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Grace Kee

Written by Liz Hodges

Grace Kee has some great advice that I’m sure all of us can take to heart. And it goes something like this: to be successful, you can’t pay attention to the nay-sayers. You know who we’re talking about. We all have them in our lives, whether they be family members, friends, or new acquaintances at a cocktail party. And they have a million little reasons your new business idea, venture or ongoing project just can’t quite hack it. And sure, most of them do mean well. But you can’t let them get you down. Grace says that what you have to do is actually use their negativity to fuel your desire for success. You have to prove them wrong, and if you stick with it you will.

Born in South Korea and raised in Memphis and Southern California, Grace landed in Santa Cruz in 2014. Her husband had lived here in his 20s and the draw of the beach and ocean brought them down from the Bay Area. Post-separation with two daughters, Grace had to come up with not just a plan B, but a C (and D). Between teaching English to International students at San Jose State and becoming a consultant for Rodan and Fields, Grace managed to get two friends to go in on a start-up with her.

Her idea came to her back in 2015, in the middle of our drought. She was thinking ways to save water, and reflected back to her time in South Korea (she had moved back for eight years in her thirties). With her oldest just born, her hands were always full and she enjoyed being able to turn water on with a step of her foot rather than having to turn a tap with her hand, as we do here. Then it dawned on her that this was not only a convenience and a sanitary advantage, but could also be a great way to save water.

Thus ecopedal was born, a hands-free appliance that turns water on and off with one step of the foot. Now several years in the works, it’s ready to launch. You can find out more on their facebook page @ecopedalcalifornia, or go to http://www.ecopedal.com/. There may even be future opportunities to try the pedal in-home for free!

Grace found out about the Socialites a couple years ago at an event while representing Rodan and Fields, and was at our Little Black Dress event just last fall, so some of you may remember her. When she’s not wearing one of her many hats (which isn’t often), Grace likes to do yoga, and she recently picked up a new emerging skill—hula hooping! She says, “It came into my life out of left field.” She’s only been at it for about a month, but we hope to see her hooping it up at a future event (wink).

All kidding aside, Grace is woman of the week for the spirit, strength and determination she embodies. She knows what it’s like to be crushed and get discouraged at times (as we all do), and if she hadn’t held on to her vision it would have been easy for her to quit. But she says to surround yourself with positive people and energy and to pay attention to your gut. If you listen to your instincts, you can’t go wrong. “What you know to be true in your heart, that’s what you’ve got to go with.”

Thanks for the encouragement and words of wisdom, Grace!

Extra special thank you to our blogger: Liz Hodges of  Verdant California

Alayna Nathe

Written by Liz Hodges

Whether it’s surfing, playing roller derby, running a bookkeeping business, raising children, or dancing hula, Alayna Nathe is a woman who hasn’t half-assed things in her life. Now a Nerium representative, she isn’t afraid to think outside the box and encourage others to do the same. Like most of us committed to escaping the rat-race and the typical 9-5, she’s accustomed to the entrepreneurial juggling act (in addition to being a single mom).

Alayna literally escaped to Santa Cruz from Palo Alto the day she graduated high school. She began surfing professionally and opened Paradise Surf Shop in ‘97. Then she continued her entrepreneurial lifestyle after she got married and had kids with her own bookkeeping business.

Being a self-proclaimed sun worshipper and professional surfer, Alayna was hooked when a friend handed her some Nerium skin care samples and she began to notice her skin getting healthier. So although she never thought home-based sales would be her thing, a little over three years ago she started selling Nerium herself. “It’s changed my life,” she says. Because she really believes in the products, she’s good at it. And because of her business background she knows that it takes time and steady effort to make money.

She advises that the reason home-based sales don’t work for many people is that they try something for a little bit, don’t make enough money right away, and quit. But she says it’s just like any other business, if you build it consistently with belief, in time it will grow—and the sky’s the limit.

Alayna is big on community, and she enjoys surrounding herself with all the Santa Cruz women who are creating the lives of their dreams. She’s happy to attend events to network and table. It was at one such event that she met Monica and fell in love with her mission of joining women together in support of each other through the Santa Cruz Socialites. “I’m a massive advocate of women in business… I want them to know that they can create anything they want for themselves.”

Dedicated to being active and fit, Alayna still surfs contests—in fact, she has one this weekend! She loves teaching other women to surf and is active in doing so. She also played roller derby and was a Santa Cruz Derby Girl up until a few years ago. And as if that’s not impressive enough, now she’s studying to be a performing Hula dancer with Te Hau Nui! Her mom is from Hawaii, and Alayna has always had a passion for the Hawaiian culture.

For her dedication to personal development, community, family, women and health, we thank Alayna. Her passion is contagious, and she would like to encourage anyone who is interested in taking a deeper look starting a home-based business to reach out to her. You don’t even need any experience to start. “Anyone can do this,” she says. Nerium has really opened the world up to her, and they are expanding into health and wellness with a release that focuses on mitochondrial health coming up on May first. So check it out, and while you’re at it say congratulations to our Woman of the Week, Alayna Nathe!

Visit her website: Alayna Nathe you can also contact Alayna by phone or email: 831.325.9650 realbeautyrealchange@gmail.com

We invite you to check out Alayna’s Women in Business Directory listing

Special thank you to our fabulous blogger: Liz Hodges of Verdant California 

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!


Thank you to our fabulous blogger: Jessica Johnson