Small Business: A lot to like about being in Mukilteo

Recently, Mukilteo was named one of the top 10 places to live by Money Magazine. According to Money’s list of America’s best small towns, Mukilteo benefits from the Seattle area’s diverse job market, including high tech, aerospace and retail pioneers Amazon and Drugstore.com.

We thought it would be interesting to talk with a couple of business owners who chose to locate their businesses in Mukilteo to see if there were any correlations between living in a top 10 town and running a business there.

We spoke with Billee Jo and John Winskowski, owners of Wine 101 — The Gathering Place, which has been open 18 months. We also caught up with and Holly and John Carey, owners of John’s Auto Glass Unlimited, a mobile glass replacement service they started 20 years ago.

Why Mukilteo?

The Winskowskis considered several locations in north Snohomish County for their business. While working on their business plan, they discovered that Mukileo had the best demographics for their business. Mukilteo is somewhat densely populated and has strong average household earnings, along with light industry that supports Boeing and a diverse tourism niche and locals interested in wine culture.

The location they chose has large windows facing Harbor Pointe Boulevard and just felt right when they saw it. The location was perfect for all of the elements they wanted to include in their business: wine education, wine tasting, a wine club and a true gathering place for their customers.

The Careys moved to Mukilteo 20 years ago because of the quality and value of homes and schools. They started their business when their children were young. Holly Carey remembers balancing the start of their business and having two brand-new babies to care for.

The advantage of initially running the business from their home was so that she could take care of the children while helping run the business. Once the kids started school, they got a shop in Mukilteo to support their growing business. The Careys also became very involved with the local community and sponsored Boys &Girls Club events along with Mukilteo Little League and Junior Football teams.

What’s been your biggest challenge in the first year of business? How have you overcome those challenges?

The Winskowskis believe the biggest challenge is to have a viable business plan compatible with your interests and what your heart says. In addition, they wanted to operate a wine club and needed a retail license. They have two businesses under one roof. In order to sell wine by the glass you have to serve food, so the business grew naturally. Getting the appropriate state licenses were the biggest challenge for these entrepreneurs.

The Careys’ biggest challenge was balancing life with young children and a new business to run. Once they became involved with the community through sports, they began to see their business grow, and they enjoyed taking good care of their customers who were also neighbors and friends. Eventually the shop grew from auto glass replacement and repairs to include referral auto body repair services.

What are the advantages to doing business in Mukilteo?

Billee Jo Winskowski said she believes the biggest advantage has been the community support. In addition, they belong to the Mukilteo and South Snohomish County chambers of commerce. The Winskowskis appreciate the networking at chamber meetings and believe that advice and experience from other business owners have been crucial to their success.

The Careys recently joined the Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce and believe the sense of community in Mukilteo and doing business with people you know from the community strengthens the area’s economic development. A lot of people stop by the shop just to visit — just like you’d expect in a small town.

Advice to other entrepreneurs looking to locate in Mukilteo or Snohomish County:

Winskowskis noted that you don’t have to go to Everett or Seattle for quality entertainment. You can walk all over Mukilteo, and many of their customers walk to the Wine 101 location.

Billee Jo Winskowski recommends preparing a thorough business plan.

“Figure out how much you need to pay your bills and every single thing it will take to run your business. You have to keep studying and asking questions. Our initial business plan was about 30 pages long with all the details in place. Demographics are crucial along with target niches, strategic plans and goals,” she said.

The Careys believe you must be ready to embrace change. Business owners must work hard and put in long hours to keep your customers satisfied.

“Make the customers happy that they came to your business, because they have the choice to go anywhere they want,” Holly Carey advised. “First impressions are also crucial — make sure your business is clean, organized, and inviting. Most importantly, be friendly and offer a level of service that your customers cannot get anywhere else. Treat them like friends, because they are.”

Pat Sisneros is the Vice President of College Services at Everett Community College. Lynne Munoz is Director for the School of Business Design. Please send your comments to entrepreneurship@everettcc.edu.

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