Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 129 – Gaby Villa, High School Entrepreneur

Today, my guest is Gaby Villa, a student from the Patino School of Entrepreneurship. Patino develops entrepreneurial skills through a project-based curriculum.

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Over the last decade the market research industry has been disrupted. Our largest agencies are struggling to keep up as their customers turn to newer, faster and cheaper data sources. Now we are on the edge of yet another market shift. Now is the time for us to reassert ourselves as the rudder of the brands we love. Thank you for tuning in to the Happy Market Research Podcast where we are charting the path for the future of market researchers and businesses. Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Today my guest is Gaby Villa, a student at the Patiño School of Entrepreneurship. Patiño developed entrepreneurial skills through a project-based curriculum. Gaby, thank you are much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Thank you for having me.


It’s an absolute privilege. You are our very first high school student that we’ve had on the show.


That’s very cool. I’m excited.


[laughter] I am too. I am too. Well maybe you can tell us a little bit about where you’ve grown up.


Okay, so I grew up on the east side of Fresno in Callowell with my two grandparents and my dad. Both my parents worked at the time, but they were divorced. So I mainly stayed with my grandparents; so I was raised by my grandparents and grew up there, learned Spanish as my first language. As I was going to school, I had to learn English and adjust to all the different standards that they had.


Yeah, no kidding. So, growing up with your grandparents… I spent quite a bit of time with my grandparents growing up too. They had a really small – I want to say – five-acre farm. We did some produce-to- farmers’-market – you know what I mean – like vegetables and whatnot. Saturdays were farmers market for us. Back then, it was fun. Do you guys do anything like that growing up?


Well, my grandpa had his own little garden in the back and a bunch of trees. So we would attend to those, and then we did the cherry auctions as well.


Cherry auctions… That’s nice. Now I don’t remember. Is there a cherry auction locally?


Yeah, the swap meet. The cherry auctions in Fresno, yeah.


Totally. I forgot about that. That’s years back for me though because I’m old. I remember that now. So, Patiño School of Entrepreneurship, it starts from 10th grade and goes through 12th. Most high schools are 9th through 12th. Where did you go to 9th grade?


I went to actually Hoover High.


Hoover High. Nice. Knights, I think, right? No?




Patriot, patriots. Why the change to Patiño?


Well, I got into a lot of trouble at Hoover. So going from my middle school to Hoover, it wasn’t very challenging because I went to Computech.


Just for clarity for our listeners because most of them aren’t going to have the point of reference. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about Computech.


So Computech was a gate program, a middle school that you had to get accepted into. And they had very high standards. It was all gate programs. It was a very hard school to get into. You had to have like pretty much straight A’s throughout elementary and have like good citizenship and stuff like that. So you had to work hard on your studies going there. And it was very hard. If you ended up with straight A’s at Computech, then you did earn it because the curriculum was hard. There were core classes. And then you had eight classes, and you went from 7:15 to 3 o’clock every day. And then we had late starts on Thursdays where we started at 9.


Yeah, it’s not like a grade-on-the-curve kind of environment.


No, we wore uniforms. So everybody looked the same pretty much. We all wore uniforms, certain standards of hair and dress and everything.


But a public school. So free, as long as you qualified to get in that. And Patiño is free as well. So, you transitioned from middle school into high school – Hoover High. Not a great fit. It sounds like largely because not very challenging.


I would get bored in class because I’d finish all the work in time. So I wouldn’t have nothing to do. My teachers couldn’t give me the work for the next day, so I would just sit there bored. I got into some trouble. So, I was like, “Yeah, I don’t this is going to work.” So Patiño came to do a presentation at our school. I was interested because they have computer, basically computer science. They offer you programming, and that’s what I was into. I wanted to go into computer science. So I figured, “Oh, this could work for me.” I could see this going somewhere. So I decided to transfer.


Did you have any friends that you transferred with?


I had one or two, yeah.


So, you guys kind of like created this little group and said, “Let’s go to Patiño.”


Yes, pretty much, yeah.


So, we’re in the room today with three other students from Patiño. What’s your connection with these ladies?


