He brands, he dances, he colors outside the lines. Antonio García’s career is a global affair, embracing hometowns in Spain, the UK and now the USA. He’s worked as an art director, designer, strategist, social media manager, and blogger for leading ad agencies such as Ogilvy, startups, nonprofits, academic institutions and retail organizations like Ikea.
His biggest passion right now? Uniting entrepreneurs in Kitsap to help them successfully nourish and realize their dreams. After serving as a mentor for the first cohort of the 6 Month Startup Kitsap program, Antonio is now playing a leading role behind the scenes of the second cohort which, like the first, will be housed at Vibe Coworks.
Kicking off on Wednesday, May 1st, the monthly meetup will continue to support current and aspiring founders as they develop their business and product ideas. Over the course of six months, participants define and refine their big idea, gain confidence in how to make money with it and make an informed decision about when / whether to leave their day job. Each 6 Month Startup session includes content, exercises, time to pitch, feedback from mentors and dinner. (A free info session about the program will be held on Friday, April 5 from 12 - 1pm at Vibe Coworks.)
Antonio is excited about this opportunity to shepherd startups with equal measures of passion and pragmatism. “That’s how I really connected with Vibe,” he enthuses, “following the pathway to the kind of entrepreneurship that gets results. Such people keep the flame alive in all of us, doing whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality.”
Elegant, earnest and engaging, Antonio also likes to express himself on the dance floor; salsa is his muse. When he was 14, a group of about 20 of his close-knit friends started to dance. Except for Antonio. “I was very shy, [I] didn’t feel comfortable doing that. But after two or three years of spending nights alone, my friend Nacho dragged me to a class with him, but I couldn’t deal with the music, not at all.”
Merengue made sense to him, and he loved the cha cha cha. Salsa? Not so much. But after a couple of months, Antonio began to really listen to the music, to feel the rhythm. “Once you get it,” he explains, “you can put all the moves on every beat, or half a move, or go faster to make a double move.”
Talk about making all the right moves. Possessing old-world charm, Antonio is a tall, artful creative who really likes to mix it up in life, work and play.
Who is the most dynamic person you’ve met through your affiliation with Vibe Coworks?
Antonio: Alanna. She’s involved in a lot of different things, and is on the board of several organizations she believes in. I find her to be really active in building a sense of community and bringing entrepreneurship into this part of the Sound. Vibe Coworks is integral to bigger business in Kitsap, especially as the base for Startup Kitsap and the 6 Month Startup Kitsap program.
Let’s talk about the role you played as a mentor with the first cohort of 6 Month Startup Kitsap.
Antonio: I feel like it’s all about the motto of “Give First.” I moved here a couple of weeks before the last cohort started at Vibe in May 2018, needing to build my network through different opportunities. Yes, 6 Month Startup is good professionally. At the same time, it’s a great way to make friends who can support you in your entrepreneurial journey.
I came without any expectation for any kind of return, but it captured the feeling of gratitude. Everyone really recognizes that you are here. They make you feel that you bring value to them, that you’re doing something useful for somebody.
Has your experience with 6 Month Startup led to any ‘ah-ha’ moments for you?
Antonio: Yes! I love branding, designing, crafting and marketing. Something that’s been simmering in me over the years is the fountain pen. I always carry one with me. My mother gave me this one [he opens what looks like a silver cigar tube], and I want to make my own.
Our family business in Madrid was running a garage. I worked so much with my hands, working as a mechanic in a car shop. You have access to all the tools, learning how engines work and how everything fits together.
How to build, fix, maintain, improve. I want to apply that to creating my own tools and resources so that I can physically craft my own fountain pens.
The community of founders and investors, classes and the environment at Vibe was definitely a catalyst. I’ve been percolating!
When you head home to visit Spain, where is your first destination?
Antonio: Madrid, of course. I get off the plane and head to see my parents. And my dog, Roco. He is so special. He came to us during a very hard time for my family. We got him as a service dog to lift the mood in our home. He’s a French bulldog and he’s old now, about 10 years. Roco is massive. I’ve never seen a French bulldog as big as he is. They’re usually about 30 pounds, but he’s over 40.
You’re into the salsa movement. Tell us about that.
Antonio: It took me a long time to understand the music of salsa, but when I started focusing more on the dancing, less on myself, it quickly became my favorite dance. After awhile, I was even teaching it. So I started a movement called Goza la Salsa. It literally means “to enjoy.”
It’s also my way of saying thank you to salsa. A love letter. Because in those moments when nothing is going well, I can go to the dance floor and everything just goes away. It’s better than therapy.
