Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with John Kalil, Owner of The OC Local, located in Yorba Linda, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The OC Local® is a direct mail marketing tool consisting of a magazine and solo postcard that is mailed out monthly to local residents. These tools help locally owned businesses be seen by local consumers who are looking for local resources such as new eateries, home improvement services, health, and beauty services, and more that are close by.

My clients/partners are local business owners striving to grow their businesses through consistent exposure to the communities in which they live and work. My partners have found that direct mail marketing campaigns drive traffic to their websites, social media accounts, and ultimately their phone or storefront through regular exposure.

Tell us about yourself

First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ, a husband, and a dad. As far as a trade/career I have a diverse background. The OC Local® is basically my fourth career but really a cumulative expression of the previous three. Immediately out of college I went into full-time pastoral ministry in which I spent nearly two decades serving the local community and helping people in their faith journeys and personal growth. I then spent another 18 years working in a family-owned business doing everything from sales, and store management, to working as COO and really everything in between.

This experience gave me a personal understanding of how a business runs and how important building a brand and growing market share really are.   Then I spent 6 years in a publicly traded auto loan bank running corporate operations which really helped me understand the unique challenges of keeping quality and consistency while growing nationally at hyper speed.

I have a passion for people, communities, and local businesses. The OC Local® allows me to truly partner with business owners as they experience so many challenges that today’s landscape presents. I have a passion for people so this look “behind the curtain” helps me assist them in more than just creating an ad but coming alongside them because of my diverse background. I can offer some critical thinking and be a sounding board for many of my clients which truly brings fulfillment daily.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Not just making it through 2020, but doubling in size, revenue, and reach. I believe we all had our challenges in 2020, some shared and some unique. For me, it felt like one flaming arrow after another.

In December of 2019 after spending nearly a year working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the family business and Monday thru Thursday starting and building The OC Local® I made a faith decision to leave the comfort of a regular paycheck and focus on my business. January 2020 I now had a single focus to grow the business. In February 2020 I had the best sales to date and was excited for the magazines and postcards to mail March 13th, with the plan to expand in April. Then the world shut down leaving many questions for me and my business partners.

On March 17th my father started to experience some significant medical issues and on the 20th of that month went to be with Jesus (not covid related). So here I was with no regular paycheck, a business that basically just got shut down, and grieving the loss of my dad. After communicating with all my clients, we made the decision to suspend our April 2020 mailings and expansion, which meant no income at all without a plan for May, except to wait and see. The decision was made to mail in May for those businesses that were able to be open and give a pass to those that were unsure. The May mailing was a success and we ramped up for June.

I took on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and decided to use that to help my clients continue their advertising with the thought if they can advertise, they can grow, and ultimately, we will all succeed. In July we added the new mailing zone, I got married, moved, and continue to use the loan as a stimulus for my clients. In October we added yet another zone and by the end of the year in which we saw many businesses close, I can proudly say that I was able to watch many of my partners grow and thrive and see my own business double in all areas.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Taking a break. I LOVE what I do and who I get to work with, but sometimes I don’t know how to shut it down. Between deadlines that come every month and being a one-man operation, it is hard to see the line between personal life and business owner/operator. Having a work-life balance tends to be a constant. There are times when the rhythm is great and makes sense for everyone involved and then the next thing you know the balance is way off.

I must keep reminding myself that one of the “perks” of being a business owner is making my schedule. Putting the important things (work and personal) on the schedule each day, week, month, and the year has a learning curve for sure.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Don’t do it…just kidding. This business experience is quickly becoming the most fulfilling career to date.  

Write out your business plan. You need to know your direction, your financial plan, your target customer, your competitive advantage, your marketing strategy, etc.

Find a mentor. You aren’t the first or last entrepreneur, we all can and should be open to learning from others. A mentor knows this and can help you recognize and manage potential obstacles you will face. An outside perspective is worth every minute you invest in it.

Jump In! You will have some of the greatest highs and some of the worst lows in your business, but if you have a plan and a grounded mentor you will have a better chance to succeed. One of the biggest causes of failure is a lack of commitment. If you go in halfway, you will most likely succeed halfway, which will most likely lead to failure. When I left the comfort of the family business at the end of 2019, I knew the business would only succeed if I jumped in. I felt like I had one foot on the dock (steady paycheck) and one foot on the boat (self-employment). Doing the splits was keeping the boat from doing what a boat does…go out in the open water. Jump In!!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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