Well, I actually met them my sophomore year. We all had the same class schedule for sophomore year and then from there, we ended up on the same business team our junior year. So from there, our relationship has grown into pretty much our own little family.


Love it! Tenth grade you transfer in, and you build relationships, it sounds like pretty quickly. Tell us a little bit about Patiño’s school. Again, remember our listeners have never heard the name before.


Patiño is an entrepreneurship school. It first started off with 10th through 12th, but this year is actually the first year where they accepted freshmen. So now they have a freshman class; so now we have all four classes. They offer business-based classes to where everything pretty much connects into the real world. Your business is that you create your junior year. Your sophomore year, you get into like project-based learning and learning how to work into groups, and how to be out there. And they show you how to pitch, what’s good, what’s not good, how to be confident when you’re up there, and how to speak. So you learn the basics, pretty much the basic skills as well but a little extra. And you get an internship with Bitwise Industries your sophomore year. And you create their social media or their websites local businesses, depending on which… either you’re in online marketing or web design. So the online marketing, you create their social their media and then with web design, you’re creating their website.


Which one did you pick?


I chose web design because I was into the whole coding thing, so I wanted to learn how to code and do websites.


Got it. And are you using WordPress or…?


Yeah, we use WordPress and also Themify and we use Code 9 sometimes and I think it’s Cloud 9 or something like that.


OK, what’s the code 9?


Code 9 is where you code it out yourself. You actually do all the coding.


You actually get into the… I call it shell because I’m old. Yeah, that kind of thing. That’s really cool, that’s really cool! Most of the people that are your age are they doing… do you mind if I ask you how old you are?


I’m seventeen.


Seventeen. So you’re a junior now or senior?




So this is this is your last year.




So the first year – 10th grade – is about kind of building those basic communication styles, figuring out what you’re going to do. Is that when you formulate a business?


No, that is your junior year. At end of your sophomore year, they do a whole announcement of who is in your actual junior team. Then your junior year is when you figure out what you want to do for your business.


And then your senior year…


You continue your business unless your business doesn’t do as well as you expected. So you either can break apart or start a new business with the same people.


So is the business like a real business or is it like a school exercise? In other words, is there anybody buying anything?


Yes, actually, if your business does really well, you can actually make profit off of your business. If you are able to market well and have a good base and a good idea, you’re able to. And you can get funding and investment pretty much.


All in high school.


All in high school.


I think about the fast-forwards that would have given me in life just from a learning perspective. It’s huge; it’s absolutely mind-boggling. So are there any seniors that you are aware of who have actually have made money?


Our business actually is the top business in our school currently with the most money being made.


[Laughter] Congratulations, congratulations. So, maybe tell us a little bit about your business.


My business is Cultacks. And Cultacks – we came up with two words. We put them together. It’s culture and snacks. We put those together and came up with Cultacks. What we do is… we have three different size boxes we offer. And in each box, you get multicultural snacks. So our largest box is a multicultural snack box of your choosing. So you have the option between three to four different cultures, but we choose the snacks. We have our small/medium one, which is just a single culture. So it’s just the one, and you get to choose which one you want and that’s 8 to 10 items. Then we have our mini one, which is basically a smaller version of our multiple one. But instead you get two big snacks and then the rest are kind of small. Then with each snack, you get the historical facts of each snack that is provided in the box.


So where are you buying the snacks?


We buy them locally. So we look into local vendors to see what is the best price and where we can find them. And we also do it based off of if we can find the information of those snacks because we want to make sure our customers receive the facts.


So you’re providing an information sheet along with snacks.




You didn’t happen to bring a snack box, did you?


No, not today. Sorry.


Oh, that’s cold-blooded. [Laughter]


Ah, we do have pictures of our products if you’d like to see one.


Yeah, yeah, you know what we’ll do: we’ll put those up on the website, on the show notes. And then a link to them on the show notes as well as a link to your website. So, you said you’re selling stuff. Are you selling stuff to…? Obviously, your parents are excited about this. Family members are excited, right? Are you also selling online?


Yes, we actually have a full website running to where you are able to purchase a website, and it be delivered to you.


How are you marketing it?


