Asked what he does after work, Alfredo Sibucao Jr. replies, “I’m always working!” He’s only half joking, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the life of a new-business owner, and Sibucao, after retiring from the Air Force, opened Hot Trendz with his wife in June. The retail store sells clothing, accessories, games, posters and other novelty items.
Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?
I learned that the most effective way to market our business is not just to purchase a school banner or sponsor an event but to offer time and knowledge to our community. I visit schools in Las Vegas, speaking to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders about the importance of finishing high school. I share my Air Force and business experiences, inspiring these kids to start planning for their future. In return, many of them have visited our store.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Shaundell Newsome told me “WIIFM: What’s In It For Me.” Potential customers, even other businesses you wish to network with, have a WIIFM mentality. “Why do I have to come to your store?” “Why should I help your business? What can you do for me?”
If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be?
The image of Sin City. As a business owner, I have met so many giving people. There are many programs and organizations that are here to help others.
What has been your most exciting professional project to date?
Retiring from the Air Force. During my retirement ceremony, I reflected on all of my military accomplishments. I looked back on the most challenging experiences and appreciate them.
You have lived in Las Vegas for more than 18 years. How has the valley changed?
There are more things for young children to do now. Also, there are more local spots that cater to families than there were when I first moved here.
You signed on for the Air Force Temporary Early Retirement program. Why?
I was in my 16th year of service when the Air Force offered it because of military downsizing. At first I thought, “I’m not getting out. Why would I do that?” As weeks went on, I started to consider it, and many mentors of mine suggested taking the offer since it would never happen again.
Still on the fence, I talked with my father, who retired from the Navy long ago. He said being away from home, away from your kids is the hardest challenge, and with a smaller Air Force, I would be working and deploying more. Also, he said the military has changed, and we sacrifice more now than ever.
In 2012, I was deployed and away from home for nine months, leaving my wife to raise our then 2-year-old son by herself. When I returned, reuniting with him was difficult, and now that I have two children, I did not want the same experience with my daughter.
Leaving the Air Force with such a short notice was the toughest decision I ever made. And just two months after I left, we signed our commercial lease and opened Hot Trendz.
How did you come up with the idea for Hot Trendz?
As a teenager, my wife worked at her father’s retail store. We combined the concept of several popular “mall stores” that cater to a younger audience. We sell fashion jewelry, accessories, skateboards, hats and a mix of pop culture novelties.
Has your military training helped you as an entrepreneur?
The skills I acquired in my military career have helped tremendously. Being in charge of an organization and managing people has sharpened my skills as a business owner. Meeting the challenges and long hours I face today would not have been possible if not for my deployments and military experience.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and small-business owners?
First, the most effective way to market your business is to network. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself and what you represent. Also, when you first start, try not to hire people to do things you can do yourself, such as running social media, managing your website or doing email marketing. Finally, if you own a retail store, be prepared to have a lot of storage on your phone, because you’ll be taking a lot of merchandise pictures.
Blackberry, iPhone or Android?
iPhone. Once I got used to my iPhone 4, I never wanted to switch to another style.
Describe your management style.
As a leadership instructor in the Air Force, I learned that every leader must balance his positional influence and his personal influence. You have to remind your people that you are in charge, but at the same time, you have to be a likeable person. If either is skewed, people will think you’re a jerk, or they’ll take advantage of your kindness.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I plan to finish my college education using the GI Bill and complete a degree in engineering. And I hope that one day I can become an inspirational speaker to help mentor others.
If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
I have traveled all over the world. For me, Las Vegas is home, and I cannot see myself living anywhere else.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Our store’s back room. No matter how many times I organize, it always ends up disordered. With new merchandise arriving every week and my kids’ toys left everywhere, it’s difficult to maintain organization.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I am constantly thinking of new ideas and new projects, so it would be sticking to one project at a time. I seem to always start a new one before completing the last one.
What is something people might not know about you?
Whenever I have free time, which is seldom, I enjoy playing the piano and I love DIY projects on my car or my home.
Anything else you want to say?
If you want to start your own business, do it. I am proud to say we live in this great country that allows us the freedom to do so. Just remember, it’s hard work, and you’ll put in a lot of hours. But if you’re passionate, go for it.