We had the good fortune of connecting with Cesar Torres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cesar, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
In the beginning, I don’t think I ever put too much thought into it. What ultimately changed the way my life would end up heading was my wife going through cancer. At the time of my wife’s illness, I was working for IBM. I was in my 10th year when going through the treatments and caring for my wife. Taking care of our twin boys was also challenging when going to these treatments and trying to manage home life. Soon after my wife’s last treatment, we discovered we were losing our home; this impacted me significantly. I felt as though things were falling apart around us. The one thing I wanted to make sure of was that my wife was cancer-free. I took this and ran with it; this was my focus to continue. Luckily I had great friends and family. My wonderful sister took us in as we transitioned through this period. This was when I started to dip my toes into my own business.
After work, I would approach small businesses and offer help with their design needs. As a child, I always had a passion for art and design but never really embraced it. I started getting 1-2 clients here and there, helping them with logos and different design projects. After a few more clients, I started considering quitting my job. Scary right! I am living with my sister, have twin boys, and my wife is recovering from her treatments. One day after work, I approached my wife and asked her, “honey I think I want to quit my job and start my own business.” I will never forget the words that came out of her mouth. “Do it! Things can’t get any worse.” I knew that I could accomplish anything if she were by my side. What came next was the start of my new business, My Cali Design and DapIt App.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
DapIt App (www.dapitapp.com)
What sets us apart? We help businesses offer digital gift cards with a simple to use app. We are the digital wallet for small to medium sized businesses offering gift cards, pay, and rewards.
Recently we were selected as one of 50 startups for the first inagural Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund! The $100K in non-dilutive capital and Google for Startups support will help us achieve our goal of introducing new features and updates.
How did you get to where you are today business-wise? I have to thank all of our friends and family investors that believed in us. From the initial investment to the ones that follow soon after. There are a handful of people that made this possible. James Kinter, Kellie Morgan, Steve & Nancy Harris, Art & Evette Holman, Ralph Andrade, James Morgan, Kailey Morgan, Helen & Joe Horyza, Apinder & Satinder Clair, Anthony Velasquez, Len and Nancy Gray. But also we couldn’t do this without our great partnership with White Rabbit Group who helped us build our MVP.
Was it Easy? No! LOL. This is not for the light hearted. Building an App especially right before the pandemic really proved to be a challenge. Furthermore the technology space is a whole different animal.
If not, how did you overcome the challenges? Nothing in life is easy but with grit and the right people behind you nothing can get in your way. The biggest thing that helped me get through any challenge is having people believe in my idea. Especially when things get tough those same people will be there to pick you up.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? When you set yourself to build an application make sure to find the right team to develop your idea. Make sure your team understands your vision but also offer their perspective. Marketing, make sure you understand your market. This is valuable when trying to capture your audience and how to make best decisions when spending money. Never give up on your dream and be ready for anything.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? I want people to know that I love my community. This app was built for those people that built a business in their hometown. I want to show them and let them know our goal is to support them, to connect them to their customers and allow their customers to embrace and share those favorite places. DapIt stands for “Discover Amazing Places In Town.” In any town in the U.S.A there are dreamers, we can help each other reach our potential when we support each other.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well being from Woodland, CA a town of about 60,000. We are so lucky to have built our app here in this community. That means that the experience that i will soon explain is because of the businesses that adopted our application. I would start our trip each morning by visiting Savory Cafe. Where you will find owner Juan Barajas who is a leader in the Slow Food movement. Here you will find some amazing farm to fork dishes for breakfast. My favorite is Chilaquilles, this dish is classic to Mexican culture and this version is amazing.
Next I would take a walk downtown and visit some local shops. Some that we frequent like Embelish Decor who offer beautiful items for your home or loved one. We would then stumble into Kulture where you can find some amazing items inspired by Mexican Culture. After building up another appetite and depending on your craving we have the option of Osaka Sushi House or if you like traditional The Burger Saloon both of these places would be great for a lunch experience. Osaka is a place where you run into the owner “Dan” a very outgoing and energetic owner that makes you feel at home. If we swing by The Burger Saloon we would enjoy the amazing selections of burgers and delicious drinks.
After our bellies were full from lunch we would then venture out to the countryside. As we drive through the windy roads for a few minutes you would find us at Matchbook Winery. Offering up amazing views this place is a great way to sit back, relax and taste amazing wine. Don’t be fooled, you will lose track of time as you set your eyes on the sunset.
The night. This brings in so many great options. Craving some pizza we would visit The Main Street Lounge who offers up pizza baked in a woodfired oven. But if the night calls for a more sophisticated touch we would make our way to Morgan’s on Main, we would order up some old-fashioned with Blanton’s Whiskey and pair it up with an amazing steak.
Either place you visit you would be welcomed with kindness. The community including the people who run their businesses will embrace you as their own family.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, my wife was the one that believed in me; she would constantly pick me up whenever I had a doubt. Her strength is unmatched, and her love for her family is even more so.
Next, I would mention my dear friend Mark Bachman. As one of my first clients for My Cali Designs, he taught me firsthand about the value and believing in your worth. I also would be remiss to say that he was the one who, at the time, we had to leave our home. Mark stopped by one day and found me weeping on the floor of my dining room. He looked at me and said get up; we need to get you out of here and move forward. I am grateful for his support, love, and friendship. Rest in peace, my friend.
Next, Kellie Morgan. I remember the first time we met. I walked into her business, where I noticed she was on a stool drinking her coffee with such grandeur. After our initial introductions, our friendship flourished. If it weren’t for Kellie making that initial investment, DapIt would never have happened.
Next, my friend Steve Harris is another one of our first clients. Steve was a business-centric individual. I learned so much from him when building my business. If it had to do with growth, he always said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” He would say, “Stay above the fray if it was a challenge or frustration.” And if there ever were a scuffle, he would mention, “Don’t wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty but the pig likes it.” Steve ultimately became like a father figure to me.
Next, to my dear friend Jeff Gale. My spiritual leader. Jeff is someone who helped me find a way when things seemed challenging. His word of God would always guide me and make me understand things better.
Finally but not least. Helen Horyza is not only a fantastic client at MyCali Designs. We ended up developing her career self-assessment portal called Elevate Your Career. Which eventually became a book, and I was lucky enough to have my story told. I can express enough what an honor it is to have your story part of a book. Helen has given me so much great direction and inspiration. https://www.elevateyourcareer.com/
I want to finish by saying thank you to all the people who are part of our journey. There are so many of you that I didn’t mention, but you know who you are.
Cesar Torres (MyCali Designs) KLJ Studios Yolo Federal Credit Union