September 16, 2015
No one ever said running a business is easy but the rewards can be soul-satisfying and wondrous. And if your company is around after 10 years you’re one of the 4% that joins the decade club. The stats are daunting, but Gary Bird, president of Santa Cruz-based FortyThree PR, believes if you live, work and play in the same city then you have a much better chance at beating the odds. We got the chance to do a little Q&A with Gary on his 10-year anniversary.
Why did you choose to open your business in Santa Cruz?
"Ask any business owner and – if they’re truthful – they’ll say running a company is a constant battle. Yesterday may have been great, but today is a disaster. Like my dad always says, ‘if it was easy, everybody would do it.’ You can’t predict the challenges you will face, but you can choose your office location. We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this year and one thing I’m most thankful for is our decision to headquarter in Santa Cruz."
What does FortyThree PR provide its clients?
"One thing consistent among all our consumer tech clients is they want to get their message across. We are all hyper tasking through mobile apps, news sites, blogs, Instagram and other social media in search of engaging content. At the same time we are bombarded with over 3,000 marketing messages. We specialize in getting the media to pay attention to our clients’ products/services, but we do it in unique ways. We use social media, our clients’ blogs, contributed articles, surveys and a lot of earned media to influence customers to take action."
"We’re in the consumer tech business, which has been booming for the last decade or so. We work with tech giants like Qualcomm and startups, such as PrivacyStar. We even work with Stern Pinball, the only pinball machine maker in the world. We are in the fortunate position of working with some really great people at some amazing companies."
What is so special about Santa Cruz to you?
Erika Seligsohn (FortyThree general manager) and I have always chosen the city in which to live before we work out the employment situation. We lived in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Prague prior to coming here. We moved to the Santa Cruz area to raise a family in an environment that has great schools, a strong surf culture and plenty of nature.
"Santa Cruz is a mecca for ambitious 20-somethings with great educations." — Gary Bird
What’s the biggest benefit to operating your business in Santa Cruz?
"It’s all about location. Gone are the days when you disconnect for two weeks. We are always on. It’s just how it is. If you are in it for the long run, you must carve out a little vacation into every day. For me, I’m up before dawn to get a surf in and I can still easily make an 8:30 a.m. conference call. We have others who rock climb, roller derby, hike, mountain bike, etc. If you have a good balance it’ll fuel motivation and inspiration–necessities in most businesses. Just look at the traffic jams coming into Santa Cruz any Saturday and going to San Jose every Sunday. There is a reason people fight traffic every weekend to visit Santa Cruz. We live here."
Why Downtown Santa Cruz, in particular?
"Everyone at FortyThree lives within a 10-minute drive and some actually walk to work. This is a big benefit. Being able to live, work and play in the same city has been crucial to our success. Also, Santa Cruz real estate is exceptionally reasonable, so we locked into a fairly long lease in one of the best buildings in town. We have a great view of Pacific Avenue, where we can walk to the beach for lunch or sit and people-watch."
How do you find your talent in Santa Cruz?
"Santa Cruz is a mecca for ambitious 20-somethings with great educations. If these candidates don’t find a career in Santa Cruz, then they look over the hill. In total 30,000 people drive the hill every day for work. Nobody wants to do that. People are in Santa Cruz for the lifestyle, and companies like ours give them an opportunity to live here and work here. We just put free ads on Craigslist. It’s really that simple."
What is the best thing about having a business in downtown Santa Cruz?
"I don’t want to get too philosophical, but we are in the midst of the Information Age. While the Renaissance and the Enlightenment were equally influential, they were in Europe. The epicenter of this one is in our own backyard. It’s great to be part of something that changes the world during the day, but go mountain biking in the redwoods or rock climbing after work. I was in Eastern Europe when they went from command economies to capitalist ones. What we are now experiencing is bigger and we have front row seats from one of the most beautiful regions in the world. It would be downright greedy to ask for more than that."
What opportunities do you see in Santa Cruz?
"I’m not going to lie, we have our share of dreamers and dropouts. However, we have more than our fair share of highly motivated and educated millennials looking to make a difference while making Santa Cruz their permanent home. These digital natives just need a bit of guidance to create the next tech unicorn. We already have a handful of well-funded startups and Plantronics is a great anchor company. A handful of very well attended tech meetups are now producing interesting technology. There is even a PR Meetup group with over 60 members.
What’s your favorite surf break?"Haha! It depends on the conditions. I go to 4-mile, 26th and Sewer Peak. I wouldn’t recommend them though. Everyone should go somewhere else."
Okay we won't tell anyone but we will tell them about all the good things happening at FortyThree PR.