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Sunday, Jul 21, 2024

Entrepreneur Meets Challenges, Looks for More

Take risks, have faith and never

give up.

That’s the formula Rebecca Barlow followed in rescuing two failing companies and founding two others.

“It’s all overcoming fear. Fear is the one thing that really holds people back,” said Barlow, who took over Acme Flood and On Time Experts Plumbing, Heating and Air when her husband died and she founded Bella Bambino Nannies and Ryder Executives Inc. on her own.

“I just sort of did it,” Barlow said. “I kind of put one foot in front of the other and tried things and made mistakes. If you have an entrepreneurial mindset, you’re willing to take risks that other people might not be willing to take. A lot of people, they’re afraid to get out of their comfort zone.”

“She just sees problems and fixes them,” said Lydia Vargo, who hired a nanny through Bella Bambino and also had water damage and plumbing issues in her home repaired through Acme Flood.

“I would recommend her to anybody,” Vargo said.

Robyn Freye, who found a nanny through Bella Bambino, said, “I think it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Freye said she and her husband tried finding a nanny on their own and it didn’t work out.

“We just weren’t finding people we trusted. We were getting lots of inquiries, ‘I’m, oh, you know, I’m 21 and I’m going to school and I’m looking to make money on the side,” said Freye, an advertising executive who frequently travels to her company’s New York offices.

She said she was looking for someone with a little more maturity to help care for the couple’s daughter, who was 3 months old at the time. All of Bella Bambino’s nannies are mothers themselves.

Working through Bella Bambino, “We found the greatest nanny ever,” Freye said. “It was just the perfect, perfect match.”

Employee Satisfaction

Barlow said one of her business secrets is treating her employees well, with incentives and bonuses.

“I kind of see myself as there to create opportunities for employees,” Barlow said. “It’s kind of like a camaraderie where everybody respects each other.”

Regina Ramirez, an administrative assistant at Bella Bambino, said Barlow “definitely is not a regular boss that comes in and tells everybody what to do.”

“She works with her employees,” Ramirez said. “She’s been through a lot so she understands how difficult situations can happen.”

Customer Satisfaction

Barlow didn’t start out to be an entrepreneur. Her first job out of Palomar College was working as a receptionist, then as a sales manager for an athletic shoe company, where she learned a valuable lesson that she’s applied in her businesses — customer service is paramount.

“It’s so simple — make your customers happy and exceed their expectations every time,” Barlow said.

While in college, Barlow worked as a nanny, and was dismayed by how little care the agency she worked through took in recruiting nannies.

“The agency had never run a background check on me,” Barlow said. “They had me come into their office, fill out their application and, zoom, I had a job with this family.”

Now the mother of four, Barlow said she wanted to do better for other mothers when she set out to start Bella Bambino Nannies in 2002.

She learned what it would take to start a new business through research she did on the internet, and by talking with other people.

“I just kind of pieced it together,” Barlow said.

She started slowly, working out of a spare bedroom in her Carlsbad home, advertising for potential nannies, and above all, making sure to do background checks and contacting their references.

Now, Bella Bambino Nannies serves clients throughout Southern California and is expanding to go nationwide, Barlow said.

There have been bumps along the way and tragedy.

In March 2011, three weeks after Barlow gave birth to her third child, her husband died from an accidental overdose of pain medication.

Barlow said she was overcome with grief at first, but “a few months after he passed away, I started to come out of the fog. I started going into his office and sort of observing what was going on.”

Her husband’s companies, Acme Flood and On Time Experts, were “failing big-time,” Barlow said.

Personnel Problems

“I had to basically fire 85 percent of the staff,” Barlow said, going from a staff of 18 to a staff of three — a bookkeeper, a flood technician and a helper.

In 2015, the companies had a staff of 25 and total revenues of about $3.5 million, Barlow said.

Now, Barlow is starting Ryder Executives, a personnel recruiting business.

“The way that came to be was I had clients that owned their own companies. They go, ‘can you help me find staff for my business?’ I said, ‘sure, why not,’” Barlow said. “It’s one of those things where I say, ‘Let go of your fears. Let the opportunities come along.’”

Barlow likes to share her story with women who are struggling.

“I want to show other women in tough situations that if I could have done this, having lost everything, they can,” Barlow said. “I feel like I could really help these people, encourage these people.”


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