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Marci Prolo

Written by Liz Hodges

Take a gander at our Woman of the Week this week, Marci Prolo of Goose’s Goodies! Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she’s a fourth generation local. Although she went to college in Fresno, lived in Sacramento, and spent over two years living in Spain, where she started a language program at a preschool just outside of Madrid, there’s just something about the mountains and ocean that feels like, well, home.

Family traditions have always been important to Marci, especially so because she has such a large family here. They enjoy getting together to celebrate holidays and special events, and of course, at the end of every meal the dessert comes out. So she started making a traditional toffee for these desserts from a family recipe, then tweaked it to make it her own, adding a variety of different flavors and ingredients each time.

When she shared her treats, all the varieties meant that there was something special for everyone. She loved how different flavors brought back childhood memories for each person, sparking reminiscing and storytelling. People kept telling her, “You gotta get this out there!” And she did.

In the beginning, she was renting kitchen space and getting her product out there while working as a preschool teacher. But four years ago, she opened her own kitchen in Seabright and quit teaching. She sells mostly online and at festivals, but a few local shops carry her goodies. Although Marci wants to grow, she doesn’t want her treats just hanging out there on every corner. Her tagline is “no one bite is alike,” and she’s dedicated to keeping her toffee specialty and artisanal.

Marci’s favorite part of running Goose’s Goodies? Being creative and coming up with new flavor combinations.

The Santa Cruz community has been a huge part of Marci’s business success. Small banks were supportive with lending and the Cabrillo College Small Business Development Program helped immensely. The biggest thing has been getting her name out there, and she likes to contribute back to her community. Last January, Marci held a Santa Cruz Socialites event at her kitchen, complete with vision-boarding. She met our founder, Monica Karst, at a community event and sees her regularly out and about.

When she isn’t busy doing the entrepreneurial bustle, Marci enjoys power pilates, crossfit, and walking along West Cliff. Her dream is to travel around the world, visiting every country. “I think it’s important that we know about different cultures—the world is so small and we’re really not that different.”

Check out Goose’s Goodies online for in town pick-up, corporate gifts, weddings, parties and toffee platters. Marci will also be the Bargetto Art and Wine Festival in July and the Capitola Art and Wine Festival in September.

Visit her website: goosesgoodies.com

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California 

Michelle Nicely

Written by Jessica Johnson

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Michelle Nicely knew early on she wanted to live on the Central Coast, ” I have written about and manifested living here since I was about 15,” she said. It was her early exposure to books about “far out” people and places published by Berkeley Press that intrigued her and set her soul on a journey from the heart of Texas to the heart of the Central Coast.

Please join Santa Cruz Socialites in congratulating our Woman of the Week – the artist Michelle Nicely.

Michelle’s first trip to California came at the age of 16, when she went to Long Beach for a co-worker’s wedding. She stayed for three weeks, crashing at a friend’s place and, as she puts it, “living on peanut butter and jelly until my $120 ran out.”

Michelle returned home to Texas and went on to earn her MFA and a certification in special education from the University of Texas. A painter from an early age as well as a talented photographer, Michelle moved to Los Angeles after college with dreams of making a living by photographing movie stars’ children. However, with her painting background, she quickly discovered she could earn a good living as a freelance painter on movie sets.

Eventually, she worked her way up to Art Director and Production Designer roles and was admitted into the Art Director’s Guild. Her work took her all over the world and even to Dharamsala for a documentary about the Dalai Lama – whom she met and received a blessing from.

Michelle also found success working on music videos. In fact, a video she worked on with the Backstreet Boys won an MTV Award as Best Music Video in 1999. However successful she was, she was still in LA, and the Fates had something else in mind for her. Unfortunately, it involved broken bones.

“I fell off a ladder and crushed my left foot,” she recalled. The forced extended hiatus from Hollywood led her to the Monterey Bay to follow her dream to open an art gallery. While setting up the gallery in Big Sur she taught Special Education in Monterey.  Some of her teaching friends decided to set her up on a blind date. Michelle had a Grateful Dead sticker on her luxury car and Daniel had one on his, so they must be a good match, reasoned her friends.

They were right.

