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Small Business Spotlight: Oster and Associates

Longtime small-business owner Bev Oster Ornelas has been in business for herself for 20 years, and she couldn’t image a life any other way.

Oster Ornelas is president and creative director of Oster and Associates, Inc., a full-service advertising and public relations agency based in Sorrento Valley. When Oster Ornelas made that leap into small-business ownership, she had three teenage and grade school-age daughters to care for , a responsibility that might cause some people to think twice about such a risky move. But for Oster Ornelas, she owes a lot of her entrepreneurial spirit to her daughters.

“To be honest, it might have been a motivating factor at that point, because I was looking for flexibility in my schedule to spend more time with them. Looking back, it’s also probably one of the reasons why I didn’t grow very much those first few years,” she said.

Like most small-business owners, Oster Ornelas can’t say it has always been easy.

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“Has it been nothing but smooth sailing? No,” she said. “We had some really bad years in there , 2001, 2002, 2003 especially, when the bottom sort of fell out of the advertising community.”

Oster Ornelas said she was able to survive the rough times by paying close attention to the changing marketplace and adapting proactively as opposed to reactively to the changes.

“It’s a constant chess game,” she said.


VITALS

Name: Bev Oster Ornelas.

Title: President/creative director.

Company: Oster and Associates, Inc.

Company address: 6225 Lusk Blvd., Suite A, San Diego, CA 92121.

Company phone: (858) 535-8101.

Year founded: 1986.

Prior business experience: Export management and radio sales and sales management.

Average hours worked weekly: 45-50.

Source of startup capital: Personal funds.

2005 revenue: $1.1 million.

2004 revenue: $980,000.

Number of employees: 10.

Web site: www.osterads.com.


BACKGROUND

Birthplace: Tacoma, Wash.

Education: B.A. in international relations from Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn., and an M.B.A. in marketing from San Diego State University.

Age: 58.

Current residence: Scripps Ranch.

Family: Husband, Dan Ornelas; three adult daughters, Tricia Ornelas Watkins, Carrie Ornelas Arias and Karin Oster.

Hobbies: Tennis, skiing, swimming, reading, music.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Reason for getting into business: I’ve always loved to be part of the solution and this is a creative solutions business that is limited only by the imagination.

How I plan to grow the business: We have tightly structured the business with experienced strategic people, creative leaders and a network of strategic partners that allow us to offer the best thought processes and creative solutions in marketing for our clients.

Biggest plus of business ownership: The freedom and flexibility to make decisions and set direction.

Biggest drawback: The inability because of time to focus on the depth of each client’s challenges.

Biggest business strength: Vision and creativity.

Biggest business weakness: Letting go of the details.

Biggest risk: Hiring the right people.

Smartest business decision: Getting input from other business leaders.

Biggest business mistake: Thinking I needed to reinvent the wheel and could do it all myself.

Toughest career decision: Making the leap into being an entrepreneur.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Maintaining an organization that continues to grow and challenge the employees.

The most important part of my business: Maintaining the balance between strategic thinking and creativity.

My business works best when: I turn responsibility and accountability over to my team, and then I get out of their way.

Best way to stay competitive: Always look for new ideas and ways to communicate, and think beyond the traditional.

How I measure success: Through the success of our clients.


GOALS

Goals yet to be achieved: Recognition as the best agency in San Diego, and writing a book.

My five-year business plan: Continue to grow the current and future staff to take over the responsibilities of the daily running of the business, allowing me to be an ambassador in the community and a consultant on the most challenging projects.

I would sell my business only if: I had a buyer who I felt sure shared the same values as our current organization.

Guiding principles I will continue to follow: Focus on the clients and their success, grow each individual on the team and never forget to stop and smell the roses.

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