We go around school; we do a bunch of social media posts, and we’re looking to outsource more. And we’re actually looking into going to local businesses, like doctor offices or something or even wedding planners as little gifts and stuff like that and also florists just to put our name out there. Then make business cards as we can and we do flyers as well.


I love the hustle, I love the hustle! Where are you getting the most customers from?


So far, it’s been our own family and our teachers in school. The staff they support us and buy a box whenever we do a sale, or they try to buy a box whenever they can.


Have you guys tried any like – I don’t know – give-away type options or maybe have two-for-one on Friday or something like that? Promotional opportunities?


Well, we actually teamed up with another senior team for an event that we did. So it was if you bought a Cultack box from us for $15, then you received a free milkshake.




So we did that with them. Then currently at our school, we’re doing a drawing competition for our boxes because our boxes are so far just white. So we’re looking for new ideas to design them with. So we did a competition within the school where, if you can design one of our boxes and we like the idea and you win, then you can win our largest box and a free T-shirt.


That’s pretty big. I like that you’re keeping it in the school. Are you using social media to market?


Yes, we have SnapChat. I mean not SnapChat. We have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


No Pinterest?


No, we haven’t looked into that yet.


I mean it feels like you’re probably… So Pinterest could be really interesting for you. There’s a local entrepreneur, started a company called Creative Love, which is date-in-a-box basically. When you guys are older, get into serious relationships, married, whatever, dating with your spouse becomes a lot less exciting than it was in the early days. So what this does is basically gives you a… it’s date-in-a-box. So it’s something you’re not expecting. You take it to wherever you’re going to eat dinner. Open it up and it gives you guided conversations, questions to ask, activities to do – that kind of thing. It’s really interesting. But the reason I bring it up is because his number 1 sales channel has actually been blogs. So bloggers that have identified their content with relationships, they will do a product review. Then on that product review, they’ll give the link to their website. The second most impactful way that they’re getting customers is through Pinterest. And all they do is that they open up the box and add these attractive photographs of the content of the box, along with the information about it, so that consumers know what to expect. And they’re getting a lot of eyeballs. You know it’s like if you know what you want, you go to Google but, if you don’t know what you want, you go to Pinterest. And that’s kind of the mind space. Talk about your experience with each one of the platforms. Start with Twitter.


So for Twitter, it’s not very active, but we do try to keep up because we’re trying to figure out how to promote our business on there as well as keep it trendy for the students or for the people that look at it so that they can reshare it and repost. We use a lot of hashtags to get noticed more. So we try to make it to where people are understandable, but we still get our business across to the point of what we do. And then we try to keep it like teenage-friendly…




…so that we can target that audience as well.


Yeah, for sure, right? I mean that’s where all the people that are popular in your generation or, in terms of who your target market is… I would really think about jumping in on some of the conversations. So I post on Twitter. That’s my number 1 social platform, and it has been. I’ve been on it since 2007. Yeah, I’m old. You were… anyways. But Twitter for me has been very successful in terms of when I engage with other people’s content. It’s less successful for me when I just post stuff, right? What I’ve found is that the consumer wants to hear about themselves – they don’t want to hear about me as it turns out as interesting as I think I am. And so, if I can turn it around and say, “Wow, I really like that post. That’s interesting or whatever,” figure out how I can add value to the conversation, then my level of engagement, the number of people who are responding to me really increases. Just kind of a cool, little hack. You might want to think about that, especially if there’s people that you’ve identified – you know people who are posting that are in your target market, right? So, who do you think is your target market?


So far we, honestly, don’t have one because we want to target everybody because our boxes are honestly for anybody because if you want to try something new…


Because the price points are low enough?


So, if you want to try something new, then you have the opportunity to try something new. Or, if you do know the snacks, but you want to learn something about it, then you have that education behind it, you have the fun. And then we also use recycled paper at the bottom of our boxes, so it’s friendly, it’s earth-friendly so we’re not wasting any other paper. And then we just try new things. We do certain holidays. So we target the holidays and stuff like that. So we pretty much target anybody that wants to try new things, that likes to travel but can’t travel. So we bring it to you so you have that experience without having to go out there if you can’t.


