Small Business Development Center hosted by Santa Monica City College
Legends of Hollywood Tours – Los Angeles, CA
After spending four years as a tour guide for the biggest tour company in Los Angeles, Mark Morrow was ready to strike out on his own. He wanted to create his own boutique Hollywood sightseeing experience—one incorporating film clips, music, photographs and stories into tours of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. His wife, Natcha, handled the administrative work to get the company off the ground, and in August 2010, the Morrows visited the Small Business Development Center at Santa Monica College for startup assistance.
SBDC Business Advisors Ron Sardisco, Trevor Schickman and McAuther Jeffrey Francis helped the Morrows fine-tune their concept, write a business plan, get startup financing and open for business.
- Know your options. The SBDC helped the Morrows do financial projections to determine how much startup capital they needed, then assisted them in researching possible financing sources.
- Details matter. The Morrows had a business plan, but their Business Advisors suggested changes that would better position the startup to obtain a loan. “We learned the importance of focusing [our plan] and presenting a unique angle,” Natcha explains.
- Anticipate obstacles. The SBDC recommended several lenders, but “it wasn’t an easy process, and we had many rejections,” says Natcha. Then the Valley Economic Development Center came through with a small loan. Although it wasn’t the full amount they wanted, with the SBDC’s guidance, the Morrows developed alternative financial projections and gained enough confidence to invest their own money in the startup.
The loan enabled the Morrows to finance a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, develop a website showcasing their multimedia tours, and print flyers and cards to distribute to local hotels. Since launching in June 2011, Legends of Hollywood Tours has served more than 200 clients, conducted tours daily, and developed relationships with hotels including JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE Downtown, Omni Downtown, Redbury Hotel and Holiday Inn Express. In August 2011, they joined the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Our short-term goal is to build our reputation as the best tour in town and fill the van up every day,” says Natcha. “We want to gain more business from the hotels we are servicing and expand our base to many other hotels in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and downtown L.A.”
Long term, the Morrows plan to buy at least one new van per year, hire employees and earn coverage in travel magazines and websites. The SBDC will continue to be a resource for growth. “We would like to grow gradually and be stable with quality control,” says Natcha, “and the SBDC helped [us] get off on the right foot.”