Catherine and Kyle Fischer have the same entrepreneurial streak. After they met playing poker, they gambled on a publishing company as well the popular Speakeasy Theaters in Oakland and El Cerrito, Calif. Those ventures are behind them now, and the Fischers have dusted themselves off and plunged into a new business: Wild Card Circle, which provides consulting, workshop training and a community to San Francisco Bay Area-based small businesses as well as people interested in starting their own companies.
Why did you decide on consultancy and training? Kyle Fischer: Over the 12 years of [the theaters] being open, we often heard, “How do you start a business if you don’t have experience?” “How do you have a decent life and not crazy hours?” One of the things we tried to do with Speakeasy was create a different type of business – one that wasn’t focused on bottom line but had a symbiotic relationship with the community. Catherine Fischer: We helped shepherd and steward the community around the [theaters]. There are the nuts and bolts of running a business, which are important, but there is also the why and how does it touch you? There are people who have jobs that make a ton of money, and they try to feed their souls with cars and clothes, but they’re not happy. With Speakeasy, it was something we enjoyed doing, and people could see how real that was. It helped us become successful because of that enjoyment. And people asked us how to do that. We worked with artists and filmmakers – creative people who collaborate and help each other. The thing that really rang our bell at the end of the day was watching the community grow. Who is your core target with Wild Card Circle? Kyle Fischer: The type of person who’s independent and creative and who wants to have a relationship with the community. Someone who wants to step outside from where they are right now. There’s the difference between having the idea and taking that idea to creation – you need someone to give you those tools to help you take the steps away from a 9-to-5 job. The reality is some people don’t have those tools. Catherine Fischer: There are a lot of entities out there that help start businesses. They deal with the nuts and bolts and are great. We take it a step further. Women tend to not always get support, but there are a lot of organizations that help them with that. Men get a lot of support, but they don’t always get it in that they want to. So many men I know got a certain type of job because it’s what they were told to do. So they don’t have the support to figure out what they do like. If most people were happy with what they are doing, the world would be a better place. How does the community aspect of Wild Card Circle work? Kyle Fischer: When people come in, we don’t assume they have an idea. We want to help them figure out their skills and how it would help the community. You should be giving the community your best self. With every Wal-Mart, there’s our favorite store that inspires us. We go to Wal-Mart for cheap prices but to our favorite stores for inspiration. Catherine Fischer: It’s about building knowledge of each other. Kyle Fischer: We’re hoping people come to our workshops with their ideas but to also release themselves from preconceived notions of who they are. This isn’t a nuts-and-bolts class but rather it’s the first part of evaluating yourself. Where did the name Wild Card Circle come from? Catherine Fischer: Kyle and I became friends years and years ago because we were poker buddies, so that’s where Wild Card came from. We had a publishing company called Wild Card Press. We wanted to go back to “wild card,” and “circle” is about being together and building community. A circle contains people but doesn’t create walls to keep people out. There are different ways you can live – it’s about figuring out what you want your lifestyle to be. Maybe you’re a night owl or have kids and want to work at 11 p.m. You need to figure out what lifestyle you want to make – not what’s expected of you. You recommend that Wild Card Circle members be Bay Area-based – what advice do you have for other, faraway businesses that want to start a community? Kyle Fischer: We are going to have online things like book recommendations and references. The biggest thing is to develop a community of likeminded businesses. One of the biggest issues for companies is they don’t have a support network. When you start something that’s unique, you should look to other business owners that are unique. Catherine Fischer: Walk out the door and meet your neighbor. The more you know your neighbor, it’s better. The two of you share an entrepreneurial streak – do you have plans for more businesses? Catherine Fischer: I’m, by nature, a planner. It never works out that way to plan out my entire life – I know where I am now, and this is exciting. Five years ago, we would not have expected this, and five years from now ... I hope it’s exciting. For more information about Wild Card Circle, go to its website.