Very cool. I like that cultural exposure, right? I would think like moms that have not maybe really young kids maybe but kids that are old enough – post 1st through 4th grade, could be a good target market. You know they’ve got their children for a long period of time, so they could actually go on the internet, learn about a particular area, and then taste the food of that culture which would make it more like product… more whole experience for the kids. Every kid is going to be like, “Eww, it’s not like chicken nuggets,” but still, right? What about Facebook and Instagram? How are you using them?


Facebook: we do post. That one is kind of more targeted to more parents because a lot of the older generation likes to use Facebook. We try to target them and do posts to where they’re related to it. And we try to make it to where it seems like it’s for the kids even though it’s snacks. But the education behind it, we try to promote that to where you learn and you’re learning something new and it’s something interesting that the kids can find because, as they’re eating it, they can read the back of the snack or they can read the paper and figure it out where it’s from, how the culture uses it or what it does or where it started from.


Thanks, and Instagram?


Instagram? That is pretty much our main social media platform that we try to use. We feel like everybody is on there for the most part whether it be moms, teenagers, or parents, or whoever it is, or local businesses themselves. So we try to create posts of just ourselves or of our boxes or giving them like fun facts of the day or something like that or “Have a good day” so that way we’re just out there. And we always have the link to our website just in case they want to order. And then we tell them about our specials and stuff like that.


Have you tried using SnapChat at all?


We were going to do it but then we realized SnapChat really isn’t going to work for us unless we get people to add us. But we’re not that popular to where people are like, “Oh, let’s add them on SnapChat and see what they do in their daily lives.” That’s what SnapChat is mainly for; so, we figured that it really won’t work for us. We figured that if we stick to the normal platforms, it’ll be easier for us to promote ourselves.


Got it. It’s really tricky, right? SnapChat is this funny spot. My favorite feature of SnapChat is the map – the heat map – that they have where you identify activities that are happening and like can zoom in to Australia and see what they’re doing. That looks like so fun. Let’s go do that. Or even around Fresno, it’s kind of cool. The other day… all my kids have SnapChat, and I got a lot of kids. We were all like together. So I got on there. At the end of the day, we park our phones in the same spot in the kitchen. So, everyone has gone to sleep at this point. And I look and everybody’s SnapChat accounts are active still. So you actually saw our little bitmojis that are all stacked up together. It’s super cool!


It’s so cool! It forms its own circle for each little person. Or, if you’re in the car and they’re all together and then it shows you moving in the car. Or if you have earphones that show your little music on…


It’s so cool. I love that. Anyway, that’s me. That’s amazing. Although I will tell you that I don’t like the way of growing the account because I just haven’t figured out how to do that, you know. That’s kind of the harder part. Again, I’m not on Snap. That’s not my primary; that’s my least favorite platform. I just like it for certain aspects, but I’m trying, I’m trying.


Everybody does.


Surveys. Have you guys done any customer satisfaction or anything like that? Feedback on your boxes?


Yes, the first time that we did an MVP, which is our Minimum Viable Product, of our boxes, after that, we did do a survey to figure out what our customers liked and what they didn’t like. We did receive a lot of feedback, and it was good because from there we were able to adjust our boxes to fit them and figure out what worked best.


What platform did you use to do these surveys? Was it an online survey or did you just call people and ask them questions?


No, we went around school because that’s where pretty much we sold our boxes to. So, if you purchased a box, then we would ask if you could take the survey because we asked for email when you first ordered the box. At first, we were using Google forms to order boxes. So we asked for your name and email and then from there we sent out the survey to figure out what you liked best or if you had any recommendations or comments. And then from there the next time we did it, we adjusted it.


Got it. So you used Google forms for the survey part of it in the end. That makes perfect sense to me. I actually used Google forms for some basic surveys that I did back in September of last year for the first time. And it was crazy easy.


Yeah, it’s really easy: just drop and drag.


Yeah, it was unreal actually. And then I switched over to SurveyMonkey just cause it had a little more – I don’t know – power to it I guess. And it’s a free tool too. So there’s that if you think about continuing your customer satisfaction journey. Yeah, for sure. In fact, I’ve got four businesses that are coming in today to talk to me about how to do customer satisfaction, using SurveyMonkey – which is kind of funny too.




