Sara was working part-time at a bar when she struck up a conversation with one of the patrons. The conversation progressed naturally from small talk to raw honesty, and Sara found herself telling him about her dream: opening a kid-centered, family-friendly play place. As a mother of two sons, Brayden and Ryder, Sara and her husband often had to get creative on weekends to do fun things as a family. Sara’s sister and her family had also lived in Yuba City, CA for many years, a city that – in Sara’s words – has “nothing for kids to do.” This patron happened to be an interested investor, and gave Sara his business card, telling her to contact him with her business plan and he’d look it over.
After her shift that night, Sara googled “what is a business plan.”
Sara’s come a long way since that day. “My background in the army,” she tells us, “learning the value of leadership and responsibility, definitely helped me become an entrepreneur. I had a large group of people that I was in charge of so all that experience has definitely shaped me as an employer.”
She quickly got into formation and hit the ground running. The next several months were a whirlwind of good old-fashioned hard work: researching loans and financing, constructing a business plan, pulling extra shifts, reaching out to anyone and everyone. It was in a fateful twist that Sara first heard about the veteran non-profit that would give her the guidance she was looking for. She entered her sister into a competition that unfortunately, she didn’t win, but, at the award ceremony, the woman who did win spoke onstage about entrepreneurial innovation, veteran tenacity, and the audacity of hope. Afterwards, Sara asked around to find out who the woman was, and it turns out she was the founder of a veteran non-profit called The Jonas Project.
After Sara and her sister were accepted into The Jonas Project, things began happening much quicker. Their mentor, Ted, is, in a word, “invaluable.” Ted’s experience lent Sara exactly what she was lacking, the big picture perspective and the constant, unwavering support that made her feel confident in both success and failure. Although the next phase of her business was not without its speed bumps, being able to pick up the phone and call Ted with any questions was a game-changer. “We talk to him every week,” she told us. “He’s helped us so much. Not just with the numbers aspect, but understanding our budgeting and how to project our financials. He’ll bring up things we never even thought of.”
Sara’s dream succeeded because of sheer determination but there is another driving force for her, and that’s giving back. “In Yuba City there’s a high underage drinking rate and it’s gotten worse as time has gone on. One of our big motivations was to do something good for our community. I’ve always wanted to own my own business but I never knew what direction I wanted to go in. I think over time our business might have an affect on lowering the drinking rate, on bolstering family time. When we look to the future of Millennium Family Entertainment, we see doing an after-school program that incentivizes kids to get better grades in school.”
These days, Sara goes into work and instead of hearing the sounds of bar chatter and clinking glasses, she listens joyfully to the sound of children’s laughter. “It’s really fulfilling, just seeing kids come here. They’re so excited they can’t even contain themselves.”
And as far as what she’s accomplished, it’s been one crazy ride. “Before this,” Sara said, “my sister and I were just part time working moms. For us to be able to open this business, it’s a feeling I can’t explain. This is a million dollar business, but I’d never imagine we’d have the money or the resources to do this. A lot of people told us we couldn’t do this — but we did it anyway.”
Thanks to her mentor Ted and the staff at The Jonas Project, Sara was able to take all the drive and commitment to her passion project and turn it into something tangible and successful. Something that improves not only Sara’s family’s quality of life, but the community’s, too. The Jonas Project understands Sara’s need to create perhaps more than anyone else, because we know the sacrifice our veterans make for us. The support we offer to our veteran entrepreneurs is our way of saying thank you.