2012 Irish Small Biz 50 Nominees, J-L

Name: Gerry Kelly

Age: 37

Place of birth: Dublin

Business: Sonas San Francisco aka Sonas Denim

First established: January 2011

Employees: 3+

Website: http://www.sonasdenim.com

Where you live: San Francisco.

First job: Washing & Waxing Cars (12 yrs old)

What it taught me: My first job at that young age of 12, taught me persistence because I had to keep knocking on doors.

Family: My family is back home in Ireland. My mother is one of 13 from Cavan and my father in one of 11 from Dublin City Center. I have two sisters who are married with children back in Dublin. I am married to an amazing woman!

Best advice anyone ever gave you: Whatever the mind can believe and conceive, the mind can achieve.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: If you believe in it, go for it! Never, never, never give up!

The most important thing for a business success is: Customers. If you don’t have any customers, you don’t have a business.

Sonas Denim was founded by Gerry Kelly an Irish born festival enthusiast living in San Francisco since 2000. He is an entrepreneur from Dublin, Ireland with a passion for fashion. Now enter, Christine Garcia, a vegan animal rights attorney whose passion is helping animals. Together, they’ve hatched a plan that will fuse their pursuits, bringing sexy jeans to the world while saving animals at the same time. While Christine carries on her pioneering work with animals and does the administrative behind the scenes for Sonas, Gerry has dedicated the past year of his life to launching Sonas Denim, a brand new fashion label at the cutting edge of the industry. Gerry has built a cruelty free sexy fashion line from humble beginnings. The Sonas legend began when Gerry would fashion his own handmade clothing for the festivals he’d attend. The clothing ranged broadly, but his patched jeans became his signature piece and everybody’s favorite! This was the beginning of his sexy free-spirited denim brand. To provide a little more detail about his background, Gerry came to San Francisco after traveling around the world for two years. He began bartending and then got into commercial real estate for a while. All the while, Gerry attended festivals and would create his own “festival gear” to wear only a few times a year. He always received many compliments on his patchwork denim at the festivals. One day, Christine, insisted that he wear his festival patchwork jeans on a night out in the City. They were a huge hit! So many people came up to Gerry smiling and telling him how much they “dug” his jeans. People wanted to know how they could get them and if he could make a pair for them. The path to perfecting the jean was a long one. He constructed numerous samples, patterns, fittings and shows. Sonas Denim was hitting the map. After one trade show, a 70 year old fashion veteran saw a photo of Gerry in his jeans beside an article about him (in California Apparel News) and he telephoned him and said he was on to something amazing. Together, with Gerry’s vision, and Allen Chevalier’s experience, they took Sonas Denim to a new level and intricacy. Sonas wanted to remain true to its core value and still does so. The brand was derived from the spirit of festivals and celebration and the grass roots message of Sonas Denim is to encourage people to live free, and share their happiness and enjoy life. We think the story of Gerry, a festival enthusiast with no fashion background, making it to the front lines of the industry with a new message is a great one =) Our new message is about being conscious and sexy at the same time! We eventually want to open an animal sanctuary up in Marin County just north of San Francisco.

Name: Christopher J. Kozicki

Age: 45

Place of birth: Chicago, Il.

Business: Director for U.S. Government Affairs, VPS, the Vacant Property Specialists

First established: 1995

Employees: 1500 worldwide

Website: www.vpspecialists.com

Where you live: Chicago, Il.

First job: Dock worker loading trucks during college breaks.

What it taught me:  The value of hard work and learning from people who had different backgrounds than myself..

Family: Wife Siobhan and children Deirdre (13), Cormac (11), and Maeve (10).

Best advice anyone ever gave you:

My parents told me to work hard, value education, and treat others as you would want to be treated. I was also very lucky to start my career working for Commissioner John P. Daley who taught me so much.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: I would tell them to be a good listener, never stop learning and follow your passion.

The most important thing for a business success is: It helps to have a great product, surround yourself with bright and motivated people and set a vision and a plan to achieve it.

Name: Attracta Lyndon

Age: 63

Place of birth: Dublin

Business: Dooley Car Rentals

First established: Over 50 years ago in Ireland, over 25 years ago in the U.S.

Employees: 65 employees

Website: www.dooleycarrentals.com

Where you live: Colonia, NJ

First job: Air Hostess for Aer Lingus

What it taught me: Because of the constant interaction with people, I learned how to communicate effectively and read people’s expressions and body language. It helped me realize that people are just that – people – and there’s no point in being shy or timid.

Family: I have 3 daughters in their 30s, and the family is growing rapidly! I have a teenage grandson from my oldest daughter Liz, a granddaughter on the way with my middle daughter Laura, and a brand new son-in-law with my youngest daughter Trish.

Best advice anyone ever gave you: Find an employer who will value your talents and constantly challenge you to improve. And also, make sure you look down at your feet before you leave the house. Nobody will take you seriously if you are wearing two different shoes.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: Make sure you believe in the product or service, and are proud to stand behind it. You can’t turn anything into a success unless you are passionate about what you are doing. Have integrity in your dealings with customers, suppliers and employees.

The most important thing for a business success is: Make your customers happy. You can spend thousands on advertising or gimmicks, but your best publicity is positive word of mouth and referrals. And it’s free! If you have a quality product backed by world class customer service, the rest is easy.

Dooley Car Rentals opened its doors over 50 years ago out of a small office in Limerick. Over the years, its business grew so rapidly that it had to open another office in the U.S. That is where I came in – I opened the office from the basement of my house and worked tirelessly to grow a customer base here. Through networking and the solid support system in the Irish community here, I’ve seen the company flourish and turn into one of the largest car rental agencies in Ireland, with over 65 employees and the largest fleet in the country. I’ve been with the company 27 years now and am proud of what I helped build!

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