What do you like most about what you do?
Antonio: I think it’s creating the connection between the organization and the people. Finding what makes something click in someone’s mind.
How has moving to the PNW changed your life?
Antonio: Well, not the weather, not really. I lived in London for three years before moving to the States, so the rain is something I’m used to. The change I notice most is cultural.
The Spanish culture is very different from the American one in how you build relationships. I think it’s easier to have a conversation in the supermarket or at the bus stop [here in the US], but a lot more difficult to create a deeper friendship with someone. So, people here are very polite, but when it comes to a more personal level, it’s a lot harder to build meaning relationships.
Also, Americans live to work; that’s the mindset, 24/7. In Spain, you work to live. Enjoy life! It should be balanced.
Where did you and your wife meet?
Antonio: Rebecca and I met in London at club called The Ritzy. Every last Friday of the month they have a live blues band. I’d had to leave Spain during the economic crisis of 2010. The unemployment rate was something over 25%, and I decided to move to the UK.
It was a really hard time, and I was turning into a couch potato. That’s when another friend, who loved playing and dancing to the blues, convinced me to go to the club. I asked Rebecca for a dance, and we couldn’t stop talking and dancing. Five days later, I dropped her off at the airport. Although born in raised in Wisconsin, Rebecca was headed back to Portland. But we didn’t stop chatting, texting and talking via Skype. That was it.
What do you like to do most in the spring in the PNW?
Antonio: My wife is has the soul of an adventurer. She’s always taking me on adventures. Hiking and visiting places, weekend trips.
In Spain, we often take a siesta after lunch, usually between 3 and 5 pm, our unofficial quiet time. That’s when they show a lot of documentaries on TV, many of which were filmed in this area. Grizzly bears, nature, everything. I watched them all, and I remember thinking how beautiful the places were on film.
So I feel familiar with the Pacific Northwest, like I already know this place. I like taking pictures. It’s amazing.
Where would you like to go that you’ve never been to?
Antonio: On the top of my list is Japan. I used to grow bonsais in Spain, and I want to do that here, as well as the fountain pens. There are Japanese masters who handcraft fountain pens. It’s a different way to work, taking months to get them ready. Following their traditions, they make them so beautifully, with great attention to detail. It’s meticulous.
What is your secret sauce for making clients happy?
Antonio: The secret is that there is no real secret. You have to look, listen, and understand their needs, and find a way to fill that. You need to get to where you really understand them and what they want from you. You need to feel that. Creating comes from listening and seeing.
You’re part of the team leading the charge with the 2nd cohort of 6 Month Startup Kitsap, which kicks off May 1. Tell us more about that.
Antonio: It’s a great program for founders and aspiring founders to develop their business ideas, sometimes seeking other cofounders, funding or collaboration. 6 Month Startup is a bit like running a 5K—it’s great training for the big marathon of launching and scaling successful products and high growth businesses. As opportunities increase for entrepreneurs in Kitsap to come together, build their networks, skill sets and access to resources increases, so too does the likelihood of them being able to see their ideas through and scale. Our entrepreneurs, exposed to the growing startup culture of Kitsap, will be in a better position to see their ideas through and succeed in the ways they envision.
What are you working on these days?
Antonio: Most recently, I’ve started doing some work for the City of Bainbridge. My wife is creating the content, and I’m going to do the design and social media strategy for them. We’re working on a monthly bulletin to help the city connect optimally with citizens about everything that’s happening to make the island an even better place to live. You know—keeping a dialogue going to bridge the gap between politicians and people on the street.
What do you think are the 3 most important ingredients of a successful brand strategy?
Antonio: First, have a clear goal. Knowing what the goal of the message is and sticking to it. Then find out what’s really interesting for your target audience. The 3rd ingredient is being authentic. People can feel the authenticity and that will draw them to you.
Meet the author: Vibist Susan O'Meara is a Poulsbo-based freelance writer, editor and journalist with global experience. Back in the day, Susan did event marketing for the electrified Don King, boxing’s bad-boy biz whiz. Then she got roped into writing and producing TV spots for Love Boat: The Next Wave, the ‘90s reboot, and nonfiction programming for Showtime (e.g., Roswell: The Real Story). She's not sure which was more surreal—going with the flow of those Hollywood highs, so to speak, or navigating Nairobi’s magazine scene. Susan has worked in the US and abroad for the likes of Bloomberg Media, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, and the United Nations. She's obsessed with wrangling language and messaging that helps brands, businesses, and individuals to grow and shine. Except when it comes to Don King's hair.