supportive people and push aside the doubters.

Along with her two friends, Cesario credits her mother, Lisa Brady, and stepfather with giving her the support she needs. Her parents are both small-business owners, so they share ideas with Cesario. From there, she said it’s important to get a good CPA and find a bank that not only works with you but wants you to be successful.

And never stop learning about business, she added.

Cesario admitted she’s had to learn a lot about the day-to-day operations of a business such as pricing, which is not just adding up the cost of the ingredients in a baked good or a latte.

“The price has to include the building (rent). If you have employees, you have to figure that into the costs,” she said. “So, it’s not just showing up and making coffee. It’s quite a bit of work.”

McCormick’s Sana Vida would definitely qualify as a small-business success. Two years after opening it in Marble Falls, McCormick and her husband, Bill Gilliland, expanded it to a 5,500-square-foot facility that features a tea bar, a yoga studio, massage and retail sales.

She’s not done though.

“I knew that Sana Vida would not be my end game,” McCormick said.

In January, McCormick and Gilliland announced they would be franchising the Sana Vida model through its sister company, Serasana. It’s the first acupuncture franchise in the United States, though it also envelopes things such as yoga and other pain and stress-management methods.

Franchising, which gets an unfair rap at times, made sense to McCormick.

“I am smart enough to know that I cannot balance keeping a high-quality operation at Sana Vida, be a mother of two and a wife with opening several locations myself and expect the same quality,” she said. “So, really, the only option was to allow other people to open them, and I would guide them in the venture.”

As a business model, franchising allows others to follow their own small-business ownership dreams.

That dream is what started both Cesario and McCormick down their paths.

Though owning and operating her own business involves a tremendous amount of work and includes a fair amount of “routine” activities such as paying bills, depositing cash and checks and cleaning, Cesario said she loves it. She admitted she kind of “jumped into” opening Love Bites without first coming up with a full-scale business plan, but that might have worked in her favor.

“If the opportunity to get the Main Street Coffee equipment hadn’t come up like it did or I had waited until everything was perfect, I don’t know if I’d had ever taken the chance,” Cesario said. “Every day you hesitate, it costs you money and time. For me, working for myself, I just love it. It’s better than working for somebody else.”

McCormick agreed.

“When you love what you do, you will work tirelessly at it,” she said. “I never could envision myself working for anyone again. So I knew I had to take a chance on myself.”

Go to sanavida.info for more information on Sana Vida. If you’re looking for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, stop by Love Bites Cafe, 809B 12th St., from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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