Dan had lived in Santa Cruz since 1995 and sang its praises to Michelle, finally convincing her to move to “this really groovy place with lots of sun.” That was 13 years and two children ago.

Today, Michelle’s life is all about creating, teaching, and researching. She is a painter, writer and a “doer.” Deeply proud of the life she and Dan have created for their family, she still blushes when she talks about her husband. “I have a wonderful husband that I adore, and we have a son and daughter that envelop us,” she shared. “I put my family first in all my choices, they are the creative force for my actions.”

Michelle has some exciting projects in the works, including a recent gig as the Art Director for a Public Service Announcement for Monterey called “Roll with the Tide” that will soon be airing nationally. She has also recently been contacted about working on a movie slated to film in Pacific Grove.

Another project Michelle is excited about is opening a retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Situated on three acres, the center will be available for private bookings starting this summer. The retreat is a logical extension of her work as a creator of communities that bring people together in the spirit of growth and discovery. “I really enjoy connecting people,” she shared.

In talking with Michelle, it is abundantly clear she is super passionate about living life at “120%” – her vibration is high and she thrives on creating art, connection, and joy. Whether through her personal artwork, creating murals with other artists, or decorating her family’s downtown B & B, Michelle Nicely is an active participant in Santa Cruz Socialites events and believes in supporting women and the community with “a little love and sophistication thrown into the mix!”

Congratulations, Michelle Nicely, we are so happy you followed your heart to Santa Cruz and are proud to honor you as our Woman of the Week!

www.MichelleNicely.com

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson

Sara Isenberg

Written by Santa Cruz Socialites

Photo Credit: Dan Coyro

Sara Isenberg

Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in Santa Cruz?

I grew up in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Corvallis, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon and working a six-month season for the U. S. Forest Service, a friend who had recently moved from Eugene to Santa Cruz encouraged me to visit because she thought I might like living here. The rest is history, as they say. Aside from one year in San Diego after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, I’ve lived in Santa Cruz ever since.

You have a serious an entrepreneurial streak. Is this recent, or throughout your career? And is this out of preference, necessity or both?

Despite what I’m doing now as founder and publisher of Santa Cruz Tech Beat (http://santacruztechbeat.com), I would not call myself entrepreneurial by nature. For the first 20 years of my tech career, I worked at software companies as an employee. The switch to self-employment was accidental. After my 13-year stint at SCO (Santa Cruz Operation) ended, I didn’t want to commute over the hill, and two local web development companies each wanted to hire me on a part-time consulting basis, and thus began my consulting career. One of the companies was Quiddities, founded and run by Margaret Rosas, and the other was Monarch Media, founded and run by Claire Schneeberger. Both are still very active in the local tech scene. I love the flexibility of being self-employed so it’s hard to imagine a change now.

How long have you been in tech, and how did you choose your current role?

I’ve been in tech since graduating from UCSC with a degree in Computer Science. Publishing Santa Cruz Tech Beat — my current role — is a big switch from anything I’ve done in the past. I founded Santa Cruz Tech Beat in 2013 in part because my son was about to leave for college and I was open to sinking my teeth into a new project. Then-mayor Hilary Bryant and Margaret Rosas (who now works at Looker) were both very encouraging. I didn’t realize at the time that SCTB would play such a big role in my professional life and in the community.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you addressed them?

Before launching Santa Cruz Tech Beat, my professional focus — in broad brush strokes — was to fulfill the requests of any given boss or client, be it programming, project management, account management, etc. I wasn’t involved in directing the fate of the company or raising funds. With SCTB, I wear all of the hats! This means I’m not only making editorial choices and publishing articles on the website, I’m responsible for every decision and, in particular, for finding funding, my biggest challenge (most likely because I hadn’t done it before). I’m always on the lookout for partners (aka sponsors) because that is SCTB’s only source of support.

What are you passionate about, both personally and professionally?

Professionally, it’s very gratifying to be completely engaged in our local professional community. I used to get that kind of juice from being part of a team when I worked at companies. Now I get it from being a member of the local tech ecosystem. It’s very supportive.

Personally, I’m passionate about tennis and tango. I’ve been playing tennis for several decades, and it never ceases to amaze me how much I enjoy it. Tango is just a few years new for me, but I love it and it has become a big part of my life. Both require complete focus and being in the moment. And, I’m still passionate about being a mom, even though my son is graduating from college this May.

