In 2006 the DeSotos were contemplating retirement. Both Ed and Chrystie had experience in the food business. Ed ran his own sales rep business since 1977 selling food, candy and snacks to major retailers like the Price Club, Costco and Longs. Chrystie sold for Mars Candy Company and had been a buyer for the Emporium department store earlier in her career. “Although we were considering retirement, neither of us just wanted to sit around the local coffee shop telling stories,” jokes Ed. More seriously, he continues, “I had represented Veronica Foods, a major importer of fine olive oils, for many years. Mike Bradley, the President of Veronica Foods, suggested to me that there ought to be a great opportunity for a retail store devoted exclusively to selling premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the right market.”

In late 2006 and early 2007, Ed and Chrystie investigated this idea. They studied the qualities and varieties of olive oils, the process for making them and they visited specialty olive oil retail outlets in Paso Robles, Fresno and Marin County, California. “Our goal was to see if we could do for olive oil what Starbucks did for whole bean coffee,” Ed explains. He goes on, “most consumers who buy olive oil at the supermarket don’t realize how unique olive oils can be and how healthy and tasty they are. We wanted our store to provide a wine tasting experience but for olive oils.”

Once the DeSoto’s decided to move ahead, choosing the location was the next crucial decision. “We were looking for an upscale market with a younger, health conscious life style,” explains Ed. “After considering a couple of other towns, we chose Campbell because of its thriving downtown area and all the support, activities and encouragement that the city provides,” he adds. In fact, the DeSotos got help from the city in picking a specific location. They chose a shop that formerly had been an art gallery and is located right in the heart of the downtown area. “We took possession in early March, 2007, but we needed about four months to renovate the store to meet our requirements,” he remarks. Chrystie continues, “Although we had a lot of experience selling food products to retail outlets, neither of us had any direct experience in running a store.” She continues, “I am involved with the non-profit Assistance League of Los Gatos/Saratoga which is active in the Chambers of Commerce of both cities. Through the Chambers I learned about SCORE and the help its counselors might provide us.”

How SCORE helped. 

Between March and the opening of the Olive Bar on June 26, 2007 the DeSotos met with numerous SCORE counselors. They got advice on setting up their accounting, insurance needs, managing inventory and a great deeal of help on marketing. Also, Chrystie took SVSCORE’s seminar on “Accounting for Small Businesses”. “Mike O’Connor and Bob Goedjen from SCORE helped us with advertising and promotion, and even showed us how to make our business cards more effective by using both sides of the card,” says Chrystie. Ed adds, “They told us what we had to say and how to say it.” Recently Mike Strozza from SCORE has advised the DeSotos on ways to measure marketing performance by gathering statistics about their customers. “Based on Mike’s suggestions we’ve been able to determine that about half of our customers are first time walk-ins, while the remainder are return or destination customers,” comments Ed. He adds, “This will help focus our marketing in the future and make it more effective.”

The DeSotos credit SCORE for advice and guidance that enabled the Olive Bar to become profitable very shortly after it opened. “We have a lot of ideas to help us grow,” says Ed, while Chrystie adds, “and we intend to continue to use SCORE as our sounding board and advisor on how to make these ideas succeed.”

Olive Bar