A Catalyst for Entrepreneurs in Santa Barbara

Catalyst for ThoughtOver the past couple of years we have visited small business and entrepreneur support organizations in LA (the Convergence Technology Council/CTC), OCTANe in Orange County, the San Diego Software Industry Council/SDSIC in San Diego, and the Silicon Valley Product Management Association (SVPMA). Last night I visited the Catalyst for Thought group in Santa Barbara, and attended their November program “Building a Thriving Business: How to avoid the common pitfalls.

CATALYST MISSION: An official event and lecture series promoting entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and philanthropy for entrepreneurs and professionals.

  • Invest In Yourself: Get educated and motivated through dynamic speakers and connected with valuable networking opportunities
  • Invest In your Community: Net proceeds from Catalyst event ticket sales benefit non-profits

The guest lecturer Tuesday evening (10 Nov 2009), Ms. Susan Urquhart-Brown, is a private consultant from Oakland offering individual coaching for entrepreneurs. She is a former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and author of the book “The Accidental Entrepreneur: 50 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Starting a Business.”

Catalyst for Thought’s meeting drew a very large crowd, with standing room only along the walls. Most of the attendees were either recent graduates of Santa Barbara-area universities and business colleges, with a smaller number of business people from small local companies. All were very excited about the possibility of either starting or expanding their own businesses, and paid close attention to all parts of Susan’s lecture.


  • Bring together, and foster, a community of entrepreneurs and professionals.
  • Promote entrepreneurship and ethical business practices, as a way to improve the individual, and the community.
  • Motivate the individual to act on ideas.
  • Equip the entrepreneur with the resources and contacts to be successful.
  • Raise awareness about the current needs in the community, and extend financial support to benefiting non-profits.

CATALYST VISION: Advance the community, by motivating individuals to create, develop and act on his or her entrepreneurial ideas.

The event format was much like a university lecture, with a 30 minute presentation followed by a 30 minute question and answer period with the audience. The main themes presented in Ms. Urguhart-Brown’s lecture were:

  • Plan and stay accountable: Learn to leverage your expertise and uniqueness, setting goals that propel business forward almost magically!
  • Don’t be a “lone wolf:” Learn the essentials of asking for help, monitoring growth, and getting access to advice at critical stages.
  • Listen and understand your customers: Learn to listen, offering benefits and solutions.
  • Know where your business is headed: Learn how to keep your eye on the bottom line, so that effective changes can be made to keep your business on track

The Entrepreneurial “Buzz” in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is almost too nice of a city for people to work and live. Not surprising that some of the most dynamic companies in the tech industry are launching from Santa Barbara, including world class, innovative cloud computing companies Rightscale and Eucalyptus. The academic leadership at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Community College/SBCC are fully engaged with not only their students, but also the community in promoting both education and providing small business development resources.

Melissa Crawford, director of the The Scheinfeld Center at SBCC met attendees of the Catalyst event at the door, both welcoming each person, as well as trying to get to know the entrepreneurial experience and spirit of as many people time allowed. If she is an indication of the support students and others in Santa Barbara can expect, then Santa Barbara will continue to attract and retain the best in both Southern California, and other distant locations the buzz extends.

The Scheinfeld Center is a “nexus for entrepreneurship education on the South Coast and is responsible for education and training, and the cultivation and dissemination of new technologies and business models for the 21st Century entrepreneur.”

Having attended many networking and educational events in California and Virginia over the past year, it is clear Santa Barbara brings business entrepreneur enthusiasm to a new level. It was an exciting evening, and reluctantly I left while the informal networking was still in session to make the long drive home to Long Beach.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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