What do you consider to be your most successful projects (define “projects” however you’d like), and why?

My son. Being a parent trumps (forgive me) everything else.

How does the community play a role in the arc of your career?

Santa Cruz Tech Beat exists only because the region (Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties) want it and support it! I am very connected to a variety of organizations, including city and county offices, universities and colleges, startups, established businesses, nonprofits, and angels in the Central Coast region.

What do you do when you aren’t at your day job?

Tennis, tango, yoga, swimming, eating dark chocolate, and spending time with friends.

What skills are vital to your success?

I’ve always been a bit of a news junkie so that helps. Being organized, community minded, and wanting to tell other people’s stories helps. Knowledge of WordPress and social media helps, too. The most important thing has been being in the thick of the community, working at NextSpace, attending the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, etc.

Any advice for others thinking of a similar career?

Don’t do it for the money. Do it because it’s engaging, interesting, and valuable to the community.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

I like to eat good dark chocolate in the morning before getting out of bed. My sweetie likes this, too.

What’s next for you? What’s on the horizon?

I’m not sure.

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Carrie Kingsley 

Kimberly Ramirez

Written by Jessica Johnson

In every neighborhood, the corner store is the hub – the spot for the latest gossip, late night ice-cream runs and that essential cup of morning joe. Deke’s Market on 7th Avenue is all that – and more. What makes Deke’s special is the family behind the business and this week, Santa Cruz Socialites is happy to introduce you to our Woman of the Week, , one of the dedicated partners behind the popular market.

After growing up in Fresno, Kimberly put herself through school at Fresno State University, ultimately earning her BS in Mathematics. Post-graduation she landed in the Bay Area at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space. “My first job out of college was designing satellite systems test programs for the department of defense,“ she recalled.

An education wasn’t all she got while at Fresno State, she also became close with Deke Ramirez, the man who would eventually become her husband. “We worked at the same restaurant in college,” Kim shared. “We would study together, graduated at the same time, and even moved to the Bay Area together.”

However, ultimately the fast-paced urban life didn’t suit her, and after frequently visiting her mother – who had moved to Santa Cruz – she fell in love with the town. She and Deke moved here and were married on the cliffs in La Selva Beach in 2000. “If I could live anywhere I would stay right here in Santa Cruz,” she said. “I love the small-town atmosphere, the people and the natural beauty. We hope to retire here; if at all possible.”

Kim and Deke went on to have two beautiful daughters, Jayden who is now 12 and 7-year-old Taylor. “My children are my inspiration,” said Ramirez. She loves coaching their sports teams, volunteering in their classrooms, and leading the family on adventures. “I love being happy and silly and smiling all the time.”

Ramirez is super passionate about life and always on the go. Between her kids, her work as an IT Project Manager for the City of Santa Cruz and volunteering, she is constantly busy – and likes it that way. “It feels like our girls are in every sport there is and we love spending weekends at their events and enjoying our wonderful friends,” she said.

When there is downtime, she and her family love to explore all that California has to offer, “Yosemite, Tahoe, Pismo, San Diego, San Francisco…everything is right here in California!” she said.

And yet, said Kimberly, Deke’s Market remains her family’s pride and joy. Ten years ago, she and her husband dove in head first and bought the business. “My husband and I, with no experience, took a failing business and turned it around to a true neighborhood market.  We love our customers and they love us.”

Last year, Deke’s Market and In Mah Belly Deli were awarded the Slingshot to Success Small Business Makeover Challenge which meant they won services from local businesses worth $59,000 including advertising, painting, signage, and marketing services and more.

“It was so uplifting to win the Makeover Challenge,” Kim said. “There are a lot of ups and downs owning a small neighborhood market. It has been a struggle at times, but the business is very personal to us and we really love it.”

Ramirez is quick to credit the community with their success, “The support and care that we receive every day gives us the strength to continue in the hardest of times,” she shared.

For inspiring us to persevere and smile while doing it – and for those killer deli sandwiches – we thank our Woman of the Week, Kimberly Ramirez!

Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson, JOURNALIST. BLOGGER. POET.