Vicky Mariano is the brains behind the SH (Spiritual Haze).
Spiritual Haze is a SOCIAL ENTERPRISE (meaning it has a social mission rather than profit mission) was created by four Clark University students for their Entrepreneurship class project. After a year and a half of hard work, struggles, and problems trying to open while maintaining its social mission base, they finally opened to the public November 8th, 2007.
Vicky, how you doing? Thank you for the opportunity.Welcome to YHP.
What made you start SH?
- I'm a social entrepreneur! But the story is, SH was formed in a class at Clark University in the Entrepreneurship program. I came with an idea for SH, and it evolved in the class as a project with other classmates. I presented my concept of SH, which essentially is a community venue/social enterprise, in which is always available for people to feel comfortable and de-stress. The products and services of SH are purely to sustain itself and to fill the social mission. I got the idea because I was sick of people not having a space consistently available to de-stress. I saw so many people turn to drugs and alcohol abuse just to de-stress or socialize due to no other options, and it ended up having lots of negative effects on themselves and the community.
Briefly give us some background information about yourself?
- I grew up in Colonie(Albany), NY, and got my bachelors at Clark University in Management with an Entrepreneurship track in 2008. I've had a number of different jobs, anywhere from Customer Service to Business Development. I've always been a social entrepreneur, I’ve had my own money making projects since I was 10.
I know some people are still curious about what SH is about?
- I guess I answered this in the first question! But I consider it a community venue, a grassroots approach to strengthening the community. We help people truly feel good and de-stress from life troubles, with hopes this will help them lead productive and happy lives, at least at that time. Our main products we sell are hookah (flavoured tobacco) and food and drinks from our cafe, selling these products both sustains us economically, and helps to create an atmosphere that's social and comfortable. Daily/weekly/monthly entertainment, benefit/organization/private or public events, and the art gallery is decided on by our employees or customers (we call hazers). 4 out of 7 days a week something is planned, whether it’s an open mic, benefit show, art gallery opening, college orientation party, and lots more.
How did you market your business?
-Word of mouth primarily, also Clark Universities Entrepreneur program helped us with getting the word out through articles and such, flyering, and of course the internet!
How did you get funds to run the business?
- Friends and family
How has the journey been so far?
- Lots of ups and downs. It's amazing just to think about how much SH has positively changed people’s lives in the community. Nothing feels better than when a hazer will sincerely tell me how happy they are I created SH, which happens all the time. Not to mention how much it’s positively changed my life, and how much fun I’ve had running it the past almost 2 years. Although I think there has been much more good than bad, I've dealt with a lot of bad things, mainly involving stealing and being harassed (which is common in the area SH is located).
Do you have anyone you model yourself around?
- I wouldn't say I model myself around anyone, but two of my professors, George Gendron and David Jordan, and my dad were very inspiring.
What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
- Someone who inherently can see trends in their surroundings which leads them to a business concept that they take a financial risk to create and operate.
Do you have any books/audios you read that you would like to advice to the readers?
- Not really a book reader, but one book I really liked was "Growing a Business" by Paul Hawken
What advice can you share to our readers, especially young entrepreneurs starting their business?
Make sure you do the most preparing you possibly can before beginning to act on your business idea. By preparing I mean; get advice specifically on your idea from professionals, do as much research as possible on all topics of business.
"Do good for yourself, by doing good for others!" Shape your idea not just around making money, but around what people actually need and want, this way you’re helping your community and making money off it (social enterprise).
Thanks for the time.
Contact Vicky Mariano