By Jane Applegate
Two women living on opposite coasts of the country have turned their passions into lucrative small businesses. Marilyn Horowitz is a script consultant, producer, college teacher and author of ‘how-to’ books about screenwriting. Across the country, Sharon Hoshida is parlaying her love for books and community events into opening an independent bookstore on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.
Both women say finding a need and filling it was the key to their success.
Early in her career, Horowitz says she hoped to make her living as a screenwriter. Her first novel was optioned by a producer. But, after submitting dozens of drafts, the film was never produced.
“God has a sense of humor because he wanted me to teach,” says Horowitz. “Almost from my first class at the School of Visual Arts (in New York City), people were asking me to help them with their writing projects.”
Helping other screenwriters succeed became her personal mission. After producing an independent film with her husband, Horowitz crafted a course on how to write a screenplay in 10 weeks. She’s taught that class and many others at New York University to more than a thousand people. And last year, she accepted an invitation from a former student to teach a class at a villa in Italy.
“One of my ex-students was determined to get me over there,” says Horowitz. Together, they hosted an eight-day intensive writing class, promoting it via the web and Facebook. “We had an organic garden and organic wine; we were able to hold classes in the morning, write in the afternoon and then watch movies in the evening.”
One of her books, How to Sell Your Screen Play in 30 days, is a perennial hit. “One of the hooks is we give you a 30-day marketing plan, as well as show you how to copyright your screenplay and how to promote it via social media.”
In addition to writing books and teaching, she works one-on-one with clients, charging $1,750 to review a screenplay or $350 an hour for individual coaching. She’s also working on creating a screenwriting app for smartphones.
Horowitz’s advice for turning a passion into a business: “Try a bunch of stuff and see what works,” she says “The key point is differentiation. Find a niche.”
Meanwhile, across the country in California, Sharon Hoshida, found a partner to finance her dream of opening an independent bookstore on State Street in Santa Barbara. Granada Books, which opens June 20, is designed to be a community center as well as a bookstore.
When Borders and Barnes & Noble closed their doors locally a few years ago, Hoshida says she couldn’t believe there was no longer a bookstore in Santa Barbara’s busy downtown area. Luckily, her dream of opening an independent bookstore was shared by Emmett McDonough, a retired friend who had the capital to invest. McDonough owns 90 percent of the business; Hoshida is earning her 10 percent through sweat equity.
“He has the capital and I have all the community connections,” explains Hoshida. “Emmett is putting up all the money to cover the start-up costs of about $650,000, including about $300,000 worth of books and materials.”
Hoshida who worked as a photographer and later headed up the women’s center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, admits that friends and family members “thought we were crazy to open a bookstore,” but after attending several how-to workshops and bookseller conferences, the partners decided to go for it.
Seeking an ideal location, they found a storefront that had been vacant for years and approached the group that owns that space as well as the Granada Theater, a State Street landmark. It was a challenging negotiating process, but Hoshida says they finally signed a 25-year lease for 3,300 square-feet of space.
“Granada is paying for a huge amount of the tenant improvements, the flooring, painting, AC, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, office space and offering us four months free rent,” she says.
The partners also formed a non-profit organization called Pomegranate Arts. Through that group, they plan to eventually host a variety of artistic and community events in a 1,700-square foot outdoor courtyard adjacent to the bookstore.
Although they’ve hired a professional bookstore manager, Hoshida plans to spend every day working in the store. “I think lot of people will come to the store because of me,” she says. “I’ve spent 40 years in this community.”
Meanwhile, the partners are optimistic about being financially successful. “Before they closed, the two chain bookstores were doing between $12 million and $15 million a year,” she says. “Many independent bookstores our size are doing between $2 million and $3 million a year.”
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