I know. [laughter] There you go. So, what were some of the biggest challenges of high school students today?


For like Patiño or like high school in general?


For Patiño, sure. Yes, for Patiño.


Well, for Patiño, I think it’s actually putting yourself out there and making those new friends because for Patiño, you’re coming from all different high schools from your freshman year. (Well, for our class.) So it’s new people; not all your friends transferred; and it’s different schools. So you have to figure out how to put yourself out there, make those friends, get used to working in groups because your sophomore year, they do have you doing a lot of group-based projects. So, if you don’t know them, then you’re not going to get the work done because it’s uncomfortable. But you have to get over that and overcome that fear of not wanting to talk to new people. Also getting over the fear of standing up and presenting to people cause that is one of the major things that they do do there. So that would be one of the challenges: it’s pretty much overcoming your own fears, cause a lot of people are scared to go up to new people, make new friends.


A hundred percent.


Cause they don’t know them. They’re used to being just this little group with other people so now it’s a whole new environment, a whole new atmosphere. The desks aren’t even normal high school desks; we have rolling chairs, moving tables; you can write all over the boards because it’s pretty much all white board. So it’s new, and we have TV’s, tablets – like most high schools don’t have that.


Right. So it’s still set up old school in most high schools, right? Where you got a teacher up front, and there are rows of desks.


Yes, exactly.


Exactly. This is completely different where the desks are really set up like in an office environment where you have these… it’s almost like a team environment, right? Where you have these – they’re not quite circles – but they’re roundish. And then the chairs sit around it. And everybody got these large monitors that are on the tables. Thank you. That’s right. Very unusual but seems like a fun environment.


Yes, it is. Once you get past the whole being scared thing, you really start to enjoy the environment and realize how it is different and how it’s way better than a normal high school cause you don’t have to deal with the normal high school issues. So it is kind of easier once you get past that fear.


Do you think it’s you don’t have to deal with the normal high school issues or do you think it just helps you, it gives you the skills to deal quickly with the stupid things?


I think it helps you easier, like it’s quickly to deal with them cause we obviously still do have the normal high school issues. I mean any high school does, whether you’re a special high school or a regular high school, you still have them. But I think Patiño gives you those skills to pretty much grow up more to where you’re able to face those problems and issues faster and quicker, and you’re much more mature about it.


Love it! Absolutely love it! So, what do you like about being an entrepreneur?


I like the fact that you can… you pretty much have your own business; you run it yourself. You make your own choices; you don’t have someone telling you what to do. And since it’s tied into school work, for us seniors they give us our assignments and then WE have to make the time to do them. So they’re not sitting here and reminding you and forcing you to do it. So, if you don’t do it, then you don’t get it done. So that is up to you. So you have more freedom, and you have more responsibilities so you feel like you’re actually in high school, in life. You’re not like being forced in sitting down and stuff like that.


Have you figured out… Are you going to go to college?






I haven’t actually looked into yet but…


Where do you want to go?


My dream school is UC-Berkeley, but I’m not sure. But that is my dream school. But I want a double major, is what I actually really want to do.




I want a double major in computer science and mathematics with my teaching degree, to teach high school.


Awesome. You can use me as a reference if you want for what that’s worth.


Ah, thank you.


And probably, some of our listeners will reach out too.


Thank you.


So, what is the URL of your product? Do you know offhand? Sorry, the website.


Oh, yeah. It’s www.cultacks.com. So how you spell “Cultacks” is



Cultacks. Cultacks. Got it.




My guest today has been Gaby Villa from Patiño School of Entrepreneurship. Gaby, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Thank you for having me.


And thank you to everyone who has subscribed to our show. If you find value in these episodes, we would love, appreciate greatly your ratings on Apple podcast. Please feel free to share this. If you’re interested in finding out information or buying the products we described today that are created by Gaby and her team at Patiño School of Entrepreneurship, feel free to look them up online, reach out on social, or check the show notes. Have a great day!


Next time on Happy Market Research, I’ll be interviewing Tim Peacock, COO of Affectiva. There’s quite a bit of value inside of this. My favorite parts are his centric mentality around partnership and ideating with customers, both in the early days and in late stages of an organization’s development. I hope you’ll tune in.