Thursday, March 15, 2007

Interesting Encounters

My three talks to the Capitol Bancorp directors in Northern CA, Southern CA and AZ put me in touch with some very interesting people with a great passion for what they are doing. They are all actively engaged in bettering their communities and making them better places in which to live. I’ve told you about several of them in the past week, but this blog is the additional ones who didn’t make prior ones.

Nancy Stetler came up to me after my talk in Napa, telling me, “I’m originally from the small town of Ripon, California which is the ‘ammend’ capital.”

I didn’t understand what an ammend was, so she told me, “Everywhere else they call them almonds, but we’ve always called them ammends.”

I met Craig Makela at my Southern CA talk, learning that he was in the olive business. He told me, “My great-great grandfather was on his way from France to San Francisco during the California Gold Rush. The ship he was on stopped in Santa Barbara where he fell in love and decided not to get back on the ship, instead marrying and settling down. He brought the first grape vines and olive trees to California with him. We still have some of that original stock.”

He told me that while his Santa Barbara Olive Company is the second largest in the USA, there are over 300 olive companies in the country, up from only about 20 a couple of decades ago when he first stated production.

Andy Clark, President of the Bank of Santa Barbara, related to me his experiences of working in Seattle before moving back home to Santa Barbara to start-up his own bank. I had used the story of Microsoft’s starting in Albuquerque, NM in the mid 70s but moving to Seattle when they couldn’t get a $35,000 loan.

Clark told me, “Bill Gate’s mother Mary was on the board of Pacific National Bank of Washington. She called me up one day and told me that her son had moved his business to Seattle and that we might be able to provide him some services. I went to visit Bill Gates and his company was just like the photo you showed. No one had offices and they were crammed into their space. I asked him what they did and he told me, ‘We write software for mini-computers. One day I think that every business in America is going to have one.’”

Clark went on, “I’m not sure that I believed him at the time and he didn’t need anything so we didn’t do any business with him, but that meeting has stuck in my mind since then.”

Clark also related the story of getting a call to go visit a coffee shop that was needing funding, “We went down to their store and I thought that the coffee tasted burnt and I didn’t see anyway that they were going to be able to get people to pay the $3/cup that they were charging. As you’ve probably guessed, I turned down Howard Schultz of Starbucks Coffee for a loan.”

There are some wonderful stories that I find all over this great country of ours. I’m glad that I am so privileged to be able to hear them from some wonderful people. Ain’